Review: ‘Wrath of Man,’ starring Jason Statham

May 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Holt McCallany, Jason Statham, Josh Hartnett and Rocci Williams in “Wrath of Man” (Photo courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“Wrath of Man”

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the action flick “Wrath of Man” features a nearly all-male, predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class, law enforcement and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A crime boss goes undercover as an armored truck driver to avenge the murder of his teenage son, who was killed during a heist of an armored truck.

Culture Audience: “Wrath of Man” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a predictable and violent movie with no imagination.

Raúl Castillo, Deobia Oparei, Jeffrey Donovan, Chris Reilly, Laz Alonso and Scott Eastwood as Jan in “Wrath of Man” (Photo by Christopher Raphael/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.)

The fourth time isn’t the charm for director Guy Ritchie and actor Jason Statham in the vapid action flick “Wrath of Man,” their fourth movie together. It’s tedious and predictable junk filled with cringeworthy dialogue and stunts with no creativity. People who are familiar with Statham’s work already know that his movies are almost always schlockfests that are essentially about violence and car chases. However, Ritchie’s filmography is much more of a mixed bag. “Wrath of Man” isn’t Ritchie’s absolute worst film, but it’s a movie that could have been so much better.

Ritchie co-wrote the “Wrath of Man” screenplay with Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson. The movie is based on the 2004 French thriller “Le Convoyeur,” directed by Nicolas Boukhrief and written by Boukhrief and Éric Besnard. Ritchie and Statham previously worked together on 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (Ritchie’s feature-film debut), 2000’s “Snatch” and 2005’s “Revolver.” Whereas those three movies had plenty of sly comedy with brutal action, “Wrath of Man” is so by-the-numbers and soulless, it seems like a computer program, not human beings, could’ve written this movie.

The movie’s simplistic plot could’ve been told in 90 minutes or less. Instead, it’s stretched out into a nearly two-hour slog with repetitive and unnecessary flashbacks. In “Wrath of Man,” which takes place in Los Angeles, Statham plays a mysterious crime boss who’s out to avenge the murder of his son Dougie (played by Eli Brown), who was about 17 or 18 and an innocent bystander when he was shot to death by a robber during a heist of an armored truck.

Dougie’s murder (which is not spoiler information) is shown in a flashback about halfway through the movie. Until then, viewers are left to wonder who Statham’s character really is when he shows up at the headquarters of Fortico Security to apply for a job working as a guard in an armored truck. When he applies for the job, he identifies himself has Patrick Hill, a divorcé with more than 25 years of security experience. Later, viewers find out that it’s an alias; his real last name is Mason.

But he was able to create an entire false identity as Patrick Hill, with documents provided by his trusty assistant Kirsty (played by Lyne Renée), one of the few women with a speaking role in this movie. The false identity includes phony job references and a fake job stint at the now-defunct Orange Delta Security, which was a well-known company. Based on this elaborate scheme, Patrick is easily able to get a job at Fortico.

Fortico is described in the movie as one of the top armored vehicle companies that does cash pickups and deliveries in the area. The company’s clients include retail department stores, marijuana dispensaries, cash vaults, casinos and private banks. On a typical pickup or delivery, there are two or three employees in the truck: a driver, a guard and/or a messenger. The company isn’t huge (it only has 12 trucks), but it’s very profitable. A Fortico truck haul can total around $15 million a day, sometimes more.

Patrick is trained by Hayden Blair (played by Holt McCallany), who goes by the nickname Bullet. Almost everyone Bullet works with directly seems to have a nickname, so he immediately gives Patrick the nickname H, an abbreviation of Hill. Patrick/H goes through the training process (including gun defense skills) and he barely gets passing grades. He’s assigned to work with a cocky driver named David Hancock (played by Josh Hartnett), whose nickname is Boy Sweat Dave. Another colleague is Robert Martin (played by Rocci Williams), whose nickname is Hollow Bob.

When Bullet introduces H to these two co-workers, Bullet says, “He’s H, like the bomb. Or Jesus H.” The bad dialogue doesn’t get any better. H is told that he’s replacing a co-worker named Sticky John (who came up with these cringeworthy nicknames?), who was killed during a heist that killed multiple employees. The robbers got away, so the Fortico employees on are on edge about this shooting spree, which they call the Gonzo Murders. Boy Sweat Dave says, “We ain’t the predators. We’re the prey.”

The insipid dialogue continues trhoughout the entire movie. In a scene with some Fortico workers off-duty in a bar, Boy Sweat Dave is playing pool with Dana Curtis (played by Niamh Algar), the token female on Fortico’s armored truck crew. Dana says sarcastically to Boy Sweat Dave: “The point of the game is to get the ball in the hole.” Boy Sweat Dave snaps back, “The point of a woman is to shut the fuck up, Dana.”

Dana replies, “Well, that Ivy League education is really working for you, Boy Sweat.” (How can you say a line like that with a straight face?) Boy Sweat Dave retorts, “Pretty soon, you’ll all be working for me. The power is in this big head here.” Dana snipes back, “Well, it’s definitely not in your little head. Or are you still blaming the beer?”

The character of Boy Sweat Dave is an example of how “Wrath of Man” wastes a potentially interesting character on silly dialogue. What kind of person with an Ivy League education wants to work as an armored truck driver, a job which doesn’t even require a high school education? Viewers never find out because Boy Sweat Dave is one of several characters in the movie who are shallowly introduced, just so there can be more people in the body count later.

And because Dana is H’s only female co-worker, this movie that treats women as tokens can’t let her be just a co-worker. No, she has to serve the purpose of fulfilling H’s sexual needs too, since he and Dana have a predictable fling/one night stand. He finds out something about her when he spends the night at her place that helps him unravel the mystery of who killed his son.

It isn’t long before Patrick/H experiences his first heist as a Fortico employee. He’s partnered with Boy Sweat Dave, who’s driving, while H is the lookout. The heist is unrealistically staged in the movie as one of those battles where one man (in this case, H) can take down several other men in a shootout where a Fortico employee has been taken hostage by the thieves. Post Malone fans (or haters) might get a kick out of the scene though, since he plays one of the nameless robbers who doesn’t last long in this movie. H has saved his co-workers’ lives in this botched heist, so he’s hailed as a hero by the company.

Meanwhile, the FBI has been looking for Patrick because he’s been an elusive crime boss. There are three FBI agents, all very uninteresting, who are on this manhunt: FBI Agent Hubbard (played by Josh Cowdery), FBI Agent Okey (played by Jason Wong) and their supervisor Agent King (played by Andy Garcia). Hubbard and Okey come in contact with Patrick/H, when they investigate the botched robbery where Patrick/H ended up as the hero.

Agent King orders Hibbard and Okey not to let on that they know H’s real identity and to keep tabs on why this crime boss is working at an armored truck company. Eddie Marsan, a very talented actor, has a very useless role in “Wrath of Man,” as an office assistant named Terry. Terry becomes suspicious of who H really is, because in his heroic rescue, H showed the type of expert combat skills that contradicts the mediocrity that he displayed in the company’s training.

And just who’s in this group of murderous thieves? They’re led by mastermind Jackson (played by Jeffrey Donovan), a married man with two kids who lives a double life. This seemingly mild-mannered family man works in a shopping mall. But he also apparently has time to lead a group of armored truck thieves, who pose as street construction workers when they commit their robberies. The robbers use a concrete mixer truck to block the armored truck and then ambush the people inside the armored truck.

What’s really dumb about “Wrath of Man” is that these armed robbers use the same tactic every time. In real life, repeating this very cumbersome way of committing an armed robbery would make them easier to catch, not harder. Apparently, these dimwits think that the best way to not call attention to yourself during a robbery is to haul out a giant concrete mixer truck.

Jackson’s crew consists of a bunch of mostly generic meatheads: Brad (played by Deobia Oparei), Sam (played by Raúl Castillo), Tom (played by Chris Reilly) and Carlos (played by Laz Alonzo), with Jan (played by Scott Eastwood) as the loose cannon in the group. Guess who pulled the trigger on Patrick/H/Mason’s son Dougie? Guess who’s going to have a big showdown at the end of the movie?

Of course, a crime boss has to have his own set of goons. Patrick/H/Mason has three thugs who are closest to him and who do a lot of his dirty work: Mike (played by Darrell D’Silva), Brendan (played by Cameron Jack) and Moggy (played by Babs Olusanmokun). There’s a vile part of the movie that shows Patrick/H/Mason ordering his henchman to beat up and torture anyone who might have information on who murdered Dougie. The operative word here is “might,” because some people who had nothing to do with the murder are brutally assaulted.

Mike has a conscience and he says that he won’t commit these vicious attacks anymore to try to find Dougie’s killer. Mike advises Patrick/H/Mason to think of another way to find the murderer. And that’s when Patrick/H/Mason got the idea to go “undercover” at Fortico, with the hope that he could catch the murderous thieves in their next heist on a Fortico truck.

And what do you know, this gang of thieves will be doing “one last heist” on a Fortico truck, to get a haul that’s said to be at least $150 million. What could possibly go wrong? You know, of course.

Ritchie’s previous film “The Gentlemen” (which was also about gangsters and theives) had a lot of devilishly clever dialogue and crackled with the type of robust energy that hasn’t been seen in his movies in years. And although “The Gentlemen” wasn’t a perfect film about criminal antics, it at least made the effort to have memorable characters and to keep viewers guessing about which character was going to come out on top. “Wrath of Man” is a completely lazy film that has no interesting characters, no suspense, and not even any eye-popping stunts. It’s just a silly shoot ’em up flick that’s as empty as Statham’s dead-eyed stares.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Pictures and Miramax Films will release “Wrath of Man” in U.S. cinemas on May 7, 2021.

2021 Academy Awards: ‘Nomadland’ is the top winner

April 25, 2021

by Carla Hay

“Nomadland” producer Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey at the 93rd annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 25, 2021. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

With three prizes, including Best Picture, “Nomadland” was the top winner for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards, which took place place at Union Station and at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on April 25, 2021. There was no host for the ceremony, which was telecast in the U.S. on ABC. Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland” also won the awards for Best Director (for Chloé Zhao) and Best Actress (for Frances McDormand). In the movie, McDormand portrays a widow who lives out of her van and travels across different states in U.S. to find work.

With 10 nods, the Netflix drama “Mank” was the top nominee and ended up with two Academy Awards. Movies that won two Oscars each included:

  • “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures): Best Supporting Actor (for Daniel Kaluuya), Best Original Song (“Fight for You”)
  • “Mank” (Netflix): Best Production Design, Best Cinematography
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix): Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design
  • “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios): Best Film Editing, Best Sound
  • “Soul” (Pixar Studios): Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score

The awards are voted for by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For the 2021 ceremony, eligible movies were those released in the U.S. in 2020 and (due to the coronavirus pandemic) the eligibility period was extended to movies released in January and February 2021. Because of the pandemic, movies that were planned for a theatrical release but were released directly to home video or on streaming services were also eligible. Beginning with the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, there will be a required 10 movies nominated for Best Picture. From 2009 to 2021, the rule was that there could be five to 10 movies per year nominated for Best Picture.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were less people invited to the Oscar ceremony in 2021. The presenters included Riz Ahmed, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston, Viola Davis, Laura Dern, Harrison Ford, Bong Joon Ho, Regina King, Marlee Matlin, Rita Moreno, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Yeun, Renée Zellweger and Zendaya.

The 2021 Oscar ceremony also marked big changes to the show in other ways. Performances of the year’s Oscar-nominated songs usually take place during the ceremony. Instead, the performances of the five nominated songs were in pre-recorded and televised during the 90-minute pre-show telecast “Oscars: Into the Spotlight,” which included live interviews from the Oscar red carpet. This pre-show telecast was hosted by actors Ariana DeBose and Lil Rel Howery.

Howery acted as an unofficial emcee during parts of the Oscar telecast, which included a segment where Howery played a trivia game where people in the audience had to guess if a song was an Oscar winner, an Oscar nominee or wasn’t nominated for an Oscar at all. The segment started out flat and awkward. Andra Day got her answer correct that Prince’s “Purple Rain” song wasn’t even nominated. (However, the “Purple Rain” soundtrack score did an Oscar.)Kaluuya incorrectly guessed that Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” didn’t win an Oscar. (It did.)

But the segment end up being saved by Glenn Close, who correctly guessed that E.U.’s “Da Butt” (from Spike Lee’s 1988 movie “School Daze”) wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, and she proceeded to show her knowledge of ’80s hip-hop by getting up and doing “Da Butt” dance. This moment got a lot of laughs and cheers and will be sure to be remembered as the most unexpected comedic moment at the 2021 Academy Awards. This moment with Close could have been pre-planned and rehearsed since she seemed a little too prepared with an answer, but it didn’t take away from it being one of the show’s highlights that didn’t involve an acceptance speech.

Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins were the producers of the Academy Awards show. They also made some changes to the show’s format. Instead of presenting the prizes for Best Picture last, the awards for Best Actor and Best Actress were presented last. The award for Best Picture was the third-to-last award presented. The prize for Best Director was handed out in the middle of the ceremony, instead following the tradition of being the second-to-last award handed out during the ceremony.

Another big change was that winners were not limited to a 90-second acceptance speech. Some acceptance speeches lasted longer than three minutes. In addition, there was no live orchestra at the ceremony. Instead, musician Questlove was a DJ at the award show. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the nominees were shown via satellite in various parts of the world, such as London, Paris and Sydney.

The Oscar ceremony made history in some diversity issues, as Zhao (a Chinese-born filmmaker) became the first woman of color to win Best Director. She is also the second woman in Oscar history to win this Best Director prize. (Kathryn Bigelow, director of the 2009 war film “The Hurt Locker,” was the first woman to win the Best Director award in 2010.) Zhao’s victory had been widely predicted, since Zhao won all of the year’s major Best Director awards for “Nomadland” prior to winning the Oscar.

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” made Oscar history by being the first black people to be nominated for and to win the prize for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This breakthrough was acknowledged during their acceptance speech for the award, which they share with Sergio Lopez-Rivera. Neal said in her acceptance speech: “I want to say thank you to our ancestors who put the work in, who were denied, but never gave up. I also stand here—as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling—with so much excitement for the future.”

Meanwhile, South Korean actress Yuh-jung Youn of “Minari” became the first Asian-born woman to win in the Best Supporting Actress category. In 1958, Japanese American actress Miyoshi Umeki of the 1957 movie “Sayonara” became the first Asian woman overall to win in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Although the late Chadwick Boseman was widely predicted to win the Best Actor award for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which was his last film role, the prize went to Anthony Hopkins for “The Father.” (Hopkins did not attend the Oscar ceremony and was not available by video.) At 83 years old, Hopkins became the oldest person to win an Oscar in an actor/actress category, surpassing the record set by “Beginners” co-star Christopher Plummer, who won the Best Supporting Actor award in 2012, at the age of 82.

Boseman won several Best Actor prizes (including a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award) for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” leading up to Oscar ceremony. However, there was a foreshadowing that Boseman might not win the Oscar when he was nominated for but didn’t win the prizes for Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards and Film Independent Spirit Awards, which were the two major award shows that took place closest to the Oscars. Boseman died in August 2020 of colon cancer.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, with MPTF officials Bob Beitcher, Norma Carranza and Jennifer Jorge acceping the prize on stage. Tyler Perry received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, a non-competitive prize. In his speech, he urged people to “stand up to hate” and to be more giving and compassionate with each other.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards:

*=winner

Best Picture

“The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) 

“Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.) 

“Mank” (Netflix) 

“Minari” (A24) 

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)*

“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) 

“Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) 

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

David Fincher (“Mank”) 

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) 

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”)*

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) 

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)*

Gary Oldman (“Mank”) 

Steven Yeun (“Minari”) 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”) 

Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) 

Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)*

Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) 

Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)*

Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) 

Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) 

LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) 

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) 

Olivia Colman (“The Father”) 

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) 

Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”)*

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman and Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer and Nina Pedrad

“The Father,” Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller*

“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao 

“One Night in Miami,” Kemp Powers 

“The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani 

Best Original Screenplay

“Judas and the Black Messiah.” Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas

“Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung 

“Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell*

“Sound of Metal.” Screenplay by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin 

Best Cinematography

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt 

“Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt*

“News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski 

“Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael 

Best Film Editing

“The Father,” Yorgos Lamprinos

“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao 

“Promising Young Woman,” Frédéric Thoraval 

“Sound of Metal,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen*

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Alan Baumgarten 

Best Sound

“Greyhound,” Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman

“Mank,” Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin

“News of the World,” Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett

“Soul,” Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker

“Sound of Metal,” Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh*

Best Original Score

“Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard 

“Mank,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross 

“Minari,” Emile Mosseri 

“News of the World,” James Newton Howard 

“Soul,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste*

Best Original Song

“Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas*

“Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

“Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

“Io Si (Seen),” (“The Life Ahead”). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

“Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) 

“Over the Moon” (Netflix) 

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) 

“Soul” (Pixar)*

“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV+/GKIDS) 

Best International Feature Film

“Another Round” (Denmark)*

“Better Days” (Hong Kong)

“Collective” (Romania) 

“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)

“Quo Vadis, Aida?”(Bosnia and Herzegovina) 

Best Documentary Feature

“Collective” (Magnolia Pictures and Participant) 

“Crip Camp” (Netflix) 

“The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures) 

“My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix)*

“Time” (Amazon Studios) 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Emma,” Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze

“Hillbilly Elegy,” Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson*

“Mank,” Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff

“Pinocchio,” Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

Best Costume Design

“Emma,” Alexandra Byrne 

“Mank,” Trish Summerville 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Ann Roth*

“Mulan,” Bina Daigeler 

“Pinocchio,” Massimo Cantini Parrini

Best Production Design

“The Father.” Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton

“Mank.” Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale*

“News of the World.” Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan

“Tenet.” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Best Visual Effects

“Love and Monsters,” Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox 

“The Midnight Sky,” Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins

“Mulan,” Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram

“The One and Only Ivan,” Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez

“Tenet,” Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher*

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Colette” (Time Travel Unlimited)*

“A Concerto Is a Conversation” (Breakwater Studios) 

“Do Not Split” (Field of Vision) 

“Hunger Ward” (MTV Documentary Films)

“A Love Song for Latasha” (Netflix) 

Best Animated Short Film

“Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)

“Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions) 

“If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix)*

“Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike) 

“Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói) 

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Feeling Through” 

“The Letter Room” 

“The Present” 

“Two Distant Strangers”*

“White Eye” 

2021 Academy Awards: presenters and performers announced

April 23, 2021

The following is a combination of press releases from ABC:

Oscar® nominee Steven Yeun will join the ensemble cast slated to present at the 93rd Oscars®, show producers Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and Steven Soderbergh announced today. “The Oscars” will air live on Sunday, April 25, 2021, on ABC.

“Surprise! We’re so excited to welcome Steven to the crew, and he completes our Oscars cast. No, really, this is it,” said Collins, Sher and Soderbergh.

The previously announced lineup includes Riz Ahmed, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Bryan Cranston, Viola Davis, Laura Dern, Harrison Ford, Bong Joon Ho, Regina King, Marlee Matlin, Rita Moreno, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Renée Zellweger and Zendaya.

Celeste, H.E.R., Leslie Odom Jr., Laura Pausini, Daniel Pemberton, Molly Sandén and Diane Warren will perform the five nominated original songs in their entirety for “Oscars: Into the Spotlight,” the lead-in to the 93rd Oscars. One performance will be recorded in Húsavík, Iceland, and four at the Dolby Family Terrace of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Hosted by actors Ariana DeBose (“Hamilton”) and Lil Rel Howery (“Bad Trip”), the 90-minute “Oscars: Into the Spotlight” will highlight the nominees’ journey to Hollywood’s biggest night, give fans around the world the ultimate insiders’ sneak peek to the party and, for the first time, bring Oscar music to the festivities. The show will feature a special appearance by DJ Tara. “Oscars: Into the Spotlight” will air Oscar Sunday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. EDT/3:30 p.m. PDT.  

The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby® Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and international locations via satellite.  “Oscars: Into the Spotlight” will air live on ABC at 6:30 p.m. EDT/3:30 p.m. PDT. “The Oscars” will be televised live on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT and in more than 200 territories worldwide.  “Oscars: After Dark” will immediately follow the Oscars show.

ABOUT THE ACADEMY
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a global community of more than 10,000 of the most accomplished artists, filmmakers and executives working in film. In addition to celebrating and recognizing excellence in filmmaking through the Oscars, the Academy supports a wide range of initiatives to promote the art and science of the movies, including public programming, educational outreach and the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards: Harry Styles, Roddy Ricch are the top nominees

April 7, 2021

EDITOR’S NOTE: Harry Styles and Roddy Ricch lead the list of nominees, with seven nods each. Following close behind is The Weekend, with six nominations.

The following is a press release from iHeartRadio and Fox:

 iHeartMedia and FOX announced today the nominees for the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards, airing LIVE from The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Thursday, May 27 (8:00-10:00 PM ET live / PT tape-delayed) on FOX. The event also will be heard on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide and on the iHeartRadio app.

Now in its eighth year, the iHeartRadio Music Awards will celebrate the most-played artists and songs on iHeartRadio stations and the iHeartRadio app throughout 2020, while also offering a preview of the upcoming hits of 2021. The show will feature award presentations in multiple categories, live performances from the biggest artists in music, surprise stage moments and will tell the stories of the winning artists’ road to #1.  Since the Awards’ inception in 2013, the show has included live performances and appearances by superstar artists, such as Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Garth Brooks, Rihanna, Halsey, Justin Bieber, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Martin, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Camila Cabello, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Big Sean, Sam Smith, Madonna, Blake Shelton, Pharrell, Pitbull and many others.

“The iHeartRadio Music Awards is a true awards show recognizing the artists and songs fans have listened to and loved all year long,” said John Sykes, President of Entertainment Enterprises for iHeartMedia. “We are excited to be continuing our partnership with FOX on this unforgettable evening of music and stories.”

Artists receiving multiple nominations include 24kGoldn, AC/DC, AJR, All Time Low, Ariana Grande, Bad Bunny, Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, blackbear, BLACKPINK, Blake Shelton, BTS, Calibre 50, Cardi B, Charlie Puth, Chris Brown, Christian Nodal, DaBaby, Doja Cat, Drake, Dua Lipa, Future, Gabby Barrett, H.E.R., Harry Styles, J Balvin, Jhené Aiko, JP Saxe, Justin Bieber, KAROL G, Lady Gaga, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Maluma, Maren Morris, Megan Thee Stallion, Ozuna, Ozzy Osbourne, Pop Smoke, Post Malone, Roddy Ricch, Shawn Mendes, Snoh Aalegra, Summer Walker, Surf Mesa, Taylor Swift, The Pretty Reckless, The Weeknd, twenty one pilots and Young Thug. All nominees are listed below. For a full list of categories, visit iHeartRadio.com/awards.

“We couldn’t be more excited for this year’s iHeartRadio Music Awards,” said Tom Poleman, Chief Programming Officer for iHeartMedia. “This year’s awards will be a can’t-miss music event.  We are looking forward to celebrating these top artists and their accomplishments, especially after a year that brought unprecedented challenges to the music industry and live events.”

In addition to paying tribute to music and artists, the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards will again celebrate the fans, giving iHeartRadio listeners the opportunity to decide winners in several new and established categories. Fan voting will determine this year’s Best Fan Army, Best Lyrics, Best Cover Song, Best Music Video, the Social Star Award, Favorite Music Video Choreography Award and the first-ever TikTok Bop of the Year Award.

Social voting begins today, April 7, and will close on May 19 at 11:59 PM ET for all categories. Fans can vote on Twitter using the appropriate category and nominee hashtags or by visiting iHeartRadio.com/awards

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 live TV broadcast event of the iHeartRadio Music Awards on FOX was cancelled and winners were revealed for the first time on-air throughout Labor Day weekend across iHeartRadio stations nationwide and on the iHeartRadio App. Among the many winners of the 2020 Awards were Lizzo for Song of the Year, Billie Eilish for Female Artist of the Year, Post Malone for Male Artist of the Year and Jonas Brothers for Best Duo/Group of the Year. The 2020 iHeartRadio Music Awards also honored Elton John with the Tour of the Year Award for his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.”

This year’s awards will once again feature a broad array of categories — finalists (by alphabetical order) are:

Song of the Year:

  • “Blinding Lights” – The Weeknd
  • “Circles” – Post Malone
  • “Don’t Start Now” – Dua Lipa
  • “ROCKSTAR” – DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch
  • “Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles

Female Artist of the Year:  

  • Ariana Grande
  • Billie Eilish
  • Dua Lipa
  • Megan Thee Stallion
  • Taylor Swift

Male Artist of the Year: 

  • Harry Styles
  • Justin Bieber
  • Post Malone
  • Roddy Ricch
  • The Weeknd

Best Duo/Group of the Year: 

  • BTS
  • Dan + Shay
  • Jonas Brothers
  • Maroon 5
  • twenty one pilots

Best Collaboration:

  • “Go Crazy” – Chris Brown & Young Thug
  • “Holy” – Justin Bieber featuring Chance the Rapper
  • “I Hope” – Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth
  • “Mood” – 24kGoldn featuring iann dior
  • “Savage” (Remix) – Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé

Best New Pop Artist: 

  • 24kGoldn
  • blackbear
  • Doja Cat
  • JP Saxe
  • Pop Smoke

Alternative Rock Song of the Year:

  • “Bang!” – AJR
  • “Bloody Valentine” – Machine Gun Kelly
  • “everything i wanted” – Billie Eilish
  • “Level Of Concern” – twenty one pilots
  • “Monsters” – All Time Low featuring blackbear

Alternative Rock Artist of the Year:

  • AJR
  • All Time Low
  • Billie Eilish
  • Cage the Elephant
  • twenty one pilots

Best New Rock/Alternative Rock Artist:

  • Ashe
  • Dayglow
  • Powfu
  • Royal & The Serpent
  • Wallows

Rock Song of the Year:

  • “Death By Rock And Roll” – The Pretty Reckless
  • “Patience” – Chris Cornell
  • “Shame Shame” – Foo Fighters
  • “Shot In The Dark” – AC/DC
  • “Under The Graveyard” – Ozzy Osbourne

Rock Artist of the Year:

  • AC/DC
  • Five Finger Death Punch
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Shinedown
  • The Pretty Reckless

Country Song of the Year:

  • “Even Though I’m Leaving” – Luke Combs
  • “I Hope” – Gabby Barrett
  • “Nobody But You” – Blake Shelton with Gwen Stefani
  • “One Margarita” – Luke Bryan
  • “The Bones” – Maren Morris

Country Artist of the Year:

  • Blake Shelton
  • Luke Bryan
  • Luke Combs
  • Maren Morris
  • Thomas Rhett

Best New Country Artist:

  • Ashley McBryde
  • Gabby Barrett
  • HARDY
  • Ingrid Andress
  • Jameson Rodgers

Dance Song of the Year:

  • “Head & Heart” – Joel Corry x MNEK
  • “ily (i love you baby)” – Surf Mesa featuring Emilee
  • “Lasting Lover” – Sigala & James Arthur
  • “Rain On Me” – Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande
  • “Roses” (Imanbek Remix) – SAINt JHN

Dance Artist of the Year: 

  • Anabel Englund
  • Diplo
  • Marshmello
  • Surf Mesa
  • Tiësto

Hip-Hop Song of the Year: 

  • “High Fashion” – Roddy Ricch featuring Mustard
  • “Life Is Good” – Future featuring Drake
  • “ROCKSTAR” – DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch             
  • “Savage” (Remix) – Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé
  • “The Box” – Roddy Ricch

Hip-Hop Artist of the Year: 

  • DaBaby
  • Lil Baby
  • Megan Thee Stallion
  • Pop Smoke
  • Roddy Ricch

Best New Hip-Hop Artist:

  • Jack Harlow
  • Moneybagg Yo
  • Pop Smoke
  • Rod Wave
  • Roddy Ricch

R&B Song of the Year: 

  • “B.S.” – Jhené Aiko featuring H.E.R.    
  • “Go Crazy” – Chris Brown & Young Thug
  • “Heat” Chris Brown featuring Gunna
  • “Playing Games” – Summer Walker
  • “Slide” – H.E.R. featuring YG

R&B Artist of the Year: 

  • Chris Brown
  • H.E.R.
  • Jhené Aiko
  • Snoh Aalegra
  • Summer Walker

Best New R&B Artist

  • Chloe x Halle  
  • Lonr.
  • Mahalia
  • Skip Marley
  • Snoh Aalegra

Latin Pop/Reggaeton Song of the Year:  

  • “Caramelo” – Ozuna
  • “Dákiti” – Bad Bunny & Jhay Cortez
  • “Hawái” (Remix) – Maluma & The Weeknd
  • “RITMO (Bad Boys For Life)” – Black Eyed Peas & J Balvin
  • “Tusa” – KAROL G & Nicki Minaj

Latin Pop/Reggaeton Artist of the Year: 

  • Bad Bunny 
  • J Balvin
  • KAROL G
  • Maluma
  • Ozuna

Best New Latin Artist: 

  • Chesca
  • Jay Wheeler
  • Natanael Cano
  • Neto Bernal
  • Rauw Alejandro

Regional Mexican Song of the Year:

  • “Palabra De Hombre” – El Fantasma
  • “Se Me Olvidó” – Christian Nodal
  • “Sólo Tú” – Calibre 50
  • “Te Volvería A Elegir” – Calibre 50
  • “Yo Ya No Vuelvo Contigo” – Lenin Ramírez featuring Grupo Firme  

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year:  

  • Banda Los Sebastianes
  • Calibre 50
  • Christian Nodal
  • Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey
  • Gerardo Ortíz

Producer of the Year: 

  • Andrew Watt
  • Dr Luke
  • Frank Dukes
  • Louis Bell
  • Max Martin

Songwriter of the Year:

  • Ali Tamposi
  • Amy Allen
  • Ashley Gorley
  • Dan Nigro
  • Finneas

Best Lyrics: *Socially Voted Category

  • “Adore You” – Harry Styles
  • “Before You Go” – Lewis Capaldi
  • “Blinding Lights” – The Weeknd
  • “cardigan” – Taylor Swift
  • “Don’t Start Now” – Dua Lipa
  • “everything i wanted” – Billie Eilish
  • “I Hope” – Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth
  • “If The World Was Ending” – JP Saxe featuring Julia Michaels
  • “Intentions” – Justin Bieber featuring Quavo
  • “Life Is Good” – Future featuring Drake

Best Cover Song: *Socially Voted Category

  • “Adore You” (Harry Styles) – Lizzo cover
  • “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons) – Shawn Mendes cover
  • “Fix You” (Coldplay) – Sam Smith cover
  • “Heart Of Glass” (Blondie) – Miley Cyrus cover
  • “Juice” (Lizzo) – Harry Styles cover

Best Fan Army: *Socially Voted Category

  • #Agnation – Agnez Mo
  • #Arianators – Ariana Grande
  • #Beliebers – Justin Bieber
  • #BLINK – BLACKPINK
  • #BTSARMY – BTS
  • #Harries – Harry Styles
  • #Limelights – Why Don’t We
  • #Louies – Louis Tomlinson
  • #MendesArmy – Shawn Mendes
  • #NCTzens – NCT 127
  • #Selenators – Selena Gomez
  • #Swifties – Taylor Swift

Best Music Video: *Socially Voted Category

  • “Blinding Lights” – The Weeknd
  • “Don’t Start Now” – Dua Lipa
  • “Dynamite” – BTS
  • “Hawái” – Maluma
  • “How You Like That” – BLACKPINK
  • “Life Is Good” – Future featuring Drake
  • “Rain On Me” – Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande
  • “WAP” – Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion
  • “Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles
  • “Yummy” – Justin Bieber

Social Star Award: *Socially Voted Category

  • Dixie D’Amelio
  • Jaden Hossler
  • LILHUDDY
  • Nessa Barrett
  • Olivia Rodrigo
  • Tate McRae

Favorite Music Video Choreography: *Socially Voted Category

  • BTS – Son Sung Deuk
  • “34+35” (Ariana Grande) – Scott & Brian Nicholson
  • “Do It” (Chloe x Halle) – Kendra Bracy & Ashanti Ledon
  • “Honey Boo” (CNCO & Natti Natasha) – Kyle Hanagami
  • “Physical” (Dua Lipa) – Charm La’Donna
  • “Rain On Me” (Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande) – Richy Jackson
  • “Say So” (Doja Cat) –    Cortland Brown
  • WAP” (Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion) – JaQuel Knight
  • “Bop” (DaBaby) – Coach Cherry & DaniLeigh

TikTok Bop of the Year (New Category): *Socially Voted Category 

  • “Blinding Lights” – The Weeknd
  • “Lottery (Renegade)” – K CAMP
  • “Savage” – Megan Thee Stallion
  • “Savage Love” (Laxed-Siren Beat) – Jawsh 685, Jason Derulo
  • “Say So” – Doja Cat
  • “WAP” – Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion

Additional categories include Label of the Year, Titanium Song of the Year and Titanium Artist of the Year, and individual winners for Album of the Year in music’s biggest genres, including Pop, Country, Alternative Rock, Rock, Dance, Hip-Hop, R&B, Latin Pop/Reggaeton and Regional Mexican formats. Nominations are based on consumption data, including streaming, album sales, song sales and radio airplay.

For a full list of categories visit iHeartRadio.com/awards.

Proud partners of the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards include Taco Bell® and Dr Pepper Zero Sugar, with more to be announced.

iHeartRadio and Taco Bell are once again teaming up to celebrate the fans, artists and music that kept us all connected over the past year. Fans can tune in to a memorable moment in the show, compliments of iHeartRadio and Taco Bell.

Executive producers for the “iHeartRadio Music Awards” are Joel Gallen for Tenth Planet and John Sykes, Tom Poleman and Bart Peters for iHeartMedia. 

For breaking news and exclusive iHeartRadio Music Awards content visit iHeartRadio.com/awards or follow the social buzz on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+.

About iHeartMedia, Inc.

iHeartMedia, Inc. [Nasdaq: IHRT] is the leading audio media company in America, reaching over 250 million people each month.  It is number one in broadcast and streaming radio as well as podcasting and audio ad tech, and includes three segments: The iHeartMedia Multiplatform Group; the iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group; and the Audio and Media Services Group.

Visit iHeartMedia.com for more company information.

About FOX Entertainment

FOX Entertainment’s 30-year legacy of innovative, hit programming includes 9-1-1, 9-1-1: LONE STAR, THE MASKED SINGER, LEGO MASTERS, PRODIGAL SON, LAST MAN STANDING, THE SIMPSONS, “Empire,” “24,” “The X-Files” and “American Idol.” Delivering high-quality scripted, non-scripted, animation, live content and major sports, FOX won the 2019-2020 broadcast season for the first time in eight years and was the only major network to post year-over-year growth among Adults 18-49 and Total Viewers. In addition to its broadcast network, FOX Entertainment oversees the operations of FOX Alternative Entertainment, its in-house unscripted studio that produces THE MASKED SINGER, I CAN SEE YOUR VOICE and THE MASKED DANCER, among other series; and the award-winning animation studio Bento Box Entertainment, which produces animated content for FOX, including the Emmy Award-winning hit BOB’S BURGERS and DUNCANVILLE, THE GREAT NORTH and HOUSEBROKEN, as well as programming for other broadcast, streaming and cable platforms.  Tubi, FOX Entertainment’s fast-growing ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) service, features more than 30,000 movies and television series, and news content that’s available in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Review: ‘City of Lies,’ starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker

April 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Johnny Depp in “City of Lies” (Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

“City of Lies”

Directed by Brad Furman

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the dramatic film “City of Lies” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, African American and a few Latinos) representing middle-class citizens, law enforcement and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A bitter former Los Angeles police detective joins forces with a TV journalist to try to solve the 1997 murder of rapper The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls.

Culture Audience: “City of Lies” will appeal primarily to people interested in the Notorious B.I.G. murder case or movies about true crime, but the movie drags with a sluggish pace and mediocre performances.

Forest Whitaker and Johnny Depp in “City of Lies” (Photo courtesy of Saban Films)

The life and murder of The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, has turned into a cottage industry for filmmakers, since there have been several documentaries and narrative feature films about the rapper, who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. The same could be said of the numerous movies about rapper Tupac Shakur, who died in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 13, 1996. Both murders are speculated to be linked to each other, and these two murder cases remain unsolved. The dramatic film “City of Lies” (directed by Brad Furman) focuses on the Biggie Smalls murder case in such a lukewarm and unremarkable way that people will be better off watching any of the several documentaries about the same subject.

The troubled behind-the-scenes story of “City of Lies” is actually more interesting than the movie itself. “City of Lies” was originally supposed to be released in 2018, but the movie’s release was abruptly cancelled by then-distributor Global Road Entertainment, formerly known as Open Road Films. The company was sued by Bank Leumi, which loaned $32 million to make the movie and wanted the money back since the movie’s release was cancelled. In a separate lawsuit, “City of Lies” star Johnny Depp was sued by the movie’s former location manager Gregg “Rocky” Brooks, who claimed that Depp assaulted him on the set of “City of Lies.”

Global Road filed for bankruptcy in 2018, thereby shielding the company from debt collectors. The lawsuit against Depp was presumably settled out of court, because it never went to trial. Open Road Films was revived in 2019 under new ownership. Meanwhile, “City of Lies” was shelved until Saban Films purchased the rights to the movie and released the movie in 2021.

It’s easy to see why “City of Lies” wasn’t considered a priority release by its original distributors. It isn’t a terrible film, but it’s a terribly monotonous one, with lackluster acting and tacky re-enactments of over-recycled theories about Biggie Smalls’ murder. “City of Lies” throws in some unnecessary fictional characters to bring more drama to the story. Christian Contreras wrote the “City of Lies” screenplay, which is based on Randall Sullivan’s 2002 non-fiction book “LAbryinth.”

The movie, just like the book, takes the angle that former Los Angeles Police Department detective Russell Poole (played by Depp) had the most plausible theory that Smalls was murdered by corrupt LAPD cops who were working as off-duty security for Marion “Suge” Knight, the founder of Death Row Records. Knight and Death Row (which was the Los Angeles-based record label that Shakur was signed to when he was murdered) were involved in a bitter East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry with Sean Combs, the founder of the New York City-based Bad Boy Entertainment. The Notorious B.I.G. (a Brooklyn, New York native whose real name was Christopher Wallace) was signed to Bad Boy. The media often made it look like The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur were enemies, when the two rappers actually were friends early on in their careers until their record label bosses started feuding with each other.

“City of Lies” opens with a scene that takes place on March 18, 1997, in North Hollywood, California. An undercover LAPD cop named Frank Lyga (played by Shea Whigam) gets into a road-rage incident with a guy in a SUV over the type of music that is loudly playing in the SUV while both are stopped next to each other at a traffic light. There are racial undertones in their argument because Lyga is white and the other driver is African American.

The SUV driver starts to threaten Frank and chase after him in the car. During this car chase, Lyga shoots and kills the other motorist, who crashes his SUV into another car. It turns out that the other driver was also an undercover LAPD cop. His name was Kevin Gaines (played by Amin Joseph), and his alleged connection to the Biggie Smalls murder case is explained later in the movie for people who don’t know already.

Poole is called to the scene of Gaines’ death. Lyga claims he killed Gaines in self-defense. But in the wake of the 1992 riots over the Rodney King trial verdict, the LAPD does not want a repeat of these riots. Gaines’ family files a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. This lawsuit might or might not have affected how the LAPD investigated Gaines’ alleged involvement in the Biggie Smalls murder.

It’s not the best way to start off “City of Lies,” which is mostly about how retired LAPD detective Poole teamed up with a TV news journalist named Darius “Jack” Jackson (played by Forest Whitaker) in 2015 to re-examine the Biggie Smalls murder case. Poole left the LAPD in 1999 to start his own private detective agency, where he continued to investigate the Biggie Smalls murder. Although most of the characters in “City of Lies” are based on real people and the characters keep the names of their real-life counterparts, Jackson is a fictional character who works for the fictional American World Network, which is supposed to be like CNN.

Jackson is a character fabricated for this movie so that he can be a sounding board for Poole’s theories and to do a lot of the legwork of investigating that Poole might not be able to do because of Poole’s alienation from the LAPD. Jackson seeks out Poole at Poole’s cluttered and dingy apartment/home office because Jackson is doing a retrospective special on the Notorious B.I.G. and he wants to possibly interview Poole for it. When Jackson arrives unannounced at Poole’s apartment, he finds the door unlocked and enters. The unlocked door is a small detail that doesn’t ring true, considering that the movie goes out its way throughout the story to show how paranoid Poole is.

Poole surprises Jackson by pulling a gun on him. It didn’t help that Jackson showed up unannounced. After the former cop sees that Jackson isn’t a threat, Jackson explains why he’s there and reminds Poole that he actually interviewed Poole years before, for a documentary called “East vs. West,” about the 1990s East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry. Jackson proudly mentions that the documentary won a Peabody Award, but Poole isn’t impressed.

Poole, who is divorced and lives by himself, has his apartment walls covered in clippings and other items related to Biggie Smalls and the unsolved murder. In conversations with Jackson, it becomes very apparent that Poole has been so obsessed with the case, that it’s cost him his job at the LAPD (he quit under a cloud of discontent after being suspended) and he lost his family over it. Poole’s wife divorced him, and he is estranged from his son Russell Poole Jr. (played by Joshua M. Hardwick), who is a minor league baseball player.

Sure enough, this hackneyed movie has a subplot of Poole pining for his lost relationship with his son. There’s a scene of him watching Russell Jr. during baseball practice, but keeping his distance because there’s too much bad blood between them. Jackson is with Poole as they watch Russell Jr. in the stands.

There are also a few flashbacks to Poole and his son in happier times when Russell Jr. was a 6-year-old child (played by Antonio Raul Corbo) and they did father-son activities, such as fishing. Poole also has an adult daughter (played by Ashleigh Biller), who isn’t even given a name in the movie. Meanwhile, the movie never shows anything about Jackson’s home life.

“City of Lies” goes back and forth between showing how Poole was on the original LAPD investigation team in the Biggie Smalls murder case in the 1997 and how he’s still investigating the case as an under-funded private detective in 2015. Poole was also part of the internal affairs investigation over the shooting death of LAPD police officer Gaines by fellow LAPD cop Lyga. “City of Lies” also references the LAPD Ramparts scandal, which involved some of the same cops who were connected to the Biggie Smalls murder. One of those cops was Rafael Pérez (played by Neil Brown Jr.), who was accused of being a member of the Bloods, a gang affiliated with Death Row founder Knight.

Other LAPD characters in the story who worked on the Biggie Smalls murder case in the late 1990s include Detective Fred Miller (played by Toby Huss), who was Russell’s closest co-worker on the case, and Detective Varney (played by Michael Paré), who gets scolded by Miller for saying that Biggie Smalls was behind Tupac Shakur’s murder. Other law enforcement officials who are part of the story include City Attorney Stone (played by Louis Herthum) and FBI Agent Dunton (played by Laurence Mason), who is undercover as a street thug connected to Death Row chief Knight. The movie is a bit heavy-handed in depicting Poole as the only LAPD cop willing to take down some of his colleagues if he thought they were murderers in cases that he was investigating.

In 2015, the LAPD cops that Jackson has to deal with include Commander Fasulo (played by Peter Greene) and Lieutenant O’Shea (played by Dayton Callie). These cops have written off Poole as a crazy loose cannon. However, Jackson isn’t so sure, and he begins to believe that Poole could be right about the LAPD being involved in some kind of cover-up to protect corrupt cops who might have been involved in the murder.

If you believe the main theory presented in the movie, a rogue LAPD cop named David Mack, nicknamed D-Mack (played by Shamier Anderson), was one of the key people with direct knowledge of the Biggie Smalls murder. Mack’s involvement is a theory that has already been widely reported, but it won’t be revealed in this review, since some people watching the movie might not know the theory. In real life, Mack was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison for a December 1997 bank robbery of $722,000 in Los Angeles. The bank robbery is re-enacted in the movie.

Just as Poole ran into problems with his superiors for believing that the Biggie Smalls murder was a conspiracy among corrupt LAPD cops working for Knight, so too does Jackson get pushback from his boss named Edwards (played by Xander Berkeley) because Jackson wants to present this theory in the TV special. Jackson getting stonewalled by his boss is somewhat of an unbelievable part of the movie, because this theory was widely reported long before 2015, so Jackson really wouldn’t be reporting anything new. In the world of “City of Lies,” viewers are supposed to forget all of that and believe that Jackson will be breaking this news on TV for the very first time.

“City of Lies” includes cheesy re-enactments (some parts in slow-motion) of the Biggie Smalls murder, which happened after he left a Soul Train Music Awards after-party at the Petersen Automotive Museum. While at a stoplight, he was shot by someone in a car that pulled up to the SUV where Biggie Smalls was a passenger. The role of Biggie Smalls is played by Jamal Woolard, who’s played the rapper in multiple films, including the 2009 biopic “Notorious.” An eyewitness named Tyrell (played by Dominique Columbus), a character fabricated for the movie, is interviewed in 1997 flashback scenes.

And just so the audience knows that “City of Lies” was approved by the family of Biggie Smalls/Christopher Wallace, his mother Voletta Wallace (portraying herself) has a cameo in a scene where she meets with Poole and Jackson in a diner. She thanks Poole and Jackson for clearing her son’s name when there were rumors that The Notorious B.I.G. was involved in the murder of Tupac Shakur. The only purpose of this scene is so people see that Voletta Wallace considered Poole to be an ally when it came to investigating the murder of Biggie Smalls.

“City of Lies” is very much told from Poole’s perspective, because the flow of the movie is frequently interrupted by his voiceover narration where he spouts some hokey lines. After the opening scene where Poole is called to the scene of LAPD officer Gaines’ death, Poole says in a voiceover about Gaines’ death and Biggie Smalls’ death: “I didn’t connect the two at first, but when I did, I lost everything that mattered. That day, on that street corner, the labyrinth opened.”

Later in the movie, Poole says in retrospect of how the LAPD was investigating Gaines’ death: “The ghost of Rodney King was still haunting the city, so there was only one way this was going to end. I was the only idiot to think otherwise.” When Poole and Jackson meet in Poole’s apartment for the first time, Jackson asks Poole directly: “Who shot Christopher Wallace?” Poole replies: “I don’t know. I had a theory, and my investigation was ripped out from under me.”

You get the idea. “City of Lies” is about portraying Poole as a noble but very flawed martyr for his theory. The problem is in the the way it’s presented in “City of Lies,” which oversimplifies things and makes it look like Poole is the only person who had this theory and the only one to uncover key evidence in this theory. But by his own admission, what he uncovered wasn’t enough to solve the murder.

By the time Jackson meets Poole in Poole’s apartment, the former cop is jaded and distrustful, but Jackson’s interest in the case seems to renew Poole’s spirit and he gradually learns to trust Jackson. But the movie also spends a lot of time on flashbacks of Poole working on the case in 1997, and Jackson retracing Poole’s investigative steps instead of trying to look at other theories too. It’s lazy journalism that shouldn’t be glorified in a movie.

Depp and Whitaker have a lot of talent in other films. Unfortunately, they aren’t very interesting together in “City of of Lies.” The direction of the movie makes everything look fake. The actors playing cops look like actors, not cops.

And some of the re-creations of people in the rap music industry look awkward, as if these scenes were created by people who only know about hip-hop culture from watching music videos. When the release of “City of Lies” was originally cancelled in 2018, movie audiences didn’t seem to know or care that much. And now that “City of Lies” is available, it’s easy to see why this movie is so inconsequential and forgettable.

Saban Films released “City of Lies” in select U.S. cinemas on March 19, 2021. The movie’s release date on digital and VOD is April 9, 2021.

2021 Academy Awards: ‘Mank’ is the top nominee

March 15, 2021

by Carla Hay

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in “Mank” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

With 10 nods, the Netflix drama “Mank” is the top nominee for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards, which will take place at Union Station and at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on April 25, 2021. There will be no host for the ceremony, which will be telecast in the U.S. on ABC. The nominations were announced on March 15, 2021, by spouses Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The nominations for “Mank” include Best Picture, Best Actor (for Gary Oldman), Best Director (for David Fincher) and Best Supporting Actress (for Amanda Seyfried). The movie is about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, nicknamed Mank, and his experiences while writing the Oscar-winning screenplay to the 1941 film “Citizen Kane, including his clashes with “Citizen Kane” director/co-writer Orson Welles.

The other contenders for Best Picture are Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father,” Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Judas and the Black Messiah,” A24’s “Minari,” Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland,” Focus Features’ “Promising Young Woman,” Amazon Studios’ “Sound of Metal” and Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” All of these movies except for “Promising Young Woman” have six Oscar nominations each, which is the second-highest number of nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards ceremony. (Click here to read Culture Mix’s reviews of all these movies that are nominated for Best Picture.)

The awards are voted for by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. For the 2021 ceremony, eligible movies were those released in the U.S. in 2020 and (due to the coronavirus pandemic) the eligibility period was extended to movies released in January and February 2021. Because of the pandemic, movies that were planned for a theatrical release but were released directly to home video or on streaming services were also eligible. Beginning with the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, there will be a required 10 movies nominated for Best Picture. From 2009 to 2021, the rule was that there could be five to 10 movies per year nominated for Best Picture.

Snubs and Surprises

“Da 5 Bloods” director Spike Lee (pictured at far left) with cast members Isiah Whitlock Jr., Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis on the set of “Da 5 Bloods.” (Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

The Netflix drama “Da 5 Bloods,” which has been getting nominations at other major award shows, only managed to garner one Oscar nod: Best Original Score (for Terence Blanchard). Some pundits had predicted that “Da 5 Bloods” would get Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (for Spike Lee) and Best Actor (for Delroy Lindo). Other highly acclaimed movies that were shut out of the Best Picture race include the Amazon Studios drama “One Night in Miami…” and the Netflix drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” although “One Night in Miami…” got three Oscar nods in other categories, while “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” received five Oscar nominations.

Meanwhile, movies that have been getting awards and nominations elsewhere were completely snubbed by the Academy Awards. They include the Focus Features drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” the STX drama “The Mauritanian,” the Netflix comedy “The Forty-Year-Old Version” and the A24 drama “First Cow.” 

Although “Mank” leads with the most Oscar nominations this year, the movie failed to get a nod for Best Original Screenplay. (The movie was written by David Fincher’s late father Jack Fincher.) This lack of a screenplay Oscar nomination doesn’t bode well for “Mank’s” chances to win Best Picture. It’s very rare for a movie not to win Best Picture without getting a screenplay nomination.

And shut out of the race for Best Director is Aaron Sorkin of “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” even though he has been getting Best Director nominations at almost every major award show where he’s eligible for this movie. However, as the screenwriter for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Sorkin did score an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay. 

Some of the biggest surprise nominations came from international films. Thomas Vinterberg of the Samuel Goldwyn Films drama “Another Round” (a movie from Denmark) received a nomination for Best Director. Gravitas Ventures’ Chilean film “The Mole Agent” got a nomination for Best Documentary Feature, after being largely ignored for nominations at other movie award shows.

And “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star LaKeith Stanfield got a surprise nod for Best Supporting Actor, a category that also includes “Judas and the Black Messiah” co-star Daniel Kaluuya. Stanfield was shut of of getting nominated for this movie at most other award shows, while Kaluuya has been winning Best Supporting Actor prizes for the movie, thereby making Kaluuya a frontrunner in the category this year.

Diversity and Inclusion

Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho in “Minari” (Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson/A24) 

For the first time in Academy Awards history, two women have been nominated in the same year for Best Director: Chloé Zhao of “Nomadland” and Emerald Fennell of “Promising Young Woman.” Zhao (who is the first women of color to get an Oscar nod for Best Director) is a quadruple Oscar nominee this year for “Nomadland,” since she’s also nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Fennell is a triple nominee, since her other Oscar nominations this year are for Best Picture and for Best Original Screenplay.

Racial diversity is in every actor/actress category at 2021 Academy Awards, since there is at least one person of color nominated in each category. Black people are represented the most with “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which made Oscar history for being the first movie from an all-black team of producers (Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler) to be nominated for Best Picture. The movie also earned nominations for the aforementioned co-stars Kaluuya and Stanfield; songwriter H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas, whose song “Fight for You” is up for Best Original Song’; and “Judas and the Black Messiah” director Shaka King, who co-wrote the screenplay, is a double Oscar nominee this year, since he’s also up for Best Original Screenplay.

Leslie Odom Jr. is a double nominee for “One Night in Miami…,” since he received nods for Best Supporting Actor and for co-writing the song “Speak Now,” which is one of the contenders for Best Original Song. Kemp Powers received his first Oscar nomination (Best Adapted Screenplay), for “One Night in Miami…,” which is based on the play that he wrote of the same title. Powers is a co-director of the Oscar-nominated animated film “Soul,” but he was not nominated for this movie, since the nomination for Best Animated Feature goes to a film’s director(s) and producer(s). However, composer Jon Batiste of “Soul” is nominated for Best Original Score, along with lead composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” got expected nominations for the late Chadwick Boseman (Best Actor) and Viola Davis (Best Actress). With this nomination, Davis is the black actress with the most Oscar nods. She has four so far, including one win for Best Supporting Actress for the 2016 drama “Fences.” Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” made Oscar history by being the first black people nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. 

Also nominated for Best Actress at the 2021 Academy Awards is Andra Day of Hulu’s “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” Ironically, the only other time that two black actresses were nominated in the same year for Best Actress was in 1973, when Diana Ross was nominated for her role as Billie Holiday in 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues” and Cicely Tyson was nominated for 1972’s “Sounder.” As of this writing, Halle Berry is the only black person who has won an Oscar for Best Actress. She did so for 2001’s “Monster’s Ball.”

Real-life singers Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday also represent the only LGBTQ characters in the actor/actress categories. In real life, Rainey was a lesbian and Holiday was bisexual. Their sexualities are each portrayed in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

Asians were represented in more Oscar categories than ever before, mostly because of “Minari,” a drama about a Korean American family that moves to rural Arkansas so that the family patriarch can become a farmer. “Minari” earned nods for producer Christina Oh (Best Picture); Lee Isaac Chung (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay); Steven Yeun (Best Actor); and Yuh-jung Youn (Best Supporting Actor). Yeun is the first Asian American to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

As previously mentioned, Chinese filmmaker Zhao has four Oscar nominations for “Nomadland” this year. And the Hong Kong drama “Better Days” garnered a Best International Feature nomination for director Derek Tsang. And the Netflix drama “The White Tiger” earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Indian filmmaker Ramin Bahrani.

Pakistani British actor Riz Ahmed of “Sound of Metal” received his first nomination for Best Actor. Ahmed plays a heavy-metal drummer who goes deaf in the film. Paul Raci, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Sound of Metal,” also portrays a deaf person in the film. The disability community is also represented in Anthony Hopkins’ role as a man with dementia in “The Father,” whose six nominations include Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Meanwhile, “Crip Camp” co-director Jim LeBrecht, who is paraplegic, is nominated for Best Documentary Feature for this Netflix movie, which is about the civil rights movement for the disability community.

The Hispanic/Latino people nominated for Oscars this year were all people who work in behind-the-camera roles. Sergio Lopez-Rivera is one of three people nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” And as previously mentioned, the Chilean film “The Mole Agent” (directed by Maite Alberdi) is nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

Also in the Best International Feature category is director Kaouther Ben Hania, who is nominated for the Tunisian film “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” making it the first time that a movie from Tunisia has gotten an Oscar nomination in this category. 

Here is the complete list of nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards:

Best Picture

“The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics) 

“Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.) 

“Mank” (Netflix) 

“Minari” (A24) 

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) 

“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) 

“Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios) 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) 

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)

David Fincher (“Mank”) 

Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) 

Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) 

Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) 

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) 

Gary Oldman (“Mank”) 

Steven Yeun (“Minari”) 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) 

Andra Day (“The United States v. Billie Holiday”) 

Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) 

Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) 

Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) 

Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) 

Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”) 

Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) 

LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) 

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) 

Olivia Colman (“The Father”) 

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) 

Yuh-jung Youn (“Minari”) 

Best Adapted Screenplay

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman and Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer and Nina Pedrad

“The Father,” Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller

“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao 

“One Night in Miami,” Kemp Powers 

“The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani 

Best Original Screenplay

“Judas and the Black Messiah.” Screenplay by Will Berson, Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas and Keith Lucas

“Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung 

“Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell 

“Sound of Metal.” Screenplay by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin 

Best Cinematography

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt 

“Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt 

“News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski 

“Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael 

Best Film Editing

“The Father,” Yorgos Lamprinos

“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao 

“Promising Young Woman,” Frédéric Thoraval 

“Sound of Metal,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Alan Baumgarten 

Best Sound

“Greyhound,” Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman

“Mank,” Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin

“News of the World,” Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett

“Soul,” Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker

“Sound of Metal,” Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh

Best Original Score

“Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard 

“Mank,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross 

“Minari,” Emile Mosseri 

“News of the World,” James Newton Howard 

“Soul,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste 

Best Original Song

“Fight for You,” (“Judas and the Black Messiah”). Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas

“Hear My Voice,” (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

“Húsavík,” (“Eurovision Song Contest”). Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

“Io Si (Seen),” (“The Life Ahead”). Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

“Speak Now,” (“One Night in Miami”). Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Best Animated Feature Film

“Onward” (Pixar) 

“Over the Moon” (Netflix) 

“A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” (Netflix) 

“Soul” (Pixar) 

“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV+/GKIDS) 

Best International Feature Film

“Another Round” (Denmark) 

“Better Days” (Hong Kong)

“Collective” (Romania) 

“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)

“Quo Vadis, Aida?”(Bosnia and Herzegovina) 

Best Documentary Feature

“Collective” (Magnolia Pictures and Participant) 

“Crip Camp” (Netflix) 

“The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures) 

“My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix) 

“Time” (Amazon Studios) 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Emma,” Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze

“Hillbilly Elegy,” Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, Matthew Mungle 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson

“Mank,” Kimberley Spiteri, Gigi Williams, Colleen LaBaff

“Pinocchio,” Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli, Francesco Pegoretti

Best Costume Design

“Emma,” Alexandra Byrne 

“Mank,” Trish Summerville 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Ann Roth 

“Mulan,” Bina Daigeler 

“Pinocchio,” Massimo Cantini Parrini

Best Production Design

“The Father.” Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton

“Mank.” Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale

“News of the World.” Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan

“Tenet.” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

Best Visual Effects

“Love and Monsters,” Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox 

“The Midnight Sky,” Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins

“Mulan,” Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram

“The One and Only Ivan,” Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez

“Tenet,” Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Colette” (Time Travel Unlimited) 

“A Concerto Is a Conversation” (Breakwater Studios) 

“Do Not Split” (Field of Vision) 

“Hunger Ward” (MTV Documentary Films)

“A Love Song for Latasha” (Netflix) 

Best Animated Short Film

“Burrow” (Disney Plus/Pixar)

“Genius Loci” (Kazak Productions) 

“If Anything Happens I Love You” (Netflix) 

“Opera” (Beasts and Natives Alike) 

“Yes-People” (CAOZ hf. Hólamói) 

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Feeling Through” 

“The Letter Room” 

“The Present” 

“Two Distant Strangers” 

“White Eye” 

2021 Grammy Awards: Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Beyoncé among the top winners

March 14, 2021

by Carla Hay

Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Beyoncé were among the top winners at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, which were presented in Los Angeles on March 14, 2021. The show was originally scheduled to take place at the Staples Center, but due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, performances were held inside an unnamed alternate building, while the awards were given at an outside location directly across from the Staples Center. Trevor Noah hosted the show, which was televised in the U.S. on CBS and Paramount+.

Swift won Album of the Year for “Folklore,” and she became the first artist in Grammy history to win three Grammys for Album of the Year. It was the only award that she won at the 2021 Grammy ceremony. Swift previously won Grammys for Album of the Year for 2008’s “Fearless” and 2014’s “1989.”

Eilish received two prizes at the 2021 Grammy Awards: Record of the Year (for “Everything I Wanted”) and Best Song Written for Visual Media (for “No Time to Die”). These wins came a year after Eilish swept all four of the General Field categories (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist) at the 2020 Grammy Awards.

Beyoncé had the most nominations (nine) at the 2021 Grammy Awards. She ended up winning four: “Black Parade” won for Best R&B Performance; “Brown Skin Girl” won for Best Music Video/Film (an award she shares with her daughter Blue Ivy and rapper WizKid); and as a featured artist and co-writer on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” Beyoncé won for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. Beyoncé’s Grammy haul brought her total to 28 Grammys in her career so far. Beyoncé now holds the record as the female artist with the most Grammys, breaking the previous record held by Alison Krauss, who has 27 Grammys.

Other winners in major categories included H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe” (Song of the Year); Megan Thee Stallion (Best New Artist); Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” (Best Pop Vocal Album); Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” (Best Pop Vocal Performance); and Lady Gaga With Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me” (Best Pop/Duo Vocal Performance).

The performers at the 2021 Grammy Awards included Bad Bunny, Black Pumas, Cardi B, BTS, Brandi Carlile, DaBaby, Doja Cat, Eilish, Mickey Guyton, Haim, Brittany Howard, Miranda Lambert, Lil Baby, Lipa, Chris Martin, John Mayer, Megan Thee Stallion, Maren Morris, Post Malone, Bruno Mars, Roddy Ricch, Styles and Swift.

The Grammy nominations and awards are voted for by the Recording Academy. The 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony was produced by Fulwell 73 Productions for the Recording Academy. Ben Winston was executive producer, Jesse Collins and Raj Kapoor were co-executive producers; and Fatima Robinson, Josie Cliff and David Wild were producers, Patrick Menton was talent producer, and Hamish Hamilton was director.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards:

*=winner

General Field

Record of the Year

“Black Parade” — Beyoncé — Beyoncé & Derek Dixie, producers; Stuart White, engineer/mixer; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer

“Colors” — Black Pumas — Adrian Quesada, producer; Adrian Quesada, engineer/mixer; JJ Golden, mastering engineer

“Rockstar” —DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch — SethinTheKitchen, producer; Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, Chris Dennis & Liz Robson, engineers/mixers; Susan Tabor, mastering engineer

“Say So” — Doja Cat — Tyson Trax, producer; Clint Gibbs, engineer/mixer; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

“Everything I Wanted” — Billie Eilish — Finneas O’Connell, producer; Rob Kinelski & Finneas O’Connell, engineers/mixers; John Greenham, mastering engineer*

“Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa — Caroline Ailin & Ian Kirkpatrick, producers; Josh Gudwin, Drew Jurecka & Ian Kirkpatrick, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer

“Circles” — Post Malone — Louis Bell, Frank Dukes & Post Malone, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

“Savage” — Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé — Beyoncé & J. White Did It, producers; Stuart White, engineer/mixer; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer

Album of the Year

“Chilombo” — Jhené Aiko — Fisticuffs & Julian-Quán Việt Lê, producers; Fisticuffs, Julian-Quán Việt Lê, Zeke Mishanec, Christian Plata & Gregg Rominiecki, engineers/mixers; Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo, Julian-Quán Việt Lê, Maclean Robinson & Brian Keith Warfield, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer

“Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)” — Black Pumas — Jon Kaplan & Adrian Quesada, producers; Adrian Quesada, Jacob Sciba, Stuart Sikes & Erik Wofford, engineers/mixers; Eric Burton & Adrian Quesada, songwriters; JJ Golden, mastering engineer

“Everyday Life” — Coldplay — Daniel Green, Bill Rahko & Rik Simpson, producers; Mark “Spike” Stent, engineer/mixer; Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, songwriters; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer

“Djesse Vol.3” — Jacob Collier — Jacob Collier, producer; Ben Bloomberg & Jacob Collier, engineers/mixers; Jacob Collier, songwriter; Chris Allgood & Emily Lazar, mastering engineers

“Women in Music Pt. III” — HAIM — Rostam Batmanglij, Danielle Haim & Ariel Rechtshaid, producers; Rostam Batmanglij, Jasmine Chen, John DeBold, Matt DiMona, Tom Elmhirst, Joey Messina-Doerning & Ariel Rechtshaid, engineers/mixers; Rostam Batmanglij, Alana Haim, Danielle Haim, Este Haim & Ariel Rechtshaid, songwriters; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer

“Future Nostalgia” — Dua Lipa — Koz, producer; Josh Gudwin & Cameron Gower Poole, engineers/mixers; Clarence Coffee Jr. & Dua Lipa, songwriters; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer

“Hollywood’s Bleeding” — Post Malone — Louis Bell & Frank Dukes, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Austin Post & Billy Walsh, songwriters; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer

“Folklore” — Taylor Swift — Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, Jonathan Low & Laura Sisk, engineers/mixers; Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer*

Song of the Year

“Black Parade” — Denisia Andrews, Beyoncé, Stephen Bray, Shawn Carter, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim “Kaydence” Krysiuk & Rickie “Caso” Tice, songwriters (Beyoncé)

“The Box” — Samuel Gloade & Rodrick Moore, songwriters (Roddy Ricch)

“Cardigan” — Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

Circles Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk, Austin Post & Billy Walsh, songwriters (Post Malone)

“Don’t Start Now” — Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick, Dua Lipa & Emily Warren, songwriters (Dua Lipa)

“Everything I Wanted” — Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)

“I Can’t Breathe” — Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. & Tiara Thomas, songwriters (H.E.R.)*

“If the World Was Ending” — Julia Michaels & JP Saxe, songwriters (JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels)

Best New Artist

Ingrid Andress

Phoebe Bridgers

Chika

Noah Cyrus

D Smoke

Doja Cat

Kaytranada

Megan Thee Stallion*

Field 1 – Pop

Best Pop Solo Performance

“Yummy” — Justin Bieber

“Say So” — Doja Cat

“Everything I Wanted” — Billie Eilish

“Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa

“Watermelon Sugar” — Harry Styles*

“Cardigan” — Taylor Swift

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Un Dia (One Day)” J Balvin, Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny & Tainy

“Intentions” — Justin Bieber Featuring Quavo

“Dynamite” — BTS

“Rain on Me” — Lady Gaga With Ariana Grande*

“Exile” — Taylor Swift Featuring Bon Iver

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

“Blue Umbrella” — Burt Bacharach & Daniel Tashian

“True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter” — Harry Connick, Jr.

“American Standard” — James Taylor*

“Unfollow the Rules” — Rufus Wainwright

“Judy” — Renée Zellweger

Best Pop Vocal Album

“Changes” — Justin Bieber

“Chromatica” — Lady Gaga

“Future Nostalgia” — Dua Lipa*

“Fine Line” — Harry Styles

“Folklore” — Taylor Swift

Field 2 – Dance/Electronic Music

Best Dance Recording

“On My Mind” — Diplo & Sidepiece

“My High” — Disclosure Featuring Aminé & Slowthai

“The Difference” — Flume Featuring Toro Y Moi

“Both of Us” — Jayda G

“10%” — Kaytranada Featuring Kali Uchis*

Best Dance/Electronic Album

“Kick” — I Arca

“Planet’s Mad” — Baauer

“Energy” — Disclosure

“Bubba” — Kaytranada*

“Good Faith” — Madeon

Field 3 – Contemporary Instrumental Music

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album

“Axiom” — Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah

“Chronology of a Dream: Live At The Village Vanguard” — Jon Batiste

“Take the Stairs” — Black Violin

“Americana Grégoire” — Maret, Romain Collin & Bill Frisell

“Live at the Royal Albert Hall” — Snarky Puppy*

Field 4 – Rock

Best Rock Performance

“Shameika” — Fiona Apple*

“Not” — Big Thief

“Kyoto” — Phoebe Bridgers

“The Steps” — HAIM

“Stay High” — Brittany Howard

“Daylight” — Grace Potter

Best Metal Performance

“Bum-Rush” — Body Count*

“Underneath” — Code Orange

“The In-Between” — In This Moment

“Bloodmoney” — Poppy

“Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe) – Live” — Power Trip

Best Rock Album

“A Hero’s Death” — Fontaines D.C.

“Kiwanuka” — Michael Kiwanuka

“Daylight” — Grace Potter

“Sound & Fury” — Sturgill Simpson

“The New Abnormal” — The Strokes*

Best Rock Song

“Kyoto” — Phoebe Bridgers, Morgan Nagler & Marshall Vore, Songwriters (Phoebe Bridgers)

“Lost in Yesterday” — Kevin Parker, Songwriter (Tame Impala)

“Not” — Adrianne Lenker, Songwriter (Big Thief)

“Shameika” — Fiona Apple, Songwriter (Fiona Apple)

“Stay High” — Brittany Howard, songwriter (Brittany Howard)*

Field 5 – Alternative

Best Alternative Music Album

“Fetch the Bolt Cutters” — Fiona Apple*

“Hyperspace” — Beck

“Punisher” — Phoebe Bridgers

“Jaime” — Brittany Howard

“The Slow Rush” — Tame Impala

Field 6 – R&B

Best R&B Performance

“Lightning & Thunder” — Jhené Aiko Featuring John Legend

“Black Parade” — Beyoncé*

“All I Need” — Jacob Collier Featuring Mahalia & Ty Dolla $Ign

“Goat Head” — Brittany Howard

“See Me” — Emily King

Best Traditional R&B Performance

“Sit On Down” — The Baylor Project Featuring Jean Baylor & Marcus Baylor

“Wonder What She Thinks of Me” — Chloe X Halle

“Let Me Go” — Mykal Kilgore

“Anything For You” — Ledisi*

“Distance” — Yebba

Best Progressive R&B Album

“Chilombo” — Jhené Aiko

“Ungodly Hour” — Chloe X Halle

“Free Nationals” — Free Nationals

“F*** Yo Feelings” — Robert Glasper

“It Is What It Is” — Thundercat*

Best R&B Song

“Better Than I Imagine” — Robert Glasper, Meshell Ndegeocello & Gabriella Wilson, songwriters (Robert Glasper Featuring H.E.R. & Meshell Ndegeocello)*

“Black Parade” — Denisia Andrews, Beyoncé, Stephen Bray, Shawn Carter, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim “Kaydence” Krysiuk & Rickie “Caso” Tice, songwriters (Beyoncé)

“Collide” — Sam Barsh, Stacey Barthe, Sonyae Elise, Olu Fann, Akil King, Josh Lopez, Kaveh Rastegar & Benedetto Rotondi, songwriters (Tiana Major9 & Earthgang)

“Do It” — Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Anton Kuhl, Victoria Monét, Scott Storch & Vincent Van Den Ende, songwriters (Chloe X Halle)

“Slow Down” — Nasri Atweh, Badriia Bourelly, Skip Marley, Ryan Williamson & Gabriella Wilson, songwriters (Skip Marley & H.E.R.)

Best R&B Album

“Happy 2 Be Here” — Ant Clemons

“Take Time” — Giveon

“Bigger Love” — John Legend*

“To Feel Love/D” — Luke James

“All Rise” — Gregory Porter

Field 7 – Rap

Best Rap Performance

“Deep Reverence” — Big Sean Featuring Nipsey Hussle

“Bop” — Dababy

“What’s Poppin” — Jack Harlow

“The Bigger Picture” — Lil Baby

“Savage” — Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé*

“Dior” — Pop Smoke

Best Melodic Rap Performance

“Rockstar” — Dababy Featuring Roddy Ricch

“Laugh Now, Cry Later” — Drake Featuring Lil Durk

“Lockdown” — Anderson .Paak*

“The Box” — Roddy Ricch

“Highest in the Room” — Travis Scott

Best Rap Album

“Black Habits” — D Smoke

“Alfredo” — Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

“A Written Testimony” — Jay Electronica

“King’s Disease” — Nas*

“The Allegory Royce” — Da 5’9″

Best Rap Song

“The Bigger Picture” — Dominique Jones, Noah Pettigrew & Rai’shaun Williams, Songwriters (Lil Baby)

“The Box” — Samuel Gloade & Rodrick Moore, Songwriters (Roddy Ricch)

“Laugh Now, Cry Later” — Durk Banks, Rogét Chahayed, Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Ron Latour & Ryan Martinez, Songwriters (Drake Featuring Lil Durk)

“Rockstar” — Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, Ross Joseph Portaro Iv & Rodrick Moore, Songwriters (Dababy Featuring Roddy Ricch)

“Savage” — Beyoncé, Shawn Carter, Brittany Hazzard, Derrick Milano, Terius Nash, Megan Pete, Bobby Session Jr., Jordan Kyle Lanier Thorpe & Anthony White, songwriters (Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé)*

Field 8 – Country

Best Country Solo Performance

“Stick That In Your Country Song” — Eric Church

“Who You Thought I Was” — Brandy Clark

“When My Amy Prays” — Vince Gill*

“Black Like Me” — Mickey Guyton

“Bluebird” — Miranda Lambert

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

“All Night” — Brothers Osborne

“10,000 Hours” — Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber*

“Ocean” — Lady A

“Sugar Coat” — Little Big Town

“Some People Do” — Old Dominion

Best Country Album

“Lady Like” — Ingrid Andress

“Your Life Is a Record” — Brandy Clark

“Wildcard” — Miranda Lambert*

“Nightfall” — Little Big Town

“Never Will” — Ashley McBryde

Best Country Song

“Bluebird” — Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby & Miranda Lambert, Songwriters (Miranda Lambert)

“The Bones” — Maren Morris, Jimmy Robbins & Laura Veltz, Songwriters (Maren Morris)

“Crowded Table” — Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby & Lori McKenna, Songwriters (The Highwomen)*

“More Hearts Than Mine” — Ingrid Andress, Sam Ellis & Derrick Southerland, Songwriters (Ingrid Andress)

“Some People Do” — Jesse Frasure, Shane McAnally, Matthew Ramsey & Thomas Rhett, songwriters (Old Dominion)

Field 9 – New Age

Best New Age Album

“Songs From the Bardo” — Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal & Jesse Paris Smith

“Periphery” — Priya Darshini

“Form//Less” — Superposition

“More Guitar Stories” — Jim “Kimo” West*

“Meditations” — Cory Wong & Jon Batiste

Field 10 – Jazz

Best Jazz Vocal Album

“Ona” — Thana Alexa

“Secrets Are the Best Stories” — Kurt Elling Featuring Danilo Pérez*

“Modern Ancestors” — Carmen Lundy

“Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper” — Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band

“What’s the Hurry” — Kenny Washington

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

“Guinevere” — Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah, Soloist Track From: Axiom

“Pachamama” — Regina Carter, Soloist Track From: Ona (Thana Alexa)

Celia Gerald Clayton, Soloist

“All Blues” — Chick Corea, Soloist Track From: Trilogy 2 (Chick Corea, Christian Mcbride & Brian Blade)*

“Moe Honk” — Joshua Redman, soloist Track from: RoundAgain (Redman Mehldau McBride Blade)

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

“On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment” — Ambrose Akinmusire

“Waiting Game” — Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science

“Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard” — Gerald Clayton

“Trilogy 2” — Chick Corea, Christian Mcbride & Brian Blade*

“Roundagain” — Redman Mehldau McBride Blade

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

“Dialogues on Race” — Gregg August

“Monk’estra Plays John Beasley” — John Beasley

“The Intangible Between” — Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band

“Songs You Like a Lot” — John Hollenbeck with Theo Bleckmann, Kate Mcgarry, Gary Versace and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band

“Data Lords” — Maria Schneider Orchestra*

Best Latin Jazz Album

“Tradiciones” — Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra*

“Four Questions” — Arturo O’farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

“City of Dreams” — Chico Pinheiro

“Viento y Tiempo – Live at Blue Note Tokyo” — Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola

“Trane’s Delight” — Poncho Sanchez

Field 11 – Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music

Best Gospel Performance/Song

“Wonderful Is Your Name” — Melvin Crispell III

“Release (Live)” — Ricky Dillard Featuring Tiff Joy; David Frazier, songwriter “Come Together” — Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins Presents: The Good News; Lashawn Daniels, Rodney Jerkins, Lecrae Moore & Jazz Nixon, songwriters

“Won’t Let Go” — Travis Greene; Travis Greene, songwriter

“Movin’ On” — Jonathan McReynolds & Mali Music; Darryl L. Howell, Jonathan Caleb McReynolds, Kortney Jamaal Pollard & Terrell Demetrius Wilson, songwriters*

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song

“The Blessing (Live)” — Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes & Elevation Worship; Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe Carnes & Steven Furtick, songwriters

“Sunday Morning” — Lecrae Featuring Kirk Franklin; Denisia Andrews, Jones Terrence Antonio, Saint Bodhi, Brittany Coney, Kirk Franklin, Lasanna Harris, Shama Joseph, Stuart Lowery, Lecrae Moore & Nathanael Saint-Fleur, songwriters “Holy Water” — We The Kingdom; Andrew Bergthold, Ed Cash, Franni Cash, Martin Cash & Scott Cash, songwriters

“Famous For (I Believe)” — Tauren Wells Featuring Jenn Johnson; Chuck Butler, Krissy Nordhoff, Jordan Sapp, Alexis Slifer & Tauren Wells, songwriters

“There Was Jesus” — Zach Williams & Dolly Parton; Casey Beathard, Jonathan Smith & Zach Williams, songwriters*

Best Gospel Album

“2econd Wind: Ready” — Anthony Brown & Group Therapy

“My Tribute” — Myron Butler

“Choirmaster” — Ricky Dillard

“Gospel According to PJ” — PJ Morton*

“Kierra” — Kierra Sheard

Best Contemporary Christian Music Album

“Run to the Father” — Cody Carnes

All of My Best Friends” — Hillsong Young & Free

“Holy Water” — We the Kingdom

“Citizen of Heaven” — Tauren Wells

“Jesus Is King” — Kanye West*

Best Roots Gospel Album

“Beautiful Day” — Mark Bishop

“20/20” — The Crabb Family

“What Christmas Really Means” — The Erwins

“Celebrating Fisk! (The 150th Anniversary Album)” — Fisk Jubilee Singers*

“Something Beautiful” — Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Field 12 – Latin

Best Latin Pop or Urban Album

“YHLQMDLG” — Bad Bunny*

“Por Primera Vez” — Camilo

“Mesa Para Dos” — Kany García

“Pausa” — Ricky Martin

“3:33” — Debi Nova

Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album

“Aura” — Bajofondo

“Monstruo” — Cami

“Sobrevolando” — Cultura Profética

“La Conquista Del Espacio” — Fito Paez*

“Miss Colombia” — Lido Pimienta

Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano)

“Hecho En México” — Alejandro Fernández

“La Serenata” — Lupita Infante

“Un Canto Por México, Vol. 1” — Natalia Lafourcade*

“Bailando Sones Y Huapangos Con Mariachi Sol De Mexico De Jose Hernandez” — Mariachi Sol De Mexico De Jose Hernandez

“Ayayay!” — Christian Nodal

Best Tropical Latin Album

“Mi Tumbao” — José Alberto “El Ruiseñor”

“Infinito” — Edwin Bonilla

“Sigo Cantando Al Amor (Deluxe)” — Jorge Celedon & Sergio Luis

“40” — Grupo Niche*

“Memorias De Navidad” — Víctor Manuelle

Field 13 – American Roots Music

Best American Roots Performance

“Colors” — Black Pumas

“Deep in Love” — Bonny Light Horseman

“Short and Sweet” — Brittany Howard

“I’ll Be Gone” — Norah Jones & Mavis Staples

“I Remember Everything” — John Prine*

Best American Roots Song

“Cabin” — Laura Rogers & Lydia Rogers, songwriters (The Secret Sisters)

“Ceiling to the Floor” — Sierra Hull & Kai Welch, songwriters (Sierra Hull)

“Hometown” — Sarah Jarosz, songwriter (Sarah Jarosz)

“I Remember Everything” — Pat McLaughlin & John Prine, songwriters (John Prine)*

“Man Without a Soul” — Tom Overby & Lucinda Williams, songwriters (Lucinda Williams)

Best Americana Album

“Old Flowers” — Courtney Marie Andrews

“Terms of Surrender” — Hiss Golden Messenger

“World on the Ground” — Sarah Jarosz*

“El Dorado” — Marcus King

“Good Souls Better Angels” — Lucinda Williams

Best Bluegrass Album

“Man on Fire” — Danny Barnes

“To Live in Two Worlds, Vol. 1” — Thomm Jutz

“North Carolina Songbook” — Steep Canyon Rangers

“Home” — Billy Strings*

“The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project, Vol. 1” (Various Artists)

Best Traditional Blues Album

“All My Dues Are Paid” — Frank Bey

“You Make Me Feel” — Don Bryant

“That’s What I Heard” — Robert Cray Band

“Cypress Grove” — Jimmy “Duck” Holmes

“Rawer Than Raw” — Bobby Rush*

Best Contemporary Blues Album 

“Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?” — Fantastic Negrito*

“Live at the Paramount” — Ruthie Foster Big Band

“The Juice” — G. Love

“Blackbirds” — Bettye Lavette

“Up and Rolling” — North Mississippi Allstars

Best Folk Album

“Bonny Light Horseman” — Bonny Light Horseman

“Thanks for the Dance” — Leonard Cohen

“Song for Our Daughter” — Laura Marling

“Saturn Return” — The Secret Sisters

“All the Good Times” — Gillian Welch & David Rawlings*

Best Regional Roots Music Album

“My Relatives” — “Nikso Kowaiks” Black Lodge Singers

“Cameron Dupuy and the Cajun Troubadours” — Cameron Dupuy And The Cajun Troubadours

“Lovely Sunrise” — Nā Wai ʽehā

“Atmosphere” — New Orleans Nightcrawlers*

“A Tribute to Al Berard” — Sweet Cecilia

Field 14 – Reggae

Best Reggae Album

“Upside Down 2020” — Buju Banton

“Higher Place” — Skip Marley

“It All Comes Back to Love” — Maxi Priest

“Got to Be Tough” — Toots & the Maytals*

“One World” — The Wailers

Field 15 – Global Music

Best Global Music Album

“Fu Chronicles” — Antibalas

“Twice As Tall” — Burna Boy*

“Agora” — Bebel Gilberto

“Love Letters” — Anoushka Shankar

“Amadjar” — Tinariwen

Field 16 – Children’s

Best Children’s Music Album

“All the Ladies” — Joanie Leeds*

“Be a Pain: An Album for Young (and Old) Leaders” — Alastair Moock And Friends

“I’m an Optimist” — Dog On Fleas

“Songs for Singin’” — The Okee Dokee Brothers

“Wild Life” — Justin Roberts

Field 17 – Spoken Word

Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling)

“Acid for the Children: A Memoir” — Flea

“Alex Trebek – The Answer Is…” — Ken Jennings

“Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth” — Rachel Maddow*

“Catch and Kill” — Ronan Farrow

“Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)” — Meryl Streep (& Full cast)

Field 18 – Comedy

Best Comedy Album

“Black Mitzvah” — Tiffany Haddish*

“I Love Everything” — Patton Oswalt

“The Pale Tourist” — Jim Gaffigan

“Paper Tiger” — Bill Burr

“23 Hours to Kill” — Jerry Seinfeld

Field 19 – Musical Theater

Best Musical Theater Album

“Amélie” — Audrey Brisson, Chris Jared, Caolan McCarthy & Jez Unwin, principal soloists; Michael Fentiman, Sean Patrick Flahaven, Barnaby Race & Nathan Tysen, producers; Nathan Tysen, lyricist; Daniel Messe, composer & lyricist (Original London Cast)

“American Utopia on Broadway” — David Byrne, principal soloist; David Byrne, producer (David Byrne, composer & lyricist) (Original Cast)

“Jagged Little Pill” — Kathryn Gallagher, Celia Rose Gooding, Lauren Patten & Elizabeth Stanley, principal soloists; Neal Avron, Pete Ganbarg, Tom Kitt, Michael Parker, Craig Rosen & Vivek J. Tiwary, producers (Glen Ballard & Alanis Morissette, lyricists) (Original Broadway Cast)*

“Little Shop of Horrors” — Tammy Blanchard, Jonathan Groff & Tom Alan Robbins, principal soloists; Will Van Dyke, Michael Mayer, Alan Menken & Frank Wolf, producers (Alan Menken, composer; Howard Ashman, lyricist) (The New Off-Broadway Cast)

“The Prince of Egypt” — Christine Allado, Luke Brady, Alexia Khadime & Liam Tamne, principal soloists; Dominick Amendum & Stephen Schwartz, producers; Stephen Schwartz, composer & lyricist (Original Cast)

“Soft Power” — Francis Jue, Austin Ku, Alyse Alan Louis & Conrad Ricamora, principal soloists; Matt Stine, producer; David Henry Hwang, lyricist; Jeanine Tesori, composer & lyricist (Original Cast)

Field 20 – Music for Visual Media

Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Various Artists)

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” (Various Artists)

“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga” (Various Artists)

“Frozen 2” (Various Artists)

“Jojo Rabbit” (Various Artists)*

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media

“Ad Astra” — Max Richter, composer

“Becoming” — Kamasi Washington, composer

“Joker” — Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer*

“1917” — Thomas Newman, composer

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” — John Williams, composer

Best Song Written For Visual Media Category

“Beautiful Ghosts” (from “Cats”) — Andrew Lloyd Webber & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

“Carried Me With You” (from “Onward”) — Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth, songwriters (Brandi Carlile)

“Into the Unknown” (from “Frozen 2”) — Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, songwriters (Idina Menzel & Aurora)

“No Time to Die” (from “No Time to Die”) — Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas Baird O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)*

“Stand Up” (from “Harriet”) — Joshuah Brian Campbell & Cynthia Erivo, songwriters (Cynthia Erivo)

Field 21 – Composing/Arranging

Best Instrumental Composition

“Baby Jack” — Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra)

“Be Water II” — Christian Sands, composer (Christian Sands)

“Plumfield” — Alexandre Desplat, composer (Alexandre Desplat)

“Sputnik” — Maria Schneider, composer (Maria Schneider)*

“Strata” — Remy Le Boeuf, composer (Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly Of Shadows Featuring Anna Webber & Eric Miller)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

“Bathroom Dance” — Hildur Guðnadóttir, arranger (Hildur Guðnadóttir)

“Donna Lee” — John Beasley, arranger (John Beasley)*

“Honeymooners” — Remy Le Boeuf, arranger (Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows)

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” — Alvin Chea & Jarrett Johnson, Arrangers (Jarrett Johnson Featuring Alvin Chea)

“Uranus: The Magician” — Jeremy Levy, arranger (Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

“Asas Fechadas” — John Beasley & Maria Mendes, arrangers (Maria Mendes Featuring John Beasley & Orkest Metropole)

“Desert Song” — Erin Bentlage, Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick & Amanda Taylor, arrangers (Säje)

“From This Place” — Alan Broadbent & Pat Metheny, arrangers (Pat Metheny Featuring Meshell Ndegeocello)

“He Won’t Hold You” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier Featuring Rapsody)*

“Slow Burn” — Talia Billig, Nic Hard & Becca Stevens, arrangers (Becca Stevens Featuring Jacob Collier, Mark Lettieri, Justin Stanton, Jordan Perlson, Nic Hard, Keita Ogawa, Marcelo Woloski & Nate Werth)

Field 22 – Package

Best Recording Package

“Everyday Life” — Pilar Zeta, art director (Coldplay)

“Funeral” — Kyle Goen, art director (Lil Wayne)

“Healer” — Julian Gross & Hannah Hooper, art directors (Grouplove)

“On Circles” — Jordan Butcher, art director (Caspian)

“Vols. 11 & 12” — Doug Cunningham & Jason Noto, art directors (Desert Sessions)*

Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package

“Flaming Pie (Collector’s Edition)” — Linn Wie Andersen, Simon Earith, Paul McCartney & James Musgrave, art directors (Paul McCartney)

“Giants Stadium 1987, 1989, 1991” — Lisa Glines & Doran Tyson, art directors (Grateful Dead)

“Mode” — Jeff Schulz, art director (Depeche Mode)

“Ode to Joy” — Lawrence Azerrad & Jeff Tweedy, art directors (Wilco)*

“The Story of Ghostly International” — Michael Cina & Molly Smith, art directors (Various Artists)

Field 23 – Notes

Best Album Notes

“At the Minstrel Show: Minstrel Routines From the Studio, 1894-1926” — Tim Brooks, album notes writer (Various Artists)

“The Bakersfield Sound: Country Music Capital of the West, 1940-1974” — Scott B. Bomar, album notes writer (Various Artists)

“Dead Man’s Pop” — Bob Mehr, album notes writer (The Replacements)*

“The Missing Link: How Gus Haenschen Got Us From Joplin to Jazz and Shaped the Music Business” — Colin Hancock, album notes writer (Various Artists)

“Out of a Clear Blue Sky” — David Sager, album notes writer (Nat Brusiloff)

Field 24 – Historical

Best Historical Album

“Celebrated, 1895-1896” — Meagan Hennessey & Richard Martin, compilation producers; Richard Martin, mastering engineer (Unique Quartette)

“Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936 – 1943)” — Zev Feldman, Will Friedwald & George Klabin, compilation producers; Matthew Lutthans, mastering engineer (Nat King Cole)

“It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mister Rogers” — Lee Lodyga & Cheryl Pawelski, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer (Mister Rogers)*

“1999 Super Deluxe Edition” — Michael Howe, compilation producer; Bernie Grundman, mastering engineer (Prince)

“Souvenir” — Carolyn Agger, compilation producer; Miles Showell, mastering engineer (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)

“Throw Down Your Heart: The Complete Africa Sessions” — Béla Fleck, compilation producer; Richard Dodd, mastering engineer (Béla Fleck)

Field 25 – Production, Non-Classical

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

“Black Hole Rainbow” — Shawn Everett & Ivan Wayman, engineers; Bob Ludwig, mastering engineer (Devon Gilfillian)

“Expectations” — Gary Paczosa & Mike Robinson, engineers; Paul Blakemore, mastering engineer (Katie Pruitt)

“Hyperspace” — Drew Brown, Andrew Coleman, Shawn Everett, Serban Ghenea, David Greenbaum, Jaycen Joshua & Mike Larson, engineers; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer (Beck)*

“Jaime” — Shawn Everett, engineer; Shawn Everett, mastering engineer (Brittany Howard)

“25 Trips” — Shani Gandhi & Gary Paczosa, engineers; Adam Grover, mastering engineer (Sierra Hull)

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Jack Antonoff — “August” (Taylor Swift), “Gaslighter” (The Chicks), “Holy Terrain” (FKA Twigs Featuring Future), “Mirrorball” (Taylor Swift), “This Is Me Trying” (Taylor Swift), “Together” (Sia)

Dan Auerbach — “Cypress Grove” (Jimmy “Duck” Holmes), “El Dorado” (Marcus King), “Is Thomas Callaway” (CeeLo Green), “Singing For My Supper” (Early James), “Solid Gold Sounds” (Kendell Marvel), “Years” (John Anderson)

Dave Cobb — “Backbone” (Kaleo), “The Balladeer” (Lori McKenna), “Boneshaker” (Airbourne), “Down Home Christmas” (Oak Ridge Boys), “The Highwomen” (The Highwomen), “I Remember Everything” (John Prine), “Reunions” (Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit), “The Spark” (William Prince), “You’re Still The One” (Teddy Swims)

Flying Lotus — “It Is What It Is” (Thundercat)

Andrew Watt — “Break My Heart” (Dua Lipa), “Me And My Guitar” (A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie), “Midnight Sky” (Miley Cyrus), “Old Me” (5 Seconds Of Summer), “Ordinary Man” (Ozzy Osbourne Featuring Elton John), “Take What You Want” (Post Malone Featuring Ozzy Osbourne & Travis Scott), “Under The Graveyard” (Ozzy Osbourne)*

Best Remixed Recording

“Do You Ever (Rac Mix)” — Rac, Remixer (Phil Good)

“Imaginary Friends (Morgan Page Remix)” — Morgan Page, Remixer (Deadmau5)

“Praying for You (Louie Vega Main Remix)” — Louie Vega, Remixer (Jasper Street Co.)

“Roses (Imanbek Remix)” — Imanbek Zeikenov, Remixer (Saint Jhn)*

“Young & Alive (Bazzi Vs. Haywyre Remix)” — Haywyre, remixer (Bazzi)

Field 26 – Production, Immersive Audio

Best Immersive Audio Album

N/A: Due the COVID-19 pandemic, the Best Immersive Audio Album Craft “Committee was unable to meet. The judging of the entries in this category has been postponed until such time that we are able to meet in a way that is appropriate to judge the many formats and configurations of the entries and is safe for the committee members.”

Field 27 – Production, Classical

Best Engineered Album, Classical

“Danielpour: The Passion Of Yeshua” — Bernd Gottinger, engineer (JoAnn Falletta, James K. Bass, Adam Luebke, UCLA Chamber Singers, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra & Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus)

“Gershwin: Porgy And Bess” — David Frost & John Kerswell, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (David Robertson, Eric Owens, Angel Blue, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus)

“Hynes: Fields” — Kyle Pyke, engineer; Jesse Lewis & Kyle Pyke, mastering engineers (Devonté Hynes & Third Coast Percussion)

“Ives: Complete Symphonies” — Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers; Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, mastering engineers (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic)

“Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13, ‘Babi Yar’” — David Frost & Charlie Post, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)*

Producer of the Year, Classical

Blanton Alspaugh

David Frost*

Jesse Lewis

Dmitriy Lipay

Elaine Martone

Field 28 – Classical

Best Orchestral Performance

“Aspects of America – Pulitzer Edition” Carlos Kalmar, conductor (Oregon Symphony)

“Concurrence” — Daníel Bjarnason, conductor (Iceland Symphony Orchestra)

“Copland: Symphony No. 3” — Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)

“Ives: Complete Symphonies” — Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)*

“Lutosławski: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3” — Hannu Lintu, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Best Opera Recording

“Dello Joio: The Trial at Rouen” — Gil Rose, conductor; Heather Buck & Stephen Powell; Gil Rose, producer (Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Odyssey Opera Chorus)

“Floyd, C.: Prince of Players” — William Boggs, conductor; Keith Phares & Kate Royal; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Florentine Opera Chorus)

“Gershwin: Porgy and Bess” — David Robertson, conductor; Angel Blue & Eric Owens; David Frost, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)*

“Handel: Agrippina” — Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor; Joyce DiDonato; Daniel Zalay, producer (Il Pomo D’Oro)

“Zemlinsky: Der Zwerg” — Donald Runnicles, conductor; David Butt Philip & Elena Tsallagova; Peter Ghirardini & Erwin Stürzer, producers (Orchestra Of The Deutsche Oper Berlin; Chorus Of The Deutsche Oper Berlin)

Best Choral Performance

“Carthage” — Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)

“Danielpour: The Passion of Yeshua” — JoAnn Falletta, conductor; James K. Bass & Adam Luebke, chorus masters (James K. Bass, J’Nai Bridges, Timothy Fallon, Kenneth Overton, Hila Plitmann & Matthew Worth; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus & UCLA Chamber Singers)

“Kastalsky: Requiem” — Leonard Slatkin, conductor; Charles Bruffy, Steven Fox & Benedict Sheehan, chorus masters (Joseph Charles Beutel & Anna Dennis; Orchestra Of St. Luke’s; Cathedral Choral Society, The Clarion Choir, Kansas City Chorale & The Saint Tikhon Choir)

“Moravec: Sanctuary Road” — Kent Tritle, conductor (Joshua Blue, Raehann Bryce-Davis, Dashon Burton, Malcolm J. Merriweather & Laquita Mitchell; Oratorio Society Of New York Orchestra; Oratorio Society Of New York Chorus)

“Once Upon a Time” — Matthew Guard, conductor (Sarah Walker; Skylark Vocal Ensemble)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

“Contemporary Voices” — Pacifica Quartet*

“Healing Modes” — Brooklyn Rider

“Hearne, T.: Place” — Ted Hearne, Steven Bradshaw, Sophia Byrd, Josephine Lee, Isaiah Robinson, Sol Ruiz, Ayanna Woods & Place Orchestra

“Hynes: Fields” — Devonté Hynes & Third Coast Percussion

“The Schumann Quartets” — Dover Quartet

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

“Adès: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” — Kirill Gerstein; Thomas Adès, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)

“Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas” — Igor Levit

“Bohemian Tales” — Augustin Hadelich; Jakub Hrůša, conductor (Charles Owen; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks)

“Destination Rachmaninov – Arrival” Daniil Trifonov; Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor (The Philadelphia Orchestra)

“Theofanidis: Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra” — Richard O’Neill; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)*

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

“American Composers at Play” — William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Lori Laitman, John Musto Stephen Powell (Attacca Quartet, William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Lori Laitman, John Musto, Charles Neidich & Jason Vieaux)

“Clairières – Songs by Lili & Nadia Boulanger” — Nicholas Phan; Myra Huang, accompanist

“Farinelli” — Cecilia Bartoli; Giovanni Antonini, conductor (Il Giardino Armonico)  “A Lad’s Love” — Brian Giebler; Steven McGhee, accompanist (Katie Hyun, Michael Katz, Jessica Meyer, Reginald Mobley & Ben Russell)

“Smyth: The Prison” — Sarah Brailey & Dashon Burton; James Blachly, conductor (Experiential Chorus; Experiential Orchestra)*

Best Classical Compendium

“Adès Conducts Adès” — Mark Stone & Christianne Stotijn; Thomas Adès, conductor; Nick Squire, producer

“Saariaho: Graal Théâtre; Circle Map; Neiges; Vers Toi Qui Es Si Loin” — Clément Mao-Takacs, conductor; Hans Kipfer, producer

“Serebrier: Symphonic Bach Variations; Laments And Hallelujahs; Flute Concerto” — José Serebrier, conductor; Jens Braun, producer

“Thomas, M.T.: From The Diary of Anne Frank & Meditations on Rilke” — Isabel Leonard; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; Jack Vad, producer*

“Woolf, L.P.: Fire And Flood” — Matt Haimovitz; Julian Wachner, conductor; Blanton Alspaugh, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

“Adès: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” — Thomas Adès, composer (Kirill Gerstein, Thomas Adès & Boston Symphony Orchestra)

“Danielpour: The Passion of Yeshua” — Richard Danielpour, composer (JoAnn Falletta, James K. Bass, Adam Luebke, UCLA Chamber Singers, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra & Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus)

“Floyd, C.: Prince of Players” — Carlisle Floyd, composer (William Boggs, Kate Royal, Keith Phares, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

“Hearne, T.: Place” — Ted Hearne, composer (Ted Hearne, Steven Bradshaw, Sophia Byrd, Josephine Lee, Isaiah Robinson, Sol Ruiz, Ayanna Woods & Place Orchestra)

“Rouse: Symphony No. 5” — Christopher Rouse, composer (Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)*

Field 29 – Music Video/Film

Best Music Video

“Brown Skin Girl” — Beyoncé, Blue Ivy & WizKid — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter & Jenn Nkiru, Video Directors; Lauren Baker, Astrid Edwards, Nathan Scherrer & Erinn Williams, Video Producers*

“Life Is Good” — Future Featuring Drake — Julien Christian Lutz, Video Director; Harv Glazer, Video Producer

“Lockdown” — Anderson .Paak — Dave Meyers, Video Director; Nathan Scherrer, Video Producer

“Adore You” — Harry Styles — Dave Meyers, Video Director; Nathan Scherrer, Video Producer

“Goliath” — Woodkid — Yoann Lemoine, video director

Best Music Film

“Beastie Boys Story” — Beastie Boys — Spike Jonze, video director; Amanda Adelson, Jason Baum & Spike Jonze, video producers

“Black Is King” — Beyoncé

“We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” — Freestyle Love Supreme — Andrew Fried, Video Director; Andrew Fried, Jill Furman, Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sarina Roma, Jenny Steingart & Jon Steingart, video producers

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” — Linda Ronstadt — Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, video directors; Michele Farinola & James Keach, video producers*

“That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” — ZZ Top — Sam Dunn, video director; Scot McFadyen, video producer

Review: ‘Long Weekend’ (2021), starring Finn Wittrock and Zoë Chao

March 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

Finn Wittrock and Zoë Chao in “Long Weekend” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

“Long Weekend”

Directed by Steve Basilone

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the romantic drama “Long Weekend” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Asian and a few African Americans) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A depressed man meets a mysterious and fun-loving woman, but their budding romance is threatened by secrets.

Culture Audience: “Long Weekend” will appeal primarily to people who like fantastical elements to romantic stories and are willing to tolerate a movie that can be cliché-ridden and doesn’t live up to its ambitious potential.

Damon Wayans Jr. and Casey Wilson in “Long Weekend” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

The romantic drama “Long Weekend” makes a fairly well-intentioned attempt to be a deep, philosophical movie about the meaning of life, but the results are a shallow and very stereotypical movie about two people who meet and quickly fall in love. Even with a talented and appealing cast, “Long Weekend” is filled with too many plot holes and cloying moments to be anything but a lightweight and forgettable movie. There’s a sci-fi element of the film that’s also badly mishandled.

“Long Weekend” writer/director Steve Basilone says in the movie’s production notes that the film is loosely inspired by events he experienced in real life, when he went through a divorce and his mother had cancer around the same time. It’s too bad that so much of the movie feels very contrived, from the flimsy plot twists to the too-cutesy dialogue between people in their 30s. There’s nothing wrong with bringing some science fiction into a romantic drama, as long as the characters are believable and the sci-fi works well for the plot overall. (The 2004 classic “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is one example of a sci-fi romantic drama that was done right.)

The beginning of “Long Weekend” starts out by showing how a Los Angeles writer named Bart Waters (played by Finn Wittrock) is experiencing a major slump in his life. A series of voicemail messages from a psychiatric facility are heard in voiceovers in the opening scenes. The messages indicate that Ben recently spent some time as a patient in the facility, but he’s been avoiding making a follow-up appointment so his doctor can evaluate his out-patient progress.

It’s revealed a little later in the movie that Bart is recovering from some kind of nervous breakdown. His beloved mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he had problems coping with this crisis. His emotional distress caused his fiancée Whit (played by Jess Jacobs) to leave him. And that’s when Bart really had a meltdown, which led to his stay in the psychiatric facility. Fortunately, the movie doesn’t show any of this trauma in flashbacks, because it would ruin the optimistic tone that this film is trying to convey.

Sometime during this psychiatric breakdown, Bart lost his job and could no longer afford his apartment rent. And so, in the beginning of the film, he’s shown already packed up and ready to move, as the apartment building’s non-nonsense manager Patricia (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey) tells Bart that she’s about to show his apartment to a prospective tenant. The role of Patricia is very small, underwritten and actually unnecessary. It’s a waste of McLendon-Covey’s talent.

It’s unclear how long Bart was in the psychiatric facility, but his mother is now dead, and Bart apparently has no other family to turn to in this personal crisis. And so, Bart ends up moving into the garage of his best friend Doug (played by Damon Wayans Jr.), who was the person who recommended that Bart get psychiatric help. Doug lives with his wife Rachel (played by Casey Wilson) and their two kids. Doug and Rachel have a toddler daughter named Eve (played by Ellison Randell) and an energetic son named Teddy (played by Carter Morgan), who’s about 5 or 6 years old and likes to dress up as imaginary superheroes.

When Bart arrives at the house to move in, Doug generously tells Bart, “You can stay here forever.” Bart insists that his stay will be temporary, because he has a potential job lined up, and he plans to get his own place as soon as he can afford it. Bart gets the job, but it’s not his ideal gig.

Before his meltdown, Bart was a screenwriter. The first job that he gets after checking out of the psychiatric facility is writing for a medical supply catalogue. The interview is a blandly written scene showing the office manager named Larry (played by Jim Rash) reading a sample of a screenplay that Bart wrote about a man who has a nervous breakdown after his fiancée left him.

Larry remarks that although the screenplay is impressively realistic, catalogue writing is very different because it’s a form of advertising/marketing. Larry asks Bart if he’s up for this type of work, since catalogue writing isn’t as creatively exciting as writing a screenplay. Bart assures Larry that he wants the job. And then Larry shows Bart a catheter and tells Bart that the job includes describing how to use a catheter. If this movie were a sitcom, that’s about the moment the fake laugh track would play.

One day, Bart decides to go by himself to a local arthouse movie theater that’s playing his favorite film: the 1979 satire “Being There,” starring Peter Sellers. Bart falls asleep during the movie. And when the movie ends, he is woken up by a woman named Vienna (played by Zoë Chao), another customer who was in the room. As he leaves the theater, Vienna runs after him because Bart left behind his denim jacket and a half-empty bottle of liquor. She returns these items to him. He thanks her and they begin talking.

Now that Bart and Vienna have had this “meet cute” moment, it’s only a matter of time before they go through all the clichés that so many other romantic dramas like this tend to have when two young and attractive people inevitably get together. Someone in the would-be couple is socially awkward and introverted, while the other is bold and extroverted. These opposites attract and fall for each other, but then someone is reluctant to make a commitment. In this case, it’s because there’s a “big secret” that could ruin the relationship.

Immediately after returning Bart’s jacket and liquor bottle to him, Vienna tells him that she’s visiting Los Angeles. She asks Bart where she can get some of the liquor he has, because Vienna tells Bart that he looks like he could be fun. Judging by the way she’s smiling and flirting with him, it’s obvious she’s giving him a chance to ask her out on a date.

But gloomy Bart is too oblivious to these signals and tells Vienna about two nearby bars. She then says enthusiastically, “Let’s go!” And that’s when it dawns on Bart that Vienna is attracted to him. She laughs at all of his cheesy jokes and celebrity impersonations too. (Bart does lukewarm imitations of Al Pacino and Jimmy Stewart.)

The corny situations continue when they walk through a park and see some kids running past them with some sparklers. Vienna is fascinated by this sight, as if she’s never seen sparklers before. Bart is a little surprised that Vienna is acting as if sparklers are incredible inventions, and he starts to wonder if Vienna has led a very sheltered life.

During their walk through the park, he buys two sparklers from the kids and gives the sparklers to Vienna. And then, Bart and Vienna run around the park with the sparklers. How old are these people again? Twelve?

Vienna and Bart then go bar-hopping and discuss their favorite pop culture and guilty pleasures. Bart confesses that he’s watched “Being There” about 100 times since he first saw it a few years ago. However, Bart can’t really explain why he loves the movie so much, other than that seeing it makes him feel better about his life. Vienna does a terrible impersonation of Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver,” for no other reason than to show Bart that she can do celebrity impersonations too.

Bart then tells Vienna about his mother dying of cancer the year before and how he’s still grieving. He also tells Vienna about the painful breakup with his ex-fiancée and how it’s left him in a dark emotional place. Vienna shows some sympathy, as an indication that she and Bart are starting to have an emotional connection other than doing bad mimicry of celebrities in movie scenes.

“Long Weekend” has a very self-aware moment when Bart, who’s starting to think that Vienna is too good to be true, asks her: “Are you for real? Are you one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girls?” Well, yes, in fact she is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a well-known movie trope of a quirky, upbeat female character who comes along to cheer up the male protagonist while he’s going through a tough time in his life. Just because “Long Weekend” brings up this Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope in a line of self-referencing dialogue, that doesn’t make the glib way that this trope is handled in the movie any better.

Bart notices that Vienna has some unusual quirks: She doesn’t own a cell phone, she says she left her ID at home, and she’s carrying around a huge wad of cash. Vienna explains to Bart that she has a lot of cash with her because her bank card isn’t working. Some more alcohol is consumed, Vienna and Bart play some pool, and they take pictures together in a photo booth. And when Bart walks Vienna back to the motel where she’s staying, he gives her his phone number, and they end up sleeping together.

What’s very contradictory about “Long Weekend” is that it wants people to believe that Vienna and Bart are a perfect match and it’s “love at first date.” But during their first date, Bart is very self-absorbed and doesn’t ask Vienna hardly anything about herself. It isn’t until the next day, when Bart happily tells Doug about Vienna, that Bart realizes that he doesn’t know basic things about Vienna.

Bart doesn’t know where she’s from, what she does for a living, and what she likes to do in her free time besides watching movies and drinking at bars. These are the kinds of things that two strangers should talk about on a first date if they’re interested in a romance beyond sexual attraction. It makes you wonder why this movie is trying so hard to convince viewers that this is supposed to be some grand love story when, by all indications, this was an impulsive hookup.

The day after Bart and Vienna first have sex, Bart describes Vienna to Doug as if Vienna isn’t just a one-night stand but could possibly be his next big love. Therefore, it’s odd that Bart doesn’t really ask her how long she’ll be in town after their first night together. If this relationship is supposed to blossom, Bart isn’t curious enough about Vienna to ask her how far away she lives. It’s an example of how there needed to be significant improvements to this movie’s screenplay.

Of course, Doug does see Vienna again. He goes back to the motel and asks her the questions that he should have asked before, including why she’s visiting Los Angeles. But she’s deliberately vague. In answer to Bart’s questions, Vienna says, “I work for this government agency. I work up north. I came to town to escape … work, everything, my mom.”

Vienna says that her mother has cancer, and the stress of taking care of her is what motivated Vienna to take this getaway trip. Just as Bart and Vienna start to form an emotional bond over their knowing what it’s like to have a mother with cancer, he freaks out when he sees that Vienna has thousands of dollars of cash in her purse. He demands to know if Vienna is hiding from the law or is up to something illegal. And that’s when Vienna tells Bart her big secret.

The rest of “Long Weekend” is a bit of a slog, as this secret affects the relationship between Bart and Vienna. There’s also a couple of more plot twists, with one more predictable than the other. Because Bart and Vienna got together so quickly after barely knowing each other, there are many parts of the movie that make the relationship look like it’s based more on lust than true love. For example, instead of dealing with the problems caused by Vienna’s secret, she just suggests to Bart that they have sex.

The movie is fairly problematic in how Bart and Doug constantly describe Vienna as a “girl.” They do not use the word “woman” to describe her. The couples in this movie are supposed to be in their mid-to-late 30s, but they act like Vienna is straight out of a sorority party and her purpose in life is to lift Bart out of his depression.

There’s very little thought in this story about Vienna’s problems (and she has quite a few), because it’s mostly about Bart’s wants and needs. Bart does an act of kindness to help Vienna with one of her problems. But then, the movie goes back to trying to make the audience believe that Bart’s wants and needs should matter more than Vienna’s, instead of them being equal partners.

And there’s a very strange scene of Doug and Rachel in their kitchen, shortly after they found out that Bart and Vienna hooked up. Bart is there too, when Rachel tells her kindergarten-age son Teddy, “Uncle Bart got laid!” And then Doug repeats it to Teddy, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to blab about a family friend’s sex life to a child of that age. The scene is supposed to be funny, but the comedy falls flat.

Fans of the ABC comedy series “Happy Endings” (which was on the air from 2011 to 2013) might be delighted to see “Happy Endings” co-stars Wayans and Wilson on screen together again. But their Doug and Rachel characters in “Long Weekend” are underdeveloped and written as a sitcom couple in a movie that’s supposed to be a romantic drama. And almost all of Doug and Rachel’s conversations in the movie are either stale one-liners or talking to Bart about his love life.

As for Wittrock and Chao, they certainly make an attractive-looking couple, and there’s some chemistry between them, but not enough to make it convincing that Vienna and Bart have fallen madly and passionately in love with each other. Chao has a lot of on-screen charisma (and Vienna is supposed to be more exuberant than Bart), but there’s a level of immaturity that Vienna and Bart have that makes their romance look very “only in a movie” phony. Maybe if their characters were in their teens or 20s, it might be more believable. But Vienna and Bart both look like they’ve experienced too much of life to act so willfully naïve about love, dating and romance.

And since Bart and Vienna got together so quickly in the movie, there’s no “will they or won’t they” suspense. And that means the movie drags out in very uninteresting ways, as Bart and Vienna go on some very stereotypical dates in the limited time that they have together. These dates could have been opportunities to bring more depth to the characters of Bart and Vienna, but these dates are superficial and actually quite monotonous.

The dialogue throughout “Long Weekend” is very trite, and the story skips over a lot of details that would make certain plot developments believable. The direction of the movie is pedestrian at best. Vienna and Bart barely know each other before they jump into a love relationship. By the end of this hackneyed and derivative movie, viewers will feel like they barely know these characters too.

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Stage 6 Films released “Long Weekend” in U.S. cinemas on March 12, 2021.

Review: ‘The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,’ starring Paul Hogan

March 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Paul Hogan (center) in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee”

Directed by Dean Murphy 

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, Melbourne and London, the comedic film “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” features a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos) portraying people who are connected in some way to Australian actor Paul Hogan, who’s best known for his “Crocodile Dundee” movies.

Culture Clash: The movie is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek satire of all the things that go wrong when Hogan tries to make a comeback.

Culture Audience: “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Hogan, but everything about this movie is a colossal mistake.

Paul Hogan and John Cleese in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is a very meta and misguided sequel in the “Crocodile Dundee” comedy franchise, made famous by star Paul Hogan, beginning with the 1986 blockbuster “Crocodile Dundee,” the first movie in the series. That movie was followed by 1988’s “Crocodile Dundee II” and 2001’s “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles,” with each sequel worse than its predecessor. Unfortunately, the “Crocodile Dundee” movie series is like a good meal that went rotten years ago, then retrieved from the trash, and then served up to people who never asked for this stinking mess in the first place.

In the other “Crocodile Dundee” movies, Hogan played the title character as a crocodile hunter from Outback Australia who finds himself out of his comfort zone in urban environments. In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (directed by Dean Murphy, who co-wrote the movie’s embarrassing screenplay with Robert Mond), Hogan ditches the Crocodile Dundee persona and portrays himself as a has-been actor who hasn’t been able to surpass his “Crocodile Dundee” success with anything else, and he’s persuaded to make a comeback.

You just know it’s going to be a dumb movie when Hogan’s Paul character is supposed to be getting knighted by the Queen of England. That’s something that would not happen to Hogan in real life. But it’s used as a silly plot device in the “race against time” aspect that comes toward the end of the film, which takes place mostly in Los Angeles, but also partially in Melbourne and in London.

It’s repeated throughout “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” that the first “Crocodile Dundee” movie was the highest-grossing independent film at that time. It’s mentioned so many times that it’s irritating, as if the filmmakers want to desperately remind viewers why Hogan was a big movie star back in the 1980s. In the movie though, Paul has a not-very-convincing “aw, shucks” humble attitude about his fame. His character claims that he’s been trying to retire for the past 20 years. Not really, because the real Paul Hogan did this very corny mess of a film as a possible comeback vehicle.

In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” Paul is a bachelor who lives in Los Angeles with his Golden Retriever dog Paddy as his only companion. The movie didn’t get too meta, because there’s no mention of the real-life Hogan’s messy divorces, including one from his former “Crocodile Dundee” co-star Linda Kozlowski. In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” Paul’s manager/agent is Angie Douglas (played by Rachael Carpani), whose late father used to be Paul’s manager and was the founder of the Douglas Management Team.

Angie is very excited to tell Paul that in six weeks, he will be knighted by the Queen of England. In the lead-up to this big event. Angie thinks it would be a good idea for Paul to get as much publicity and job opportunities as possible. This comeback attempt results in Paul making a series of disastrous public appearances that are supposed to be funny for this movie but the comedy is just dull and poorly executed.

Paul has a son his early 20s called Chase (played by Jacob Elordi), whose vaguely written and brief role in the movie just seems to be about displaying his toned physique, since Chase is shown leading a workout class in Paul’s backyard. Paul and Chase do not have a convincing father/son bond in the film, even though they’re supposed to have a good relationship with each other. Therefore, it seems that Elordi was just put in the film so the movie could attract viewers who know him for “The Kissing Booth” movies.

Paul also has a 9-year-old granddaughter named Lucy (played by Charlotte Stent), who lives in Australia. (Lucy’s parents are not seen, heard or mentioned in the film.) In one scene in the movie, Paul does a video chat with Lucy, who is rehearsing for her school play. Lucy and Paul adore each other, but she’s a little sad that he won’t be able to see her in her play because it’s on the same day of his knighthood ceremony in London.

Several real-life celebrities portray themselves in this movie. Some have supporting roles, while others have quick cameos. Olivia Newton-John has a supporting role as a friend of Paul’s. She invites Paul and Angie to a “Grease” charity event that she’s hosting with John Travolta. The real Travolta was smart enough to stay away from this movie, so don’t expect any surprise cameos from him. A fictional nun named Sister Mary Murphy (played by Dorothy Adams) runs the charity that’s supposed to benefit from the “Grease” event.

John Cleese does a parody of himself, as a washed-up comedian who’s become a rideshare driver to pay his bills. Guess who ends up being Paul’s driver in this movie? Cleese’s immense talent is squandered in this very tacky role that makes him look like a fool. Chevy Chase portrays himself in scenes where he meets up with Paul in restaurants, offers advice, and gets more praise and attention than Paul does. All of these scenes are uninteresting and often awkward.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” pokes fun at Hogan’s “has-been status” in a scene where he’s visiting a movie studio lot while a group of tourists are nearby on a guided tour. The tour guide points out Hogan to the tourists, but they don’t care. This happens a few more times in other places, but this stale and unimaginative joke wasn’t even that funny the first time it was in the movie.

Another running gag in the movie that falls flat is that a group of fast-talking producers keep approaching Paul in various places to persuade him to do another “Crocodile Dundee” movie. One of these producers suggests that Will Smith could play Paul’s son in this proposed movie. Paul says no for a reason that’s obvious, but no one but Paul says it out loud in these meetings: Will Smith is black. When Paul says it, the producers act horrified and tell Paul that he comes across as racist.

Paul being misunderstood as “racist” is used in another badly written scene, where John drives Paul to the “Grease” charity event, but John accidentally drops Paul off at the fictional Black Talent Awards, which is supposed to be like the BET Awards. In a live TV interview on the red carpet, Paul says to the reporter: “I’m here to help the little people. I’m here to help those less fortunate than I am.”

Naturally, Paul’s condescending remarks come across as racist. And since he said these comments live on TV, he gets immediate backlash on social media and on the red carpet. Before things get more hostile for Paul at this award show, John sheepishly goes up to Paul and tells him that the “Grease” charity event is actually at another building nearby. The movie makes Paul look so clueless that he didn’t notice all the Black Talent Awards logos when he arrived on the red carpet.

More mishaps occur that make Paul look like he’s rude to unsuspecting people, but they’re really just “accidents.” There’s an incident where he’s accused of being cruel to tourist children. And then at the “Grease” charity event, Paul ends up on stage, and there’s a disruption involving a flying object that hits Sister Mary, and he gets blamed for it. All of these gags are so dumb, contrived and the epitome of horrendous slapstick.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” also introduces a very annoying and unnecessary character named Luke Clutterbuck (played by Nate Torrence), a self-described “mama’s boy” who’s originally from Indiana. Luke was a wedding photographer in Indiana, until he decided to move to Los Angeles to become part of the paparazzi. Paul first meets Luke when Luke falls out of a tree in Paul’s backyard, in Luke’s desperate attempt to get paparazzi photos. Luke gets more and more insufferable as the story goes on.

Wayne Knight portrays a version of himself, as a theater actor who asks Paul for a temporary place to stay because Wayne’s wife Carol (played by Julia Morris) has kicked Wayne out of their house. Wayne is rehearsing for an upcoming musical, so there are some excruciating scenes of Paul being interrupted or frustrated by Wayne loudly singing or doing other musical-related things in the house at inconvenient moments. It’s the type of comedy that most sitcoms would reject.

Australian actors Luke Hemsworth, Costas Mandylor and Luke Bracey all have cameos as themselves doing red-carpet interviews. Australian comedian Jim Jeffries also portrays himself in a quick appearance. They either praise or give mild insults about Paul. Nothing is funny in these bits.

And it should come as no surprise that bachelor Paul gets a potential love interest. Olivia sets him up on a blind date with someone she knows named Ella (played by Kerry Armstrong). Paul quips, “I haven’t been on a date since a man walked on the moon.” That’s news to Hogan’s real-life ex-wives.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is so badly made that it seems like many of the celebrities in the movie might have committed to it without seeing the script first and/or did the movie as a big favor to Hogan. No one should tell Hogan when he should retire. But “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is such an atrocious dud, it’s all the proof anyone needs that the “Crocodile Dundee” movie series needs to be retired once and for all.

Lionsgate released “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on December 11, 2020. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 12, 2021.

Review: ‘Safer at Home,’ starring Jocelyn Hudon, Emma Lahana, Alisa Allapach, Adwin Brown, Dan J. Johnson, Michael Kupisk and Daniel Robaire

March 1, 2021

by Carla Hay

Pictured from left to right (top row): Dan J. Johnson, Jocelyn Hudon, Adwin Brown and Daniel Robaire. Pictured from left right (bottom row): Alisa Allapach, Michael Kupisk and Emma Lahana in “Safer at Home” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Safer at Home”

Directed by Will Wernick

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Los Angeles and partially in New York City and Austin, Texas, the dramatic film “Safer at Home” features a racially diverse cast (white, African American, Asian and Latino) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: While quarantining during a coronavirus pandemic, a group of young urban professionals take Ecstasy during a nighttime videoconference chat, and something terrible happens that causes the night to spiral out of control.

Culture Audience: “Safer at Home” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching terribly written, dull movies that exploit a real-life deadly pandemic.

Pictured from left to right (top row): Dan J. Johnson, Jocelyn Hudon, Adwin Brown and Daniel Robaire. Pictured from left right (bottom row): Alisa Allapach, and Michael Kupisk in “Safer at Home” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

In the obnoxious and boring movie “Safer at Home,” a group of young people take Ecstasy during a video chat, and their drug-induced states of mind might explain some of the grossly illogical decisions that they make when they have to deal with an unexpected crisis. Viewers of this garbage movie will wonder if the filmmakers might have also been in an impaired state of mind to think that this junk was anywhere near approaching the level of “interesting to watch.” It’s one of those movies that was clearly made to cash in on the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s just an incoherent mess that’s a waste of time.

Directed by Will Wernick, who co-wrote the moronic screenplay with Lia Bozonelis, “Safer at Home” begins with a montage that’s a blend of real-life news footage taken in 2020 (at the start of the real-life COVID-19 pandemic in the United States) and fabricated news footage that’s supposed to depict 2021 and 2022. According to what’s shown, by January 23, 2022, a second coronavirus strain called COVID 20-B has spread, and the pandemic death toll in the U.S. has totaled 12.3 million people.

By August 4, 2022, a third coronavirus strain has appeared, and 31.2 million people in the U.S. have died from the pandemic. For those who don’t want to do the math, that’s 18.9 million people who died from the pandemic in the U.S. in just eight months. And there’s no vaccine for the second and third coronavirus strains that have decimated the population.

In Los Angeles, where the main action of the film takes place, a news report mentions that the Los Angeles Police Department’s newly appointed police chief Charles Yates has mandated an earlier curfew. (The movie doesn’t say what the current curfew cutoff time is.) If anyone is caught outside after the curfew and doesn’t have the proper credentials, that person will be arrested and sent to a detention center.

Considering the extreme death toll happening around them, this group of seven friends who are on the video conference call seem just a little too lighthearted and upbeat about the serious enormity of the pandemic. They view the pandemic as an inconvenience that has interrupted their party plans. Their biggest complaint in life is that their group trip to Las Vegas had to be cancelled twice because of the pandemic.

While millions of people are dying, these self-absorbed dimwits, who are in the early 30s age range, tell each other how hard it is that their own lives just aren’t the same because they can’t party together in person anymore. It shows how willfully tone-deaf this movie is with these shallow and idiotic characters. On the night of September 12, 2022, these empty-headed pals gather for a video conference call, which ends up being an excuse for all of them to take Ecstasy together on the call.

The doltish pals who are this conference call are:

  • Evan (played by Dan J. Johnson), who ends up being at the center of the poorly written action in this story.
  • Jen (played by Jocelyn Hudon), who is Evan’s live-in girlfriend. Evan and Jen live in Los Angeles.
  • Oliver, nicknamed Ollie (played by Michael Kupisk), who is Evan’s best friend. Oliver lives in nearby Venice, California.
  • Mia (played by Emma Lahana), who is Oliver’s girlfriend in a fairly new relationship. Mia is in the process of divorcing her husband (who’s not seen or heard in the movie), and she’s moved in with Oliver, although Mia and Oliver are calling their living arrangement “quarantining together.”
  • Harper (played by Alisa Allapach), who seems to be Jen’s best friend. Harper is a stoner who lives by herself in Austin, Texas.
  • Ben (played by Adwin Brown), who is an attorney and the most level-headed one in the group, although that’s not saying much because he makes some very dumb decisions, like everyone else in this movie.
  • Liam (played by Daniel Robaire), Ben’s live-in boyfriend, who’s a lot more reckless and flamboyant than Ben is. Ben and Liam live in New York City.

Before the videoconference starts with all of the members of this group, Jen and Harper have a private conversation where Jen tells Harper some news that she’s very happy and excited about: Jen is pregnant, but she hasn’t told Evan yet. Jen makes it obvious that she hopes that when she tells Evan about the pregnancy, it’ll be the extra motivation he needs to propose marriage to her. Harper congratulates Jen, who asks that Harper not tell anyone else about the pregnancy until Jen has a chance to tell Evan.

And it just so happens that this videoconference call is taking place on Evan’s birthday. To celebrate, Oliver has arranged for a drug dealer he knows to mail all of them packets of designer Ecstasy, also known as molly. Oliver insists that they take the Ecstasy pills at the same time during the call. (By the way, the cinematography lighting in this movie is horrendous and unrealistic, since all of these friends have the same type of dark lighting in their rooms, as if they’re about to have a séance by videoconference.)

Ben is very reluctant to indulge in doing drugs, but he eventually gives in to peer pressure and takes Ecstasy at the same time as everyone else. Why is pregnant Jen doing Ecstasy and drinking beer? That’s hurriedly explained at one point in the movie, which becomes buried in a cesspool of bad plot developments.

As the Ecstasy starts to take effect, it leads to some useless scenes of awkward dancing (Ben, Jen and Harper do an embarrassing version of twerking), and then some people in the group make gossipy comments about each other’s relationships. The characters in this movie are so hollow and badly written, that viewers don’t know what any of these friends (except for Ben) does for a living, and there’s no backstory on how they all know each other.

It’s mentioned without going into too many details that Ben cheated on Liam in the past. And it’s apparently still a sore spot in their relationship, because Liam brings up the infidelity as an example of how Ben shouldn’t act so morally self-righteous about Liam wanting to do Ecstasy. Jen is leery of Mia, who’s a newcomer to their social circle, because Jen thinks Mia might be an inappropriate rebound for Oliver, whose most recent ex-girlfriend Rachel is someone who had Jen’s approval. Meanwhile, Liam makes a catty comment about Harper not being part of a couple.

This group of immature friends then move on to playing “Never Have I Ever.” How old are they again? Fifteen? First, the confession is “Never have I ever had a one-night stand.” Then it’s “Never have I ever slept with two people in the same day.” This leads Jen to confess that when she was in high school, she had a threesome with two guys.

Evan is shocked because it’s the first time he’s hearing about it. He’s also hurt because he expected Jen to tell him something like that in private first instead of blurting it out to to him and their friends. This threesome confession leads to Evan and Jen arguing, while their videocamera is still on in their living room.

During this argument, Oliver and Mia have gone to another room to have sex. Ben and Liam have gone into their bathroom because Ben is feeling ill and panicky from the Ecstasy. Harper is still on the call. She’s turned off the video but she can hear Evan and Jen arguing.

In the heat of the quarrel with Evan and Jen shouting at each other, Jen steps back and accidentally falls backward on the hard floor of the living room and gets a severe head injury. It’s bad enough where there’s the sound of a cracked skull. Evan panics because Jen isn’t responding, and blood is coming out of her head.

Evan frantically tells Harper that Jen is dead from an accidental fall. Harper didn’t see what happened but she heard Jen fall. And even though Evan is wailing that it was an accident, Harper isn’t sure what to believe. She turns the video back on, sees Jen bleeding on the floor, and Harper starts to panic too.

Although the audience can see that Jen’s fall was an accident (Evan didn’t even touch her), no one else else outside of Evan and Jen’s apartment saw her fall. However, the movie has a plot hole in not explaining that the video camera in Evan and Jen’s living room still captured what happened during the livestream, so that would be enough proof that it was an accident. But if the characters in this movie thought that logically, there would be no “Safer at Home” movie because the rest of this dumb story is about all of them panicking over the thought that Evan will be arrested. Evan and Harper frantically shout for the other people to get back on the conference call, in order to tell them what happened.

Why didn’t they call 911 to get medical help for Jen? Oliver shouts, “They won’t send an ambulance! They’ll send the police!” Evan doesn’t want to call for help either. Adding to their panic, Evan and Jen’s nosy neighbor (who’s an ex-cop) in their apartment building comes over to find out what’s going on because he said he heard Jen and Evan arguing. The neighbor tries to go inside the apartment to snoop, but Evan manages to prevent him from coming too far into the apartment to see Jen lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

Evan, who’s paranoid about being arrested, then stupidly decides now would be a good time to go somewhere and break the curfew, thereby putting himself at risk of being arrested. He decides to drive to Oliver’s apartment, but he doesn’t forget to take the video camera with him while it’s still logged on to the videoconference chat. Because that’s apparently what you do when you want to run from the law: Keep the video chat going with your friends.

Meanwhile, Oliver jumps in his car to go to Evan’s place before finding out that Evan is on the way to Oliver’s place. Oliver also makes sure that he’s still logged into the video chat while driving. Just like Evan, Oliver keeps looking into the video camera while driving and talking during the video chat.

It’s as if Evan and Oliver want to make sure the camera angle looks great when they’re talking to the camera during this crisis, instead of keeping their eyes on the road while driving. And while they’re outside in public places during this deadly pandemic, Oliver and Evan don’t wear masks, but they keep the video chat going. Priorities.

Mia, who doesn’t know Evan very well, thinks it’s possible that Evan could have killed Jen, so she doesn’t want Evan anywhere near her. She’s also very uncomfortable about Oliver wanting to help Evan, but Oliver scolds Mia and tells her that Evan is a good guy who wouldn’t kill Jen. At one point, Oliver advises Evan to go to Griffith Park so Evan can be by himself. To do what? Meditate?

Of course, as soon as Evan drives outside, you know what’s going to happen. And it does: Police helicopters see his car, so he’s followed by the police. The rest of the movie gets even more ridiculous, and it leads to two mind-numbingly atrocious plot twists. And viewers will either be howling with laughter and/or yelling at the screen over how bad the acting is throughout “Safer at Home.”

One of the worst things about the movie is how Evan (who is African American/biracial) and his racial identity are used by the “Safer at Home” filmmakers in a disgusting, exploitative way. There’s nothing remotely entertaining about this mindless and dull film, which shamefully tries to make money off of deadly issues related to the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. The only real safety lesson that can come from “Safer at Home” is to avoid this toxic trash dump of a film altogether if you value your time and your intelligence.

Vertical Entertainment released “Safer at Home” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on February 26, 2021.