Culture Representation: Taking place in 1955, in the U.S. Southwest and in New York City, the comedy film “Asteroid City” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: Told as a stage play within a TV show, “Asteroid City” tells the story of how a small town reacts to a visit from an outer-space alien.
Culture Audience: “Asteroid City” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Wes Anderson and comedies with intentionally quirky characters and sometimes bizarre scenarios.
“Asteroid City” is exactly what you think a Wes Anderson movie is about how people react to seeing an outer-space alien. The comedy is hit or miss. Anderson’s recent movies seem like they’re competing with each other to have the most celebrity cameos. “Asteroid City” (which was directed by Anderson) had its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Anderson co-wrote the “Asteroid City” screenplay with Roman Coppola, who is a cousin of Jason Schwartzman, one of the stars of the film.
“Asteroid City,” which is set in 1955, is told as a play within a TV show. All it means is that it’s an excuse to add more stars to the already star-studded cast. Overstuffing the movie with famous cast members can actually be detriment when most of these characters remain underdeveloped. And it will just lead to disappointment for the fans of the cast members (many of whom could easily headline films on their own) when they find out that the screen time of many of these celebrities is barely enough to be in a short film.
The constant parade of stars also seems like showboating from Anderson and the other “Asteroid City” filmmakers, as if to prove that all of these famous people are so in awe of Anderson, they’d be willing to do even the tiniest role in one of his movies. It certainly might explain why Margot Robbie has an utterly useless role as an unnamed actress/wife in “Asteroid City,” where all she does in the movie is talk for a few minutes in a forgettable conversation. “Asteroid City” makes good use of its principal cast members, but gets bogged down by all the distracting celebrity cameos.
The movie begins with black-and-white footage of a nameless TV host (played by Bryan Cranston) explaining that viewers will be getting a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a play called “Asteroid City.” The play is written in New York City by playwright Conrad Earp (played by Edward Norton), while the ensemble cast is led by Jones Hall (played Schwartzman) and Mercedes Ford (played by Scarlett Johansson). This behind-the-scenes footage is in black and white (as it would be in television in 1955), but the scenes with the play are in bright Technicolor-inspired lighting that would have been standard with movies released in 1955.
Schubert Green (played by Adrien Brody) is the play’s director. Polly (played by Hong Chau) is Schubert’s assistant. Saltzburg Keitel (played by Willem Dafoe) has a classroom that is used as rehearsal space for the play. All three of these characters are seen in short interludes and don’t add much to the overall story.
Asteroid City is in an unnamed state in the U.S. Southwest. In the “Asteroid City” play, a war photographer named Augustine “Augie” Steenbeck (also played by Schwartzman) is a recent widower. He is on a road trip by car to Asteroid City, a very small Southwestern town (population: 87), where the biggest attractions are a large meteor crater and a celestial observatory nearby. Augie is traveling with his 14-year-old son Woodrow Steenbeck (played by Jake Ryan) and triplet daughters Andromeda (played by Ella Faris), Pandora (played by Gracie Faris) and Cassiopeia (played by Willan Faris), who are about 7 or 8 years old.
The Steenbeck family is going to Asteroid City for the weekend celebration of Asteroid Day, commemorating September 27, 3007 B.C., when the Arid Plains meteorite crashed on Earth. Woodrow is also set to get a prize as one of the five winners of the Junior Stargazer Space Cadet Awards, given to young people who are aspiring astronomers. However, Augie’s car breaks down in Asteroid City. A unnamed, bumbling mechanic (played by Matt Dillon) is the nearest person who can fix the car.
After Augie finds out that he and his children are stuck in Asteroid City, Augie calls his stern father-in-law Stanley Zak (played by Tom Hanks) to ask Stanley to pick up the kids because “the car exploded.” Stanley is reluctant to come to the rescue of his stranded son-in-law and grandchildren because Stanley thinks that Augie needs to take responsibility for the kids. Stanley is annoyed that Augie has not told the children that the children’s mother (who was Stanley’s daughter) died three weeks ago.
It’s mentioned in the movie that she died from a unnamed illness. Eventually, Augie awkwardly tells the children about their mother’s death. He also tells them that she has been cremated. Her ashes are in a plastic bowl that Augie has with him. And as soon as cremated ashes of a loved one are shown in a comedy, you just know that something is going to happen to those ashes in a comedic part of the plot.
Meanwhile, this small town is about to get a much bigger temporary population when more visitors arrive. These other guests include famous actress Midge Campbell (played by Johansson), who (by her own admission) is vain and selfish. She is in Asteroid City because her teenage daughter Dinah (played by Grace Edwards) is one of the recpients of the Junior Stargazer Space Cadet Award. It’s mentioned that Midge has two younger children from her marriage to her second ex-husband
Also in Asteroid City is country musician Montana (played by Rupert Friend) and his band. Montana dresses like a cowboy and seems to be attracted to a schoolteacher in her 20s named June (played by Maya Hawke), who has arriveed by school bus with a class of 10 students, who are each 8 years old. Montana and June, like many of these supporting characters, have no real bearing on the outcome of the story.
Other visitors to Asteroid City who are very extraneous characters include egotistical businessman JJ (played by Liev Schrieber) and his mild-mannered teenage son Clifford (played by Aristou Meehan), who only seem to be in the movie to show that Augie and Woodward aren’t the only characters in “Asteroid City” who have father/son tensions. Clifford is one of the award recipients.
Other unnecessary characters are Sandy (played by Hope Davis) and her teenage daughter Shelly (played by Sophia Lillis), who are only memorable for wearing matching Girl Scout-type uniforms. Shelly is also one of the award recipients. It makes no difference to the movie’s story if there were three, four or five teens getting these awards.
Another parent-teen duo in “Asteroid City” are scientist Roger (played by Stephen Park) and his overachieving son Ricky (played by Ethan Josh Lee), who has somewhat of a rivalry with Woodrow about who knows the most about astronomy. Ricky is actually essential to the plot, since he makes a certain decision regarding the outer-space alien. Ricky’s decision has an effect on other plot developments. Meanwhile, Woodrow and Dinah have a growing attraction to each other.
Steve Carell is in the movie for less than five minutes as the manager of Asteroid City’s only motel. The observatory is run by Dr. Hickenlooper (played Tilda Swinton), who us the expected eccentric character that Swinton always to plays in Anderson’s movies. A crater meteorite that’s the size of a softball is one of the prized possessions on display at the observatory.
A very by-the-book military officer named General Grif Gibson (played by Jeffrey Wright) is in Asteroid City to lead the Asteroid Day festivities, which includes a tour of the observatory, a picnic supper, the viewing of the Astronomical Ellipses, and the awarding of the annual Hickenlooper Scholarship. General Gibson has a trusted, unnamed aide-de-camp (played by Tony Revolori), who is just a rehash of the “eager young man” roles that Revolori has played in other Wes Anderson movies.
The first half of “Asteroid City” is a string of vignettes where the characters are quirky and often blurt out things in a tactless way that’s supposed to be amusing. Augie and Midge are the most “no filter” of these characters. And so, it should come as no surprise that they become attracted to each other. It’s just like a Wes Anderson movie for two single parents to be attracted to each other at the same time the parents’ two teenage kids are attracted to each other.
“Asteroid City” doesn’t get really interesting or amusing until the arrival of the space alien, which is filmed like it would be for a stage production. The reactions to this space alien are the movie’s commentaries on greed and exploitation in society. There’s nothing wrong with any of the performances by the cast members. But it says a lot that “Asteroid City,” which is filled with talented people (many of whom are Oscar winners and Oscar nominees), doesn’t have an Oscar-worthy performance in the bunch. The movie’s production design is impeccable, but “Asteroid City” is a comedy that’s more enamored with the setup of jokes rather than the jokes themselves.
Focus Features released “Asteroid City” in select U.S. cinemas on June 16, 2023, with a wider expansion to more U.S. cinemas on June 23, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Pittsburgh, in 2018 and 2019, the comedy/drama film “A Man Called Otto” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A grouchy, suicidal widower gets a new outlook on life when a young family moves into a home across the street from him.
Culture Audience: “A Man Called Otto” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Tom Hanks; the 2015/2016 Swedish movie and 2012 book “A Man Called Ove,” on which the American remake is based; and movies that try too hard to wring emotions out of people with broadly portrayed characters and scenarios.
“A Man Called Otto” bulldozes over the realistic charm of Sweden’s “A Man Called Ove” and gives it an inferior Hollywood treatment full of overly staged smarm. There are much better “grumpy old man” movies out there, including the Oscar-nominated comedy/drama “A Man Called Ove” (released in Sweden and Norway in 2015, and elsewhere in 2016), which viewers should see before or instead of “A Man Called Otto.” Anyone who watches both movies can see how much “A Man Called Otto” stumbles as a disappointing remake. Everything about “A Man Called Otto” looks like it’s a made-for-TV formulaic film, instead of being a cinematic experience worthy of the price of a movie ticket.
Directed by Marc Forster and written by David Magee, “A Man Called Otto” has absolutely no improvements from the movie “A Man Called Ove,” which was written and directed by Hannes Holm. Both movies are based on Fredrik Backman’s 2012 Swedish novel “A Man Called Ove.” Instead of making creative advancements to “A Man Called Ove,” what “A Man Called Otto” actually does is make a few lazy tweaks to some of the characters and scenarios and actually “dumbs down” a lot of the material. It all results in some annoying dialogue, a comedic tone that’s more appropriate for a TV sitcom, and an abundance of characters who are less believable and more superficial than they need to be.
“A Man Called Otto” keeps the same basic concept of “A Man Called Ove”—a grouchy widower in his 60s is forced to take an “early retirement” from his factory job. He is so grief-stricken over the death of his beloved wife (who passed away from cancer less than a year ago), he decides to commit suicide. His suicide attempts get interrupted by a variety of circumstances that begin when a young couple with two daughters under the age of 10 move across the street from this angry old man. Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks that show viewers some details about this grouch’s past, to explain why he ended up the way that he is.
In “A Man Called Otto” (which takes place in Pittsburgh, in 2018 and 2019), Tom Hanks is Otto Anderson, the bitter protagonist of the story. At the beginning of the movie, Otto’s wife Sonya died six months earlier. Otto is the type of miserable complainer who has to find fault with almost everything that people do when they have the misfortune of interacting with him. The movie opens with a scene of Otto at a hardware store, where he berates a hapless sales clerk (played by John Higgins) about Otto’s purchase of five feet of rope. Otto has a problem with the sale because the measurement charges are per yard, not per foot.
In “A Man Called Ove,” the opening scene shows protagonist Ove Lindahl (played by Rolf Lassgård) haggling over a sale price in a store, but Ove is buying a flower bouquet to put on his late wife’s grave. Both movies then show how this cranky protagonist is nasty and mean-spirited to his neighbors, including a woman with a small dog that he detests. He insults the dog’s owner and the dog in very harsh and demeaning ways.
Both movies have a nosy but cheerful neighbor named Jimmy (played by Cameron Britton in “A Man Called Otto” and Klas Wiljergård in “A Man Called Ove”), who apparently has nothing better to do with his time but exercise outdoors and gossip about other people’s business in the neighborhood. Both movies also have a stray cat that sometimes hangs out in the grumpy old man’s front yard. He angrily shoos away the cat every time he sees it, until that predictable turning point when he warms up to the cat and starts to treat the cat like a pet.
Otto doesn’t know it yet, but his life is about to be changed when a young family moves across the street from him in a rental house. Marisol Mendez (played by Mariana Treviño) and Tommy Mendez (played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) have two adorable daughters: Luna (played by Christiana Montoya) is about 6 or 7 years old. Abbie (played by Alessandra Perez) is about 4 or 5 years old. During most of the movie, Marisol is pregnant with the couple’s third child.
Tommy is an information technology consultant, who was born and raised in the United States. Marisol is a homemaker who was born in El Salvador and was raised in Mexico. When the Mendez family arrives in the neighborhood with a U-Haul storage unit towed behind the family car, Otto is immediately rude to them and yells at Tommy for how Tommy is parallel parking the car. In frustration, Otto gets in the car to show Tommy how parallel parking should be done. Otto also lectures these newcomers about the parking rules and other regulations in the neighborhood.
Otto is still unfriendly when Tommy and Marisol show up at Otto’s door with a neighborly gift: a container of Pollo Con Mole. Otto doesn’t know how to be appreciative, and he gets annoyed when talkative Marisol tries to engage Otto in an amiable conversation. Marisol is 30 years old in “A Man Called Otto,” but she sometimes acts a lot less mature than 30. Over time, Marisol and Otto continue to cross paths, and she seems determined to become Otto’s friend.
It’s a personality difference from the Persian-immigrant pregnant wife Parvaneh (played by Bahar Pars), who is part of the young family who moves in across the street in “A Man Called Ove.” Parvaneh wasn’t so much of a people pleaser, and she realistically clashed with Ove because she wasn’t trying so hard to be his friend. Parvaneh also didn’t tolerate Ove’s insults as much as Marisol tolerates Otto’s insults. In other words, Parvaneh was no pushover, and Otto sort of met his match with her. Marisol having such a relentlessly perky personality will get on the nerves of anyone who likes and appreciates “A Man Called Ove.”
“A Man Called Otto” also has an inferior way of handling immigrant issues, compared to how “A Man Called Ove” handles these issues. Marisol is written and portrayed in ethnic clichés of being a loud, fast-talking, high-strung Latina. Marisol also sometimes comes across as ditzy, which is not a flattering portrayal when Latin/Hispanic representation on screen already over-uses the negative stereotype that immigrants of Latin/Hispanic heritage in the United States are less intelligent than white Americans.
By contrast, Parvaneh in “A Man Called Ove” (whose love partner is a white Swedish man named Patrik, played by Tobias Almborg) is intelligent (she’s portrayed as having more common sense than Patrik), and she truly felt like more an immigrant outsider in the neighborhood. There are no other people near her who can speak Parvaneh’s first language or who come from her native culture. In “A Man Called Otto,” Marisol and Tommy, who have a shared Latin/Hispanic heritage, both speak Spanish and English fluently. “A Man Called Ove” also shows that Parvaneh didn’t really have a support system in raising her children, whereas “A Man Called Otto” shows that Marisol and Tommy have relatives who visit them and help look after the kids.
It’s this deeper sense of isolation that makes the evolution of the relationship between Parvaneh and Ove (who is isolated in a different way) more meaningful and genuine in “A Man Called Ove,” compared to how the relationship between Marisol and Otto evolves in much more contrived way in “A Man Called Otto.” “A Man Called Ove” also portrays in a more realistic way how stressful it is to be a pregnant mother taking care of two other children under the age of 10. Parvaneh is not as patient and saintly as Marisol. In other words, Parvenah is more authentic and relatable.
“A Man Called Otto” also reveals way too early in the movie that Otto has a health condition, and the movie over-relies on flashbacks related to this health condition. Therefore, all of this telegraphing ruins or diminishes the impact of a plot development toward the end of the movie. Only the most naïve or inattentive viewers won’t see this plot development coming. By contrast, the flashbacks in “A Man Called Ove” are much more poignant, including a backstory involving a young Ove (played by Viktor Baagøe as 7-year-old Ove and by Filip Berg as teenage/young adult Ove) and Ove’s father (played by Stefan Gödicke) that is essentially removed from “A Man Called Otto,” which mishandles the flashbacks in a jumbled manner.
Viewers of “A Man Called Otto” eventually see that Otto bought the rope at the hardware store to use as a noose to hang himself in his living room. He tries other ways to commit suicide, but every time he tries to kill himself, something happens to remind him (even if Otto doesn’t see the signs) that his life is worth living. “A Man Called Ove” delivers these life-affirming messages in well-crafted ways, in contrast to “A Man Called Otto” which has all the subtlety of a jackhammer on full blast.
After Sonya’s death, the closest that Otto has had to a family is a longtime friendship with a married couple in the neighborhood named Reuben (played by Peter Lawson Jones) and Anita (played by Juanita Jennings), who are about the same age as Otto. Reuben, who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, is now mute and needs a wheelchair to move around. There’s a subplot about a plan to put Reuben in a nursing home, against the objections of Anita, who wants to remain as Reuben’s full-time caretaker.
It’s the same subplot as in “A Man Called Ove,” except that “A Man Called Otto” adds an unseen character (Anita and Reuben’s estranged adult son, who lives in Japan) as the “villain” instigator in this scenario. Mike Birbiglia has a one-dimensional “other villain” role as an unnamed real-estate agent for a company called Dye & Merica, which has been trying to convince many of the elderly residents of the neighborhood to sell their homes, so that Dye & Merica can redevelop the area to have pricier homes. This greedy and opportunisitic real-estate agent and some of his co-workers constantly patrol the neighborhood in their Dye & Merica vehicles.
Otto and Reuben used to be best friends, but (for reasons shown in some of the movie’s flashbacks) their relationship fractured before Reuben’s health issues happened. These reasons are treated with much more care and skill in “A Man Called Ove,” compared to “A Man Called Otto” which rushes through a superficial treatment of these reasons. These sloppily written flashbacks might leave “A Man Called Otto” viewers baffled over how over Otto and Reuben would stop talking to each other over something that’s not very well-explained in the movie.
The best flashbacks in “A Man Called Otto” have to do with the relationship between a young adult Otto (played by Truman Hanks, Tom Hanks’ real-life son) and Sonya (played by Rachel Keller), but these Otto/Sonya flashbacks aren’t nearly as well-done as the Ove/Sonja flashbacks in “A Man Called Ove,” which features a radiant Ida Engvoll as Ove’s wife Sonja. Through these flashbacks, viewers learn that Otto wasn’t always a bitter and angry man. He was still very uptight and stringent about following rules, but he had a much kinder spirit and a more generous heart. The flashbacks in “A Man Called Ove” do a better job of showing how the protagonist overcame some major challenges in his younger life.
“A Man Called Otto” slightly changes a subplot involving a LGBTQ character in the movie. In “A Man Called Ove,” Sonja used to be a high-school teacher, and one of her recent students named Adrian (played by Simon Edenroth) delivers newspapers in the neighborhood. This teenager has another job working at a cafe, where one of his slightly older co-workers named Misrad (played by Poyan Karimi) is openly gay and ends up temporarily staying with Otto after getting kicked out of his home for being gay. In a “Man Called Otto,” there is no gay cafe co-worker. The newspaper-delivering student is a transgender male teen named Malcolm (played by Mack Bayda), and Malcolm is the one who gets kicked out of his home.
“A Man Called Otto” copies “A Man Called Ove” in showing how Otto visits his late wife’s grave and talks out loud to her in emotionally vulnerable moments. But then, there are changes in “A Man Called Otto” that aren’t for the better. For example, both movies have a scene where the protagonist gets into a conflict at a hospital with a man dressed as a clown, whose job is to cheer up people at the hospital. The clown performs a magic trick with a coin that has a lot of sentimental value to the protagonist, who accuses the clown of stealing the clown after the clown performs the trick.
In “A Man Called Ove,” Ove gets angry by stepping on the clown’s shoes to trip clown. In “A Man Called Otto,” Otto tackles and fully punches the clown to try to get the coin. This assault is not shown in “A Man Called Otto,” but it’s talked about in the movie when the police arrive at the hospital to investigate. “A Man Called Otto” stretches out this clown conflict to an unnecessary length when it looks like Otto will be arrested for it. It’s a very clumsily handled and unnecessary detour to the plot in “A Man Called Otto.”
If there’s any saving grace to “A Man Called Otto,” it’s that all of the performances are watchable and have moments of being entertaining. But it’s not enough to make it a great movie, especially when everything is so heavy-handed in portraying issues that deserved less Hollywood phoniness and more authenticity. A key scene of the suicidal protagonist at a train station is a perfect example of how “A Man Called Otto” is a lower-quality film, compared to “A Man Called Ove.”
In “A Man Called Otto,” Tom Hanks (who is one of the movie’s producers) is just doing another version of a cranky old widower character that has been done already in dozens of other movies and TV shows. Robert De Niro has been doing this type of repetitive role in formulaic comedy films for many years. Hanks doesn’t deserve extra praise for doing the same thing, just because Hanks usually plays “nice guys” in his movies. “A Man Called Otto” is not as bad as most of De Niro’s comedy films. But considering that “A Man Called Otto” is a remake of an Oscar-nominated film, it’s a shame that “A Man Called Otto” did not improve on the original movie and instead turned the best parts into mediocre mush.
Columbia Pictures will release “A Man Called Otto” in select U.S. cinemas on December 30, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on January 6, 2023, and January 13, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed magical world, the live-action/animated film “Pinocchio” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people and Latin people) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: An elderly wood carver makes a puppet boy that comes alive and then goes on a quest to become a human being.
Culture Audience: “Pinocchio” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Tom Hanks and the original 1940 “Pinocchio” movie, but all the star power of this “Pinocchio” remake can’t save the movie from being a lackluster retelling of a classic story.
Watching how Pinocchio’s nose grows in Disney’s original 1940 “Pinocchio” movie is much more interesting to look at than this unnecessary “Pinocchio” movie remake from filmmaker Robert Zemeckis. The original “Pinocchio” movie is a Disney animated classic. This Disney 2022 remake of “Pinocchio,” which is a live-action/animation hybrid, is like watching a substandard imitation dressed up with modern technology. Even having a talented cast isn’t enough to elevate Zemeckis’ version of “Pinocchio” out of its stagnant blandness.
Zemeckis is the director, co-writer (with Chris Weitz) and one of the producers of this version of “Pinocchio,” which is based on author Carlo Collodi’s 1883 Italian children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio.” In addition to the 1940 animated film, there have been several other movie versions of “Pinocchio.” Italian actor/filmmaker Roberto Benigni directed, co-wrote and starred as the title character in a disastrous live-action reimagining of “Pinocchio,” released in 2002. Benigni then starred as Pinocchio creator Geppetto in director Matteo Garrone’s live-action “Pinocchio,” which was released in 2019 in Italy, and in 2020 and 2021 in other countries.
Zemeckis’ “Pinocchio” is the first of two “Pinocchio” movies releasing in 2022. Guillermo del Toro co-directed and co-wrote “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (due out on Netflix in December 2022), featuring the voices of Gregory Mann as Pinocchio, Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J. Cricket and David Bradley as Geppetto. We don’t need two “Pinocchio” movies in one year. Enough already.
What viewers will see in Zemeckis’ version of “Pinocchio” is a lazy retread of Disney’s 1940 version, except for a few new characters (that don’t change the overall arc of the story), four new songs and a very different ending that’s the one truly unique thing about Zemeckis’ “Pinocchio.” Some people might not like this new ending, but the intentions are good in sending a message about celebrating self-acceptance. However, it’s not a good sign when a movie remake waits until the very end to show something that’s a surprise departure from the original movie story.
There’s no question that this version of “Pinocchio” has a talented cast, but their talents are not showcased in an exemplary way in the movie. Tom Hanks portrays Geppetto, the lonely and elderly wood carver, who makes a boy puppet named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) as a companion, because Geppetto is grieving over the deaths of his wife and son. (The movie doesn’t mention how and when they died, but Geppetto has a family photo showing him with his wife and underage son when Geppetto was a young man.) Geppetto also has a pet goldfish named Cleo and a pet cat named Figaro, whose animation makes this feline look very fake. These animal characters add nothing important to the movie.
Geppetto has a home workshop filled with clocks that he’s made, but he refuses to sell them because he says his wife adored these clocks. There’s no explanation for how Geppetto makes a living if he won’t sell what he’s made. However, it’s abundantly clear that this version of “Pinocchio” is a soulless Disney remake when it has blatant shilling of other Disney movies. Many of Geppetto’s cuckoo clocks are basically Disney merchandise, with the clocks revealing characters from Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Toy Story” (the Woody character, voiced by Hanks), “Cinderella,” the Zemeckis-directed “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Dumbo.”
Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the wise, talking cricket who becomes Pinocchio’s companion, is the narrator of this version of “Pinocchio,” and he tells the story as a flashback. This narration choice is awkward because viewers should feel like they’re going along for the ride and experiencing the journey as the characters are experiencing the story, not being guided by a know-it-all creature who tells this narration as a flashback. Jiminy Cricket’s hindsight narration ends up being a detriment to the movie.
One night, a northern star beams a light into Pinocchio, who is turned into a living, talking puppet. Jiminy Cricket is there to witness the whole thing. Shortly afterward, Pinocchio is visited by the Blue Fairy (played by Cynthia Erivo), who touches him with her wand and gives Pinocchio a mind of his own. The Blue Fairy tells Pinocchio that in order for him to become a real boy, “You have to be brave, truthful and unselfish.”
Pinocchio later finds out that when he tells a lie, his nose temporarily elongates. The bigger the lie, the longer his nose gets. When he tells the truth again, his nose goes back to its original size. This pivotal plot development gets very underwhelming treatment in this “Pinocchio” remake, compared to how it was better-used in the original “Pinocchio” movie.
Of course, Geppetto is shocked that Pinocchio has come to life. He treats Pinocchio like a son, but Pinocchio still longs to be human. There’s a lot of talk in the movie about Pinocchio wanting a conscience as part of his humanity. And it isn’t long before Pinocchio ends up being separated from Geppetto. Pinocchio unwittingly becomes part of a traveling circus and is financially exploited by a magician named Stromboli (played by Giuseppe Battiston), who is helped by two con artists: a sneaky red fox named Honest John (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and his mute alley cat sidekick Gideon.
Other familiar “Pinocchio” characters are in this remake: street urchin boy Lampwick (played by Lewin Lloyd) befriends Pinocchio. And the villainous Coachman (played by Luke Evans, hamming it up to the hilt) is also in the movie. This “Pinocchio” remake keeps the same story line for Pleasure Island, which has some of the movie’s best visual sequences.
There are three new characters that give this version of “Pinocchio” more female representation than the original “Pinocchio” movie: a talking seagull named Sofia (voiced by Lorraine Bracco); a circus puppeteer named Fabiana (played by Kyanne Lamaya), who wears a leg brace that’s mentioned in the movie; and a French ballerina puppet named Sabina (voiced by Jaquita Ta’le), who is Fabiana’s constant companion. These characters don’t change the basics of the story, but they just allow the movie to have more diverse characters interact with Pinocchio.
This version of “Pinocchio” has somewhat of a useless sequence of Pinocchio trying to fit in with human children at a school. The school has a teacher named Signora Vitelli (played by Sheila Atim) and a headmaster (played by Jamie Demetriou), who expels Pinocchio from the school when the headmaster finds out that Pinocchio is not a human boy. It’s just another way to show why Pinocchio is desperate to become human, because Pinocchio wants to please his father by going to school to get an education.
This remake of “Pinocchio” makes a half-hearted attempt to be a musical, but there are only seven songs that are sung in the movie. Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard wrote four original songs for this movie, with all of them unremarkable and not worthy of praise: “When He Was Here With Me” and “Pinocchio Pinocchio,” performed by Hanks; “I Will Always Dance,” performed by Lamaya; and “The Coachman to Pleasure Island,” performed by Evans. The Leigh Harline/Ned Washington-written songs from 1940’s “Pinocchio” that are in this “Pinocchio” remake are “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me),” performed by Key; “I’ve Got No Strings,” performed by Ainsworth; and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” performed by Erivo.
This version of “Pinocchio” has a mishmash of international language accents, some delivered in better ways than others. Hanks’ Geppetto accent drifts in and out of sounding Italian and American. Lloyd’s version of Lampwick has an accent that sounds half-British, half-Brooklynite. It’s as if the actors know this “Pinocchio” movie is far from award-worthy, and some of them didn’t bother to work on having a consistent talking accent for their characters.
Disney has been getting criticism for doing inferior remakes of classic Disney animated films. This version of “Pinocchio” is an example of why this criticism exists. Disney had such little faith in this version of “Pinocchio,” it was not released in theaters. Disney also placed a review embargo on this version of “Pinocchio,” so that critics could not publish reviews of the movie before Disney+ released the movie to the public. This late embargo is always a sign of a bad film. Pinocchio should hold his nose for being in this stinker movie.
Disney+ premiered “Pinocchio” on September 8, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place from 1946 to 1977, in various parts of the United States and briefly in Germany, the dramatic film “Elvis” features a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy in this biopic of superstar entertainer Elvis Presley.
Culture Clash: Presley had many personal battles in his life, including those related to racial segregation, his drug addiction, his doomed marriage to Priscilla Presley and his troubled relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Elvis Presley fans, “Elvis” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and music biopics that go big on spectacle-like filmmaking.
The vibrant biopic “Elvis” continues filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s pattern of making a protagonist’s life story look like a manic-energy carnival. The musical numbers are fantastic, but viewers should expect a very glossy version of Elvis Presley’s life. Luhrmann directed and co-wrote “Elvis,” and he is one of the movie’s producers. People who are familiar with Luhrmann’s previous movies (including 2001’s “Moulin Rouge!” and 2013’s “The Great Gatsby”) will already know that he isn’t a filmmaker known for being miniminalist or showing restraint.
Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” just like Elvis Presley, is a mass of contradictions but can be counted on to deliver spectacular performances on stage. Even with a total running time of 159 minutes, “Elvis” leaves out or fast-forwards through many important aspects of Presley’s life. But other parts of the movie drag with repetition and linger too long in scenes where the story should have already moved on to something else. Luhrmann co-wrote the “Elvis” screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner. The movie was filmed in Luhrmann’s native Australia.
At times, this “Elvis” movie looks like a lengthy music video, with enough quick cuts to give some viewers the cinematic version of whiplash. Other times, “Elvis” attempts to get into the more serious and emotionally complex areas of Presley’s life before zipping off into one of several whirling-dervish montages that fill up this movie. It’s a change of pace and tone that might be off-putting to some viewers who are looking for a more conventional way of telling the story.
For example, the courtship and marriage of Elvis and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (played by Olivia DeJonge) are very rushed into the story and aren’t given a lot of depth. The movie leaves out the fact that in real life, when Elvis began dating Priscilla in 1959, she was 14 and he was 24. They met when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany, where Priscilla’s U.S. Air Force stepfather was also stationed at the time.
In real life, Elvis also convinced Priscilla’s parents to let her move in with him when she was still an underage teen. It’s probably not a coincidence that Priscilla is portrayed by an actress who never looks underage. That’s because bringing up possible stautory rape in connection to Elvis would ruin the movie’s intention to make him look like a superstar who was exploited by a greedy and corrupt manager.
Sometimes, the actors give performances that look like impersonations, while in other scenes, the actors seem to truly embody their characters. This dictonomy is especially true for Austin Butler (who portrays the adult Elvis Presley) and Tom Hanks (who plays manager Colonel Tom Parker), whose love/hate business partnership is the movie’s central conflict. Their best scenes are those where they look the most natural and don’t try to overdo the “larger than life” aspects of their respective characters’ personalities.
Butler’s performance is much better in the scenes depicting Elvis in the last 10 years of his life, when Elvis’ health was on a steady decline due to his drug addiction. (Elvis died of a heart attack in 1977, at the age of 42.) In the scenes of Elvis’ adult years before he became famous and during his fame from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, Butler just looks like he’s doing a competent Elvis impersonation. The movie starts to improve considerably when Butler shows more emotional depth as the sweaty, “hooked on drugs” version of Elvis, because it’s a portrayal of man who’s on a downward spiral but still desperately trying to stay on top.
Elvis’ controlling manager Parker, whose real name was Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk, was born in the Netherlands, but he pretended for years that he was born and raised in the United States. In real life, Parker (who died in 1997, at the age of 87) hid his true identity and undocumented immigrant status. This deception is in the movie, but as a plot twist reveal that will not surprise anyone who knows about Parker, or anyone who notices Hanks’ very over-the-top European accent in the movie. There are parts of the movie where Hanks’ prosthetic makeup and his Dutch-like accent are very distracting. Hanks’ accent also sometimes sounds German and sometimes sounds like a Western European trying to sound American.
In real life, when Parker was Elvis’ manager, Parker did not have a heavy European accent, as portrayed in this movie. Parker had a very believable American accent in real life. How else would he have been able to fool so many people into thinking that he was a born-and-raised American if he had a European accent? This quasi-European accent is one of the characteristics of Parker that this “Elvis” movie gets wrong.
Because so much of Elvis’ life has already been dissected and depicted in many other ways (including Elvis impersonators becoming both a cottage industry and the butt of a lot of jokes), Luhrmann’s “Elvis” at least takes a unique approach of telling this story with narration from Parker. The movie’s opening scene shows Parker collapsing from a heart attack and taken to a hospital. During this narration, Parker repeatedly says versions of this statement: “Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet, there are some who would make me the villain of this here story.”
Elvis’ childhood gets a comic-book panel treatment (literally) in this “Elvis” movie, as the movie uses comic book panels and comic-book-type illustrations to show chapter transitions in Elvis’ youth. Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Aaron Presley is portrayed as someone who was influenced from an early age by music, particularly R&B and gospel music. Elvis had a twin brother named Jessie Garon Presley, who was stillborn. The film briefly mentions the death of Elvis’ twin brother, but the movie does not explore (as other biographies have done) how Elvis was haunted by this death.
Elvis was famously a “mama’s boy” who worshipped his mother Gladys (played by Helen Thomson), who was a strong-willed and dominant force in his life. Elvis’ father Vernon (played by Richard Roxburgh) is portrayed as someone who was often overshadowed by Gladys in Elvis’ eyes. However, Vernon still had a huge influence on Elvis, especially after Parker decided that Vernon should be Elvis’ business manager.
It was a ultimately not a good decision, considering that Vernon had trouble keeping a steady job up until that point, Vernon had no experience as a successful businessperson, and Elvis experienced major financial problems in the years leading up to his death. It also didn’t help that Parker was a gambling addict. The movie portrays Parker’s gambling addiction as one of the reasons why he was so money-hungry and willing to do unscrupulous things to get access to Elvis’ fortune.
When Elvis was 13 years old, he and his family relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, the city that is most closely associated with Elvis’ childhood and young adulthood. (Chaydon Jay has the role of the adolescent Elvis in the movie.) Vernon got into trouble with the law in 1938, when he was imprisoned for eight months for check forgery. As a result of these legal problems, the family lost their home and had to move to a lower-income area that was populated by mostly African Americans.
The movie makes it look like Elvis was the only white kid in his area who was allowed or interested in going to the African American religious church revivals that were held in tents, where he would watch the passionate gospel performances in awe. Elvis was also a fan of R&B music at a time when it was concered “race music” that was only supposed to be performed and enjoyed by black people. Sometimes, Elvis would get teased or harassed for liking this music, but his decision to perform his version of this music ultimately set him on the road to stardom. Elvis was also a fan of country music, which he incorporated into many of his songs.
While an underage Elvis was sneaking into church revivals in tents, the movie shows Parker spending a lot of his time in another type of event that uses tents: carnivals. Parker is portrayed in flashback scenes as a carnival huckster skilled at selling and at coming up with con games. It’s a skill set that Parker brought with him when he decided to go into the music business. The movie takes a little too much time with scenes of Parker managing country artists such as Hank Snow (played by David Wenham) and his son Jimmie Rodgers Snow (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee), a musician who would eventually befriend Elvis.
Later, when Elvis and Parker meet in person, the movie stylishly stages this meeting in a carnival hall of mirrors. It’s an example of how this “Elvis” movie has fantastical elements. In real life, the first time Elvis met Parker was probably in a much more non-descript setting. Catherine Martin (Luhrmann’s wife and filmmaking partner) is a producer of “Elvis” and the leader of the movie’s top-notch costume design and production design.
Elvis’ imitation of African American R&B and early rock and roll (rock pioneers Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino were big influences on Elvis) could be considered cultural appropriation or an extreme form of flattery, depending on your perspective. But what most people can agree on is that Elvis’ performance of this music is what caught the attention of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who is widely considered the person who gave Elvis his first big music break.
Elvis’ early recordings on Sun Records were then brought to the attention of Parker, who is portrayed as someone who couldn’t believe that the singer on the recordings was white, not black. And when Parker sees Elvis perform for the first time, Parker says in a narration voiceover what his first impression of Elvis was: “Greasy hair, girlie makeup. I cannot overstate how strange he looked.”
But what really convinced Parker to want to represent Elvis as his personal manager was seeing the audience reaction (especially from females) that Elvis got when Elvis performed on stage and thrust, shook and swiveled his hips and legs in a sexually suggestive manner. The movie makes a point of showing how these stage moves had a primal effect on women and teenage girls in the audience, as Elvis often got them into a frenzy. Expect to see several scenes of Elvis being branded as “lewd and lascivious” for these stage moves in various scenarios, with the controversy fueling his popularity.
One of the odd things about this “Elvis” movie is that there’s a scene where Elvis is on stage early in his career and his band members are the ones to tell him to wiggle his hips more. If you believe this scenario, Elvis wasn’t the one to come up with these sex symbol moves. He had to be talked into it by his band members. Parker says in his ever-present voiceover narration when commenting on women’s lusty reactions to Elvis: “He was a taste of forbidden fruit.”
The movie correctly shows that it was Parker who convinced Elvis to ditch Sun Records for a more lucrative offer from RCA Records, which had the type of national distribution and radio clout that Sun Records did not. Sun Records released some singles from Elvis in 1954 (including his first single “That’s All Right”), but they weren’t hits. Elvis’ first RCA Records single was 1955’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was a smash hit and became his first No. 1 single.
In a flashback voiceover, Parker brags about how he was the first person to create a merchandising bonanza around a pop star. In a very over-the-top scene, Parker shows off a huge stockpile of Elvis-branded merchandise that is cluttered all over a room in a Presley family home. It looks like an Elvis product hoarder decorated the room.
As Elvis became more famous and was spending more time away from home, it started to bother Gladys. The movie has a scene that’s a little on the Oedipal creepy side, where Gladys tells Elvis that she’s worried about the way that his female fans look at him. Gladys acts more like a jealous girlfriend than a mother. And then, Elvis tells his mother, “You’re my girl.”
Elvis’ experiences with groupies are very toned-down in the movie, which has no explicit sex scenes or even explicit sex talk. Priscilla is sidelined for most of the movie. After Priscilla and Elvis get married in 1967, she’s just shown as someone who’s part of his entourage and becomes an increasingly unhappy bystander when he kisses and flirts with female fans at concerts.
For a while, Elvis and Priscilla lived in Los Angeles, but Elvis’ world-famous Graceland estate in Memphis was always considered to be his main home. After Elvis’ death, Elvis Presley Enterprises (which approved this movie) turned Graceland into a tourist attraction. The movie shows some of Elvis’ indulgences, including his lavish spending habits and his tendency to carry around a lot of guns. As expected, there’s a scene of a drug-addled Elvis destroying a TV set by shooting it up with a gun—something that he was known to do in real life from time to time.
Lisa Marie Presley (Elvis and Priscilla’s daughter, who was born in 1968) appears briefly in a few scenes. Priscilla’s breakup scene with Elvis is predictably melodramatic. She screams at him that she’s leaving him not because of his infidelities but because of his addiction to pills. Priscilla throws pills at Elvis before walking out the door. Priscilla and Elvis divorced in 1973, but their legal battles are never shown in the movie. Near the end of the film, there’s a tearjerking scene that’s the final word on their ill-fated romance.
Elvis’ movie star career is rushed through in a series of scenes that culminate with the media reporting that Elvis was in talks to be Barbra Streisand’s co-star in a 1976 remake of “A Star Is Born,” in which he would be playing a drug-addicted, has-been rock star. A radio announcer is heard commenting in a voiceover that Elvis wouldn’t have to do much acting for this role. Elvis, who had been trying with no success to become a serious dramatic actor, never did this remake of “A Star Is Born.” Kris Kristofferson ended up in the role.
With his movie career going nowhere, Elvis continues as a Las Vegas attraction at the International Hotel (which is now the Las Vegas Hilton) and as an artist doing several successful U.S. tours. Elvis wants to tour outside the U.S., but Parker keeps coming up with excuses for Elvis not to do these international tours. When the truth is exposed about why Parker is holding back on working outside the U.S., it leads to a turning point in the relationship between Elvis and Parker.
One of the more curious aspects of “Elvis” is that it doesn’t spend a lot of time showing Elvis in the recording studio. He was not a songwriter for almost all of his hits (an exception was his co-songwriting credit for “Heartbreak Hotel”), but this biopic doesn’t provide much insight into how he worked in a recording studio setting. And this “Elvis” movie doesn’t have any significant scenes of actors portraying the major songwriters (including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) who were responsible for writing Elvis’ biggest hits.
However, the movie has several scenes acknowledging the artists who inspired Elvis. Big Mama Thornton (played by Shonka Dukureh) is seen belting out “Hound Dog,” a song that was famously covered by Elvis. Little Richard (played by Alton Mason) appears briefly in a performance clip. During a media event, Elvis points to Fats Domino and says that Domino is the real King of Rock and Roll.
Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (played by Gary Clark Jr.), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (played by Yola) and Mahalia Jackson (played by Cle Morgan) have small roles in the movie. B.B. King (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Elvis became mutual admirers of each other, and the movie briefly shows that friendship. If these influential African American artists are shown performing in the movie, it’s for a very limited amount of screen time.
The movie shows glimpses of Elvis being a concerned citizen who wanted to get involved in the civil rights movement, but he was ordered by Parker never to talk about politics in public. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy (both in 1968) and the civil unrest in the U.S. in the late 1960s are all portrayed as media news backdrops to Elvis’ personal problems, while Parker gripes about how America is going downhill because of the hippie counterculture movement. Just like many other Elvis biographies, the movie depicts Elvis as becoming more isolated the older he got and the deeper he got into drug addiction.
Elvis’ entourage, which was famously called the Memphis Mafia, is portrayed as not much more than being a bunch of “yes men” in the movie. The one who gets the most screen time is Jerry Schiller (played by Luke Bracey), who’s mostly seen acting like a personal assistant/security employee. A few of the other Memphis Mafia members portrayed in the movie are Steve Binder (played by Dacre Montgomery), Bones Howe (played by Gareth Davies) and Scotty Moore (played by Xavier Samuel), who don’t do or say anything noteworthy.
Because Elvis was a drug addict, the movie shows that he had his own Dr. Feelgood on the payroll to give injections and pills of whatever drugs were requested. In the movie, this enabling doctor is called Dr. Nick (played by Tony Nixon), and he’s based on the real-life Dr. George Nichopoulos, whose nickname was Dr. Nick. Just like in the movie, the real-life Dr. Nick had a reputation for being a drug supplier to many celebrities, including Elvis. The movie shows that Elvis was mostly addicted to amphetamines and opioids.
A harrowing scene in the movie shows Elvis collapsing in a hallway shortly before he’s scheduled to do a concert. Members of his entourage frantically try to revive him, but to no avail. The decision must be made to take Elvis to a hospital, or summon Dr. Nick to give Elvis an injection so that Elvis can do the show. You can easily guess what decision was made in a world where people live by the rule “The show must go on.” The movie makes a point of implying that this scenario happened too many times behind the scenes, and it led to Elvis’ downward spiral.
None of this is really shocking because there have already been so many exposés of Elvis’ private life, there’s really almost no new information to uncover. Elvis’ bizarre 1970 visit with then-U.S. president Richard Nixon is neither mentioned nor shown in this movie, probably because there was an entire movie made about it: director Liza Johnson’s 2016 comedy/drama “Elvis & Nixon,” starring Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon. Luhrmann’s “Elvis” movie isn’t concerned about being a celebrity “tell all” biopic as much as it is concerned about presenting Elvis’ life in ways that are served up like it’s on a conveyor belt and in other ways like it’s part of a splashy musical.
In other words, “Elvis” is a very mixed bag, but it shines the best and brightest in the area that matters the most: showing Elvis as a music artist. The movie has performances of Elvis hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “That’s All Right,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” Butler does very good renditions of some these classics, with standout show-stoppers depicting Elvis’ 1968 “comeback” TV special (“Elvis” on NBC) and some of his performances in Las Vegas.
The movie’s soundtrack also has some contemporary, hip-hop-infused remakes of classic songs, such as Doja Cat’s version of “Vegas” and Swae Lee and Diplo’s version of Crudup’s “Tupelo Shuffle,” a song that Elvis also recorded. Eminem’s original song “The King and I”(featuring CeeLo Green) is also part of the movie’s soundtrack. These songs don’t sound completely out of place in the movie, but the contemporary music does take viewers out of the 1950s to 1970s, the decades when Elvis made his music. However, “Elvis” is definitely a crowd pleaser in being a feast of Elvis music, as it should be.
“Suspicious Minds” is the most prominently used Elvis song in the movie. Even though the lyrics are about lovers who’ve lost trust in each other, “Suspicious Minds” could also be a theme song about the growing mistrust in the deteriorating relationship between Elvis and Parker. How much did Parker really play a role in causing Elvis’ downfall? The movie leaves it up to viewers to decide. Even with all of Elvis’ pitfalls and self-destructive excesses, “Elvis” has a clear message that any problems he had in his life were always surpassed by his love of performing and connecting with his fans.
Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Elvis” in U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022. The movie was released in other countries on June 22, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in a post-apocalyptic United States, the sci-fi drama film “Finch” features an all-white cast of characters representing survivors of an apocalypse.
Culture Clash: A robotics engineer named Finch Weinberg, who has been living by himself during the post-apocalypse, builds a human-like robot to help him and his dog survive, but the robot sometimes has trouble learning how to do things the way that Finch wants.
Culture Audience: “Finch” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Tom Hanks and people who are interested in well-acted road trip movies that take place after an apocalypse.
How many movies have there been about a person who’s surviving alone after an apocalypse or other disaster? There are too many of these movies for most people to recite from memory. “Finch” aims and usually succeeds at being a drama that stands out from most other films with the same concept. The acting in “Finch” is well above-average for most post-apocalyptic movies. However, the acting is the best asset for “Finch,” whose screenplay and direction can at times can be plodding and trite.
For “Finch” star Tom Hanks, it’s not the first time that he’s done a movie where he has depicted an isolated disaster survivor. He got an Oscar nomination for the 2000 drama “Cast Away,” in which he portrayed a plane crash survivor stranded by himself on a remote island in the South Pacific. There won’t be any major award nominations for “Finch,” not because it’s a bad film—in fact, it’s a fairly good film, with Hanks turning in yet another believable and heartfelt performance.
However, “Finch” (directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell) breaks no new ground in filmmaking and is entirely predictable. It hits all the expected beats and story arcs that have been in other similar post-apocalyptic movies. There are absolutely no subtle moments or surprises in “Finch,” but the movie is still very entertaining, mostly due to Hanks’ engaging performance.
“Finch” has only one human character speaking in the entire film. His name is Finch Weinberg (played by Hanks), who has been living an isolated existence in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, for an untold number of years after an apocalypse destroyed the world’s environment. As Finch explains at one point in the movie, a massive solar flare hit Earth, and “completely fried the ozone.” This disaster also knocked out all of Earth’s electricity. Batteries, gas, fire or solar energy are now the main ways to operate anything mechanical that needs a source to operate that is not automatically built into the mechanism.
The daytime temperature in this post-apocalyptic world is now too hot (an average of 150 degrees Fahrenheit per day) for a human being to survive outdoors during the day without protective gear, because of the “holes” in the ozone layer. In addition, the apocalypse has left Earth covered in dust and looking mostly like a desolate desert. Giant dust clouds are a very real threat. Even though there are extremely hot temperatures during the day, it’s safer for humans to move about during the day, because the nighttime brings out people who can and will commit deadly crimes in order to steal food, water and resources from other people.
Early on in the movie, Finch reads a book titled “The Effects of Exposure to Ionizing Radiation.” And when he gets a nosebleed and later starts coughing up blood, you know exactly where this movie is going to go. About halfway through the movie, Finch even says out loud what he knows is happening to him, in case it wasn’t obvious enough. No subtlety at all.
Finch spends his days traveling in a sanitation truck. While wearing an astronaut-styled hazmat suit, he goes from building to building to look for food and for other survivors. When he finds a building that’s completely abandoned, he uses red spray paint and sprays a general prohibition sign/symbol (a circle with a slanted slash through it) on the front of the building, to indicate that the building was inspected and no one was found inside. During these excursions. Finch brings with him a four-wheeled robot that he created named Dewey, which is meant to act like a dog that looks like a moving cart.
Dewey does not speak, but Finch has designed a human-like robot that does speak. Back in his bunker, where Finch lives with a male terrier mix dog named Goodyear, Finch uploads computer data to the human-like robot and tests this robot. He is elated to find out that the robot works. The robot, which has the skeleton body of a man who’s about 6 feet tall, has superhuman strength and has the ability to process information like a computer. Finch exclaims triumphantly about his robot invention: “One small step for man! One giant leap for Finch Weinberg!”
Most importantly to Finch, the robot can have conversations and can mostly understand the commands that Finch gives to the robot. Caleb Landry Jones is the voice of the robot, which has an accent that sounds like a combination of Russian and American. There are some cardinal rules that the robot has been programmed to always follow: A robot cannot harm a human. A robot, through inaction, cannot allow a human to be killed. And the most important command that Finch has taught this robot is to always take care of Finch’s dog Goodyear, no matter what happens. The robot quickly learns to move like a human.
Later in the movie, the robot chooses its own name: Jeff. Because “Finch” is a essentially a road trip movie, the reason why Finch and his companions have to be on the move is shown early on in the story. One night, Finch sees from a distance that a collection of storm clouds seem to be headed in the direction of his shelter. Jeff calculates that the storms will intersect over the shelter within 24 hours and will last about 40 days. In other words, it’s unlikely that any living being caught in the storm will survive.
Finch hastily evacuates with Goodyear, Jeff and Dewey in his RV camper. He has a collection of postcards of famous bridges, such as London Bridge, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge postcard has the most sentimentality to Finch. He tells Jeff that his uncle sent him this postcard, and that their road trip will be to San Francisco, with a vague hope that maybe Finch might be able to find some relatives there.
The movie implies that Finch is a never-married bachelor with no children. He mentions later in the movie that he was brought up by a single mother, who is now deceased. Because Finch does not mention having any siblings, it’s also implied that Finch is an only child.
During conversations that Finch has with Jeff during this road trip, it’s revealed that before the apocalypse, Finch was a loner at work and in his personal life. Finch used to work at a company called Tri-Alpha Engineering, which is where he was when the apocalypse happened. Finch tells Jeff an anecdote about what life was like for him on the job.
In this anecdote, Finch says that he was able to solve a work problem on his own, even though his co-workers said it was impossible. When a head honcho at the company stopped by for a visit, he singled out Finch for praise in finding this solution. However, Finch knew that because of office politics, he had to do the polite thing and say that he couldn’t have done this accomplishment without the rest of the team.
The supervisor seemed to know that Finch was lying, but appreciated Finch being aware that things go smoother on a team when people don’t feel undervalued by a co-worker who outshines them and where co-workers trust one another. This story demonstrates that Finch was a co-worker who liked to think and work independently, but he was also aware that working on a team meant that he needed social skills. Finch tells Jeff that his work experience taught him this lesson: “I just work better by myself.”
And it’s why Finch often loses patience with Jeff when the robot makes mistakes that the robot wasn’t necessarily programmed to understand in the first place. Expect to see several scenes where Finch and Jeff develop a father/son type of relationship, as Jeff learns more about life and how to survive this apocalypse. When Finch scolds Jeff for doing something wrong, it sounds exactly like how a parent would scold a child.
After a while, Finch’s impatience becomes repetitive and actually makes Finch look like the one who’s being immature and illogical. After all, if Jeff makes any mistakes, it’s really because Finch failed to give proper instructions or didn’t program the robot well enough to prevent these mistakes. No one said Finch had to be perfect, because no one is.
However, the movie tends to veer a little bit on the shallow side when it makes it look like Finch’s biggest flaw is that he gets impatient with Jeff. If the movie had more of a backstory for Finch, it would’ve made this character more well-rounded. There are only a few hints of what Finch’s life was like before the apocalypse, based on what he mentions. However, enough information is given about Finch to assume that he’s been coping with having an isolated life better than most people would cope because he was already a loner before the apocalypse happened.
“Finch” skimps on other details. The movie ignores issues of indoor plumbing, how to get fresh water, and how it all relates to sanitation and grooming. There’s plenty of emphasis on Finch getting food for himself and Goodyear, but there’s no depiction of getting water, even though water is more important than food for a human being’s survival, especially in an extremely hot environment. The movie never mentions or shows if Finch bathes or showers, although viewers can probably speculate that he keeps bottled water somewhere for any sanitation and grooming.
Of course, “Finch” has some moments that are meant to be suspenseful, which usually has to do with the danger of being seen by other people who are up to no good, or if there’s another hazard that could be life-threatening. One of the most emotionally poignant moments is when Finch tells Jeff a harrowing story of a horrible crime that he witnessed. And there are a few other tearjerking moments that happen right when you expect them to happen.
Because the landscape is covered in dust and because this movie is about a road trip in this depressing-looking world, “Finch” doesn’t have dazzling cinematography, but the camera work gets the job done in the right places. The movie’s visual effects, particularly with Jeff and any disastrous weather, are believable but not particularly outstanding. Jones’ voice as the robot Jeff might be annoying to some viewers. It’s a voice that people will either like/tolerate or absolutely loathe.
Goodyear is the expected adorable and loyal movie dog, filmed with the type of human-like facial expressions and canine noises to indicate that he mostly understands what’s going on. Predictably, Goodyear is suspicious of Jeff at first. Jeff is a new member of this “family,” and the movie makes a point of showing how this new family dynamic affects Goodyear.
Some scientific-minded people might roll their eyes in disbelief at how robot Jeff seems to develop emotions during the course of the story, just like human beings can develop emotional maturity from childhood to adulthood. This movie takes place in an unnamed year in the future, so viewers have to be open to the possibility that artificial intelligence could advance in the future where computer-generated robots can mimic emotional maturity over time. Ultimately, “Finch” is a science-fiction drama that is meant to be more about emotions than the nitty-gritty details of scientific technology. In other words, there’s really no point in nitpicking a fictional movie’s science that’s supposed to exist in an unknown future.
One of the movie’s best scenes is when Finch admits to Jeff that his biggest fear is the fear of the unknown. There’s another scene in the movie where Finch tells Jeff that what made the apocalypse worse wasn’t the natural disaster but how human beings turned on each other when food and other resources became scarce. “Hunger turned men into murderers,” says Finch. “But me, it made me a coward.”
Actually, Finch shows a lot of courage in this story by retaining his humanity and overall compassion. “Finch” effectively tells through one man’s story how disasters can bring out the worst in people, but can also bring out the best in people, especially when people are forced to confront the fragility of life. Finch’s journey might be easy to predict, but it will have some impact on viewers who believe that hope does not have to be sacrificed when surviving a disaster.
Apple TV+ will premiere “Finch” on November 5, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 1870 in Texas, the dramatic film “News of the World” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Native Americans and African Americans) representing the working-class and the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A widower Civil War veteran who makes a living as a news reader is unexpectedly tasked with the responsibility of transporting an orphaned girl to her closest living relatives.
Culture Audience: “News of the World” will appeal primarily to people interested in dramatic stories about American life in the South during the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era.
“News of the World” solidly offers the tried-and-true concept of an adult who’s inexperienced with taking care of children but who’s suddenly forced to be responsible for the well-being and safety of a child for a considerable period of time. It’s usually the stuff of comedies, but “News of the World” is a serious-minded drama that once again has Tom Hanks playing a heroic figure. In “News of the World,” he’s a traveling Civil War veteran in Texas who’s never been a father, but he’s been given the responsibility of bringing an orphaned girl who doesn’t speak English to her closest living relatives whom she’s never met. You know exactly how this movie is supposed to end.
Directed by Paul Greengrass, “News of the World” is a well-made but not a particularly innovative film because so much of this story has been done before in other movies that are essentially “road trip” films. “News of the World” will satisfy people who like shoot ’em up Westerns (since there are several shootout scenes), and the film will also please people who like somewhat melancholy dramas about human perseverance under harsh conditions. The movie is nearly two hours long but sometimes feels like it’s longer because there are considerable stretches when it meanders at a slow pace.
“News of the World” is based on Paulette Jiles’ 2016 novel of the same name. Greengrass wrote the adapted screenplay with Luke Davies. It’s a good screenplay (but not outstanding) that all the actors handle with skill, even if at times the supporting characters come across as a little too generic because of the transient nature of the plot. The cinematic version of this story mostly does justice to the book because of the top-notch cinematography, costume design and production design. Greengrass and Hanks previously worked together in 2013’s “Captain Phillips,” which is based on a true story and is an overall better film than “News of the World.”
If you think Hanks is playing a stoic good guy who finds out that he’s a lot better at taking care of a child than he originally thought, then you would be absolutely correct. Hanks portrays Capt. Jefferson “Jeffrey” Kyle Kidd, a veteran of three wars and a widower with no children. He’s based in Texas and goes from town to town, making a living as a news reader: someone who reads news reports in newspapers for a gathering of townspeople and reads the reports with an engaging, storytelling style.
It’s 1870, five years after the U.S. Civil War has ended. It’s revealed later in the story that Jefferson’s wife died in 1865, at the age of 33. The Reconstruction Era is under way, but there’s a still a lot of resentment from Southerners toward the federal government and against the Union soldiers who defeated the Confederate soldiers during the war. The slaves have been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation, but white supremacy is still the law, and therefore people of color don’t have the same rights as white people.
Racism is addressed in this movie in a predictable way that might or might not be satisfactory enough, depending on your perspective. The movie begins in Wichita Falls in North Texas, where Jefferson has just had a very well-received reading session with the local white people. He seems to think it’s a friendly town, but then he gets a chilling reminder about the brutality of racism.
While riding his horse in a forest area, Jefferson sees some bloody drag marks on the ground. The marks look like a human body was being dragged. And sure enough, Jefferson finds out that the bloody drag marks lead to the body of a lynched African American man. (The man’s face is not shown in the movie, because it might have been too explicit.) Attached to the man’s body is a sign that reads: “Texas Says No! This is a white man’s country.”
Jefferson is very disturbed by this crime scene, but as someone who’s just passing through town, there’s nothing he can do about it. Suddenly, he sees a blonde girl (played by Helena Zengel), who’s about 9 or 10 years old. She’s wearing a deerskin dress, and she runs away in the woods when she sees Jefferson. He chases after her because she looks like an unaccompanied child who could be in danger. She’s a feisty child because she bites Jefferson’s hand when he catches up to her.
Jefferson sees that the girl has run back to the wreckage of a carriage accident that has resulted in the the death of the male driver. Jefferson finds some paperwork in the car wreck that reveals the girl’s birth name is Johannna Leonberger. She is an orphan whose parents were killed by an invasion of Kiowa Indians six years before.
And apparently, she was raised by the Kiowa Indians because she only speaks Kiowa. The girl’s Kiowan name is Cicada. Johanna’s Kiowa Indian family was massacred, so she is now an orphan again.
The paperwork found at the carriage accident indicates that Johanna was being driven to her closest living relatives: an aunt named Anna Leonberger and Anna’s husband Wilhelm Leonberger, who are German immigrants living in Castroville, Texas. Jefferson thinks he can just drop the child off at the Reconstruction Era version of Child Protective Services. But he finds out that the agent who’s supposed to handle this type of child welfare case is out of town and won’t be back for three months. Jefferson tells the office that he will handle the responsibility of taking Johanna to her aunt and uncle in Castroville.
Jefferson has enough compassion not to abandon Johanna, but he doesn’t want to change his plans to travel to the next town to do a news-reading session that was already scheduled. And so, he reluctantly brings Johanna with him, with the intention of devoting the rest of the journey to bringing Johanna to her aunt and uncle. Jefferson knows that he will be losing a lot of income by taking this unexpected trip, because he won’t be able to stop and do as many news readings as he’d like to do.
Jefferson asks a married couple he knows—Simon Boudlin (played by Ray McKinnon) and Doris Boudlin (played by Mare Winningham)—to look after Johanna while Jefferson is busy with the news reading session that he has scheduled for that evening. But in a story like this, you know that something will go wrong. And it does.
Jefferson comes back from the news reading session to find out that Johanna has run away, just as a rainstorm hits the area. It leads to Jefferson, Simon and Doris frantically looking for Johanna in the dark and rainy night. Across an embankment, Johanna sees a tribe of Indians traveling by horse and tries to get their attention because she thinks she belongs with them. But the tribe is too far away, and Jefferson soon catches up to her.
Johanna realizes that she needs Jefferson in order to survive because no one else is looking out for her. Before Jefferson leaves town with Johanna in an apothecary wagon given to them by the Boudlins, Simon gives Jefferson a loaded revolver. And you just know that gun is going to come in handy later on, because a trip like this won’t go smoothly.
The rest of the story is what you might expect from a tale about an adult and a child—both complete strangers and out of their comfort zones—who have been forced to travel together and slowly learn to trust each other. And because there’s the language barrier, it prevents these two travelers in “News of the World” from having the snap’n’crackle dialogue that makes the “True Grit” movies (another 1870s Western saga about a man and a girl on a road trip) so much fun to watch. “News of the World” is a mostly solemn and sometimes suspenseful story about what Jefferson and Johanna encounter in their travels.
Although they have plenty of dangerous experiences on this journey, Jefferson and Johanna also have some friendly encounters, demonstrating how generous people are capable of being to strangers. At a boarding house in Dallas, they meet the woman in charge who plays a key role in breaking through the language barrier between Jefferson and Johanna. This kind stranger is named Mrs. Gannett (played by Elizabeth Marvel), and she knows how to speak Kiowa, so she acts as a translator.
One of the most memorable parts of the story is an extended shootout sequence that happens between Jefferson and a creepy criminal named J.G. Almay (played by Michael Angelo Covino), who brings two cronies along for the shootout. The trouble with Almay begins one evening when Jefferson and Johanna are getting ready to leave Dallas at night.
Almay notices Johanna and offers to buy her from Jefferson, who immediately refuses. It’s implied that Almay has lecherous intentions, and Jefferson is well-aware that this scumbag probably wants to abuse Johanna. Almay doesn’t want to take no for an answer, so Jefferson and Almay get into a brief scuffle over it.
Two federal officers happen to notice the fight and break it up. Jefferson explains what happened and shows the paperwork to prove that he has the authority to bring Johanna to her relatives. Almay is then arrested, but before he’s carted off to jail, he yells at Jefferson: “I’ll be seeing you, captain! You hear me? I’m coming for you!”
Almay gets out on bail and soon has two other cowboy thugs (played by Clay James and Cash Lilley) accompanying him (each on a separate horse) to follow Jefferson and Johanna’s carriage. It’s now daylight, and somehow these three stalkers have found out where Jefferson and Johanna are and have already caught up to them. The chase scene leads to a clifftop shootout that’s the most action-packed part of the movie. It’s also a pivotal scene in the movie because it’s during this ordeal that Johanna shows that she’s willing and able to be of great help to Jefferson.
Another nemesis in the story is a town leader named Mr. Farley (played by Thomas Francis Murphy), who owns a lot of property and rules the town almost like a dictator. He has some sons whom he uses as his personal group of enforcers. And when Jefferson comes to town, Mr. Farley wants to tell Jefferson what kind of news he should read to the citizens: only news that will make Mr. Farley look good.
Jefferson doesn’t like being told what to do, so he lets the townspeople decide what stories they want Jefferson to read. It’s a power move that results in more conflict and another shootout. And someone with wavering loyalties ends up taking Jefferson’s side.
Not all of the adversaries on this trip are human. The weather plays a role in causing some frightening moments. A scene that’s a particular standout is when Joanna and Jefferson are caught in a dust storm and get separated from each other. The work of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski is put to excellent use in this tension-filled scene.
Because “News of the World” is centered on the evolving relationship between Jefferson and Johanna, viewers should not expect a lot of character development from any other people in the movie. And the only supporting characters who speak on camera are white people, perhaps as a way for the filmmakers to portray the deep-seated racial segregation in 1870 Texas. People of color in the movie (Native Americans and a few African Americans) are not given any significant dialogue, even in a scene where Johanna approaches some Kiowa Indians and talks to them. (What she says to them is not shown on camera.) Texas has always been a state with a significant Latino population, but inexplicably, there are no Latinos with speaking lines in this movie.
Hanks delivers a quality performance, as one might expect. But his co-star Zengel is especially impressive because she has to express a lot different emotions with very little dialogue. “News of the World” hits a lot of familiar tropes and has the type of sweeping musical score from James Newton Howard that is very much in the vein of traditional Westerns from Hollywood movie studios. The movie is the equivalent of American comfort food: People know what to expect, and there’s no real departure from the filmmaking recipe of a Western drama about an American hero.
Universal Pictures will release “News of the World” in U.S. cinemas on December 25, 2020. The movie’s VOD release date is January 15, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the northern Atlantic Ocean in 1942, the World War II drama “Greyhound” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos in very small speaking roles) portraying military men fighting at sea.
Culture Clash: A U.S. Navy veteran must command a ship called Greyhound that is protecting 37 other ships carrying much-needed supplies through a treacherous area of the Atlantic Ocean called the Black Pit, where Nazi German U-boats are known to attack.
Culture Audience: “Greyhound” will appeal primarily to World War II enthusiasts, while everyone else might be easily bored by the generic way that this story is told.
There have been so many movies made about World War II, that any new movie about this subject matter needs to bring something interesting and compelling in order for the story to have a memorable impact. Unfortunately for “Greyhound,” a World War II drama written by and starring Tom Hanks, this movie ends up being a formulaic and predictable vanity project for Hanks.
Sony Pictures was originally going to release “Greyhound” in cinemas. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sony shifted the movie’s release exclusively to Apple TV+, perhaps because Sony executives came to the correct conclusion that “Greyhound” (directed by Aaron Schneider) really looks like a TV-movie instead of a full cinematic experience.
In “Greyhound,” Hanks portrays the fictional Captain Ernie Krause of the U.S. Navy in such a generically stoic manner that by the end of the film, people wouldn’t be able to tell you much about his personality at all. That’s not a good sign when Captain Krause is supposed to be at the center of the story.
The way that Captain Krause is written, he’s the American hero who’s able to save everyone else because of his quick thinking and fortitude. All the other characters in the movie are written as backdrops to Captain Krause. These supporting characters are so forgettable and written in such a vague way that people watching “Greyhound” wouldn’t be able to remember the names of five characters who aren’t Captain Krause in this movie. The names of the ships in this movie are more memorable than the names of the people.
“Greyhound,” whose main action take place over five days in February 1942, is about the newly appointed Captain Krause leading his first team of ships during the war. Captain Krause’s three ships that he’s commanding are escorting a convoy of 37 Allied ships carrying soldier supplies across the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool, England. To get there, the ships have to pass through a dangerous area called the Black Pit, where Nazi German U-boats have been known to lurk. The Black Pit is also in an area of the Atlantic Ocean that’s beyond the range of protection from aircraft that usually escorts these ships.
Krause’s ship is named Greyhound. Some of the other ships that are part of the story include two British destroyer ships named Harry and Eagle; a Canadian corvette named Dicky; a U.S. rescue ship named Cadena; and a Greek merchant ship called Despotiko. This is a very U.S.-oriented story, since the non-American characters are not actually seen on camera. Only their voices are heard, such as when Captain Krause communicates with them by the ship’s radio transmitters.
Before the Greyhound ship embarks on its journey, the movie shows a little of bit of Captain Krause’s “tough but merciful” leadership style. Two subordinates named Flusser (played by Matthew Zuk) and Shannon (played by Jeff Burkes), who’ve obviously been in a fist fight with each other, are brought to Captain Krause to be disciplined.
“I will tolerate no more fisticuffs on my ship,” Captain Krause tells them in a stern manner, like a father lecturing his sons. Captain Krause tells the two men to resolve their differences. Flusser and Shannon say that they regret the incident. And then Captain Krause utters this pretentious line as a warning to the two men: “Repetition will bring hell from down high.”
During the mission, there a lot of shouting and repeating of Captain Krause’s commands. Captain Krause’s subordinates don’t get enough screen time to make a lasting impression during the mission, except for Charlie Cole (played by Stephen Graham) and Lieutenant Nystrom (played by Matt Helm), who don’t really do much but wait for Captain Krause to give them orders.
Charlie is the one whom Krause trusts and confides in the most, but his character is written as a shell of a man who just kind of stands around as an echo chamber for Krause. These supporting characters on the Greyhound ship were not written to have distinctive personalities from each other.
And since Hanks wrote the screenplay (which is adapted from C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel “The Good Shepherd”), it seems as if Hanks didn’t want to write any other characters in a way that they could possibly stand out and steal scenes from him. That’s why “Greyhound” looks like such a vanity project.
And when the inevitable happens—attacks from Nazi German U-boats—the movie’s suspense gets a lot better. But the action scenes overall are very formulaic and hold no surprises. We all know how this movie is going to end anyway.
The visual effects in “Greyhound” won’t win any awards. Some of the visuals are believable, while some are not. For example, there’s a scene where a ship gets blown up in the water. And although blood is shown in the water after the explosion, there’s no ship debris that’s shown in the bloodied water right after the explosion—as if the exploded ship just vanished into thin air. It’s an example of some of the unrealistic visuals that cheapen this movie.
Elisabeth Shue and Rob Morgan are listed as co-stars of “Greyhound,” but they really have cameos in the film that last less than 10 minutes each. Shue (the only woman with a speaking role in “Greyhound”) plays Captain Krause’s girlfriend Evelyn, nicknamed Evie. She has a brief flashback scene early in the film when Captain Krause and Evie exchange Christmas gifts in December 1941 when they meet up in a San Francisco hotel lobby.
Krause has even bought Evie a ticket to be with him in the Caribbean, where he’ll be training for his next mission. Krause tells Evie, “Come with me, so I can ask you to marry me on a tropical beach.” Evie politely declines, knowing that Krause is going into war combat, and tells him: “Let’s wait until we can be together.”
Morgan also has a thankless background role as a character name Cleveland, one of the African American subordinates on Greyhound who dress in formal waiter uniforms and serve food to Captain Krause. The only purpose these waiter characters have in the story is to fret about how Captain Krause hasn’t been eating the food that they serve him. It’s also mentioned multiple times in the film that Krause is such a brave and diligent captain during this mission that not only has he been too preoccupied to eat, he also hasn’t been sleeping either.
“Greyhound” is not a bad movie. But compared to gritty and classic World War II films such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Dunkirk,” it’s just a very disappointing and trite film, where the action and character development are far inferior to other World War II movies. “Greyhound” wastes the talent of actors such as Shue and Morgan, and it elevates Hanks’ Captain Krause character to such a lofty and squeaky-clean level that it scrubs all of the personality out of him.
With three victories, Columbia Pictures’ “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” won the most prizes at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards, which were presented at the Beverly Hilton In Beverly Hills, California, on January 5, 2020. NBC had the U.S. telecast of the show. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is set in 1969 and is about Hollywood entertainers who come in contact with members of the Manson Family, took the prizes for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy; Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (for Brad Pitt); and Best Screenplay (for writer/director Quentin Tarantino).
Universal Pictures’ World War I drama “1917” won two Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director (for Sam Mendes), triumphing other films that received more Golden Globe nominations, such as the Netflix movies “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes.” Many pundits did not predict that “1917” would win any of the big prizes since the movie wasn’t nominated in the categories for acting or screenplay. The only other category that “1917” received a nomination for was Best Original Score.
“Marriage Story” went into the ceremony with the most nominations (six), but ended up with just one Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (for Laura Dern). In fact, Netflix was shut out of winning almost all of its nominations this year. The only other Golden Globe victory for Netflix this year was Olivia Colman of “The Crown” winning Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama.
Other movies that won two Golden Globes each were Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Joker” and Paramount Pictures’ “Rocketman.” Joker” won the awards for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (for Joaquin Phoenix) and Best Original Score (for Hildur Guðnadóttir, in a rare occasion when a female composer won in this Golden Globe category). “Rocketman” won the awards for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (for Taron Egerton) and Best Original Song, for Elton John’s “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” which was written by John and Bernie Taupin. It was the first major award that longtime songwriting duo John and Taupin ever won together.
Movie winners also included Renée Zellweger of “Judy” (Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama); Awkafina of “The Farewell” (Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy); the South Korean film “”Parasite” (Best Foreign Language Film); and “Missing Link” (Best Animated Film).
In the TV field, the top winners (with two awards each) were the HBO drama series “Succession,” the Amazon Prime Video comedy series “Fleabag,” and the HBO limited series “Chernobyl.” “Succession” was named Best Television Series – Drama, while Brian Cox won for Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama. “Fleabag” took the prize for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, while the show’s creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge won Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy. “Chernobyl” took the prize for Best Television Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, while Stellan Skarsgård won for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
Other TV winners included Ramy Youssef of “Hulu’s “Ramy” (Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy); Michelle Williams of FX’s limited series “Fosse/Verdon” (Best Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television); Russell Crowe of “The Loudest Voice” (Best Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television); and Patricia Arquette of Hulu’s limited series “The Act” (Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television).
Crowe was the only winner who was a no-show, and he said in a prepared speech that was read on stage that he couldn’t be there because of the raging wildfires that were happening in his native Australia. Another no-show was Christian Bale (a Golden Globe nominee this year for his lead role in the movie drama “Ford v Ferrari”), who was announced as a presenter but ended up not attending the ceremony for a reason that was not announced.
British comedian/actor Ricky Gervais hosted the show and delivered on expectations of making remarks that would offend some people, considering he’s done that every time he’s hosted the Golden Globes. (This was his fifth time as Golden Globes host. He previously hosted in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016.) In his opening monologue, Gervais joked about notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein being a friend to many of the rich and powerful people in the audience, whom he called “perverts.” (Epstein was accused of pimping out and sexually abusing underage girls for decades, before he died in prison in 2019, while waiting to go on trial on sex-trafficking charges.) The jokes about sexual abuse didn’t end there, as Gervais commented that the past year was a year for movies about accusations of pedophilia, citing “Surviving R. Kelly,” “Leaving Neverland” and, he joked, “The Two Popes.”
Gervais also ridiculed the movie musical “Cats” for being a massive flop with audiences and critics. After making fun of “Cats” co-star James Corden’s weight by calling him a “fat pussy” (words that were not bleeped out during the telecast), Gervais made perhaps the most controversial remark of the evening: a crude joke about “Cats” co-star Judi Dench licking her genital area like a cat. In the joke about Dench, he used words that were definitely bleeped out. Gervais also took aim at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that votes for the Golden Globes and is partially responsible for hiring the show’s host. (Dick Clark Productions also produces the Golden Globes telecast.) He joked that the Golden Globes vegan dinner menu consisted of “only vegetables … just like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.”
Gervais pointed out the lack of diversity in this year’s Golden Globe nominees by calling the HFPA “racist” and joked that he also had a problem with the lack of diversity in the show’s “In Memoriam” segment that’s a remembrance of the entertainers who died in the past year. Awkwafina, “Parasite” director Bong Joo Ho and “Ramy” star Youssef were the only non-white winners at the Golden Globes ceremony this year, which will spark considerable conversation about the lack of racial diversity in the show’s winners.
Tom Hanks received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement. Ellen DeGeneres received the Carol Burnett Award, which is given to people who have excelled in comedy. The Carol Burnett Award debuted at the Golden Globes in 2019, and Burnett was the first recipient of the prize. Burnett was seated next to DeGeneres at the ceremony. Dylan and Paris Brosnan (sons of Pierce Brosnan) served as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors.
Presenters included Jennifer Aniston, Antonio Banderas, Jason Bateman, Annette Bening, Cate Blanchett, Matt Bomer, Pierce Brosnan, Sandra Bullock, Priyanka Chopra, Glenn Close, Daniel Craig, Ted Danson, Ana de Armas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ansel Elgort, Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Will Ferrell, Lauren Graham, Tiffany Haddish, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johansson, “Rocketman” Golden Globe winner John, Nick Jonas, Harvey Keitel, Zoe Kravitz, Jennifer Lopez, Rami Malek, Ewan McGregor, Kate McKinnon, Helen Mirren, Jason Momoa, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Poehler, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” Golden Globe winner Pitt, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Margot Robbie, Paul Rudd, Wesley Snipes, Octavia Spencer, Rocketman” Golden Globe winner Bernie Taupin, Charlize Theron, Sofia Vergara, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz and Reese Witherspoon.
Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards:
Best Motion Picture – Drama
“The Irishman” (Netflix)
“Marriage Story” (Netflix) “1917” (Universal)*
“Joker” (Warner Bros.)
“The Two Popes” (Netflix)
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Columbia)*
“Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight)
“Knives Out” (Lionsgate)
“Dolemite Is My Name” (Netflix)
Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) Sam Mendes (“1917”)*
Todd Phillips (“Joker”)
Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)
Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Christian Bale (“Ford v Ferrari”) Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”) Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”)*
Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”)
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Daniel Craig (“Knives Out”)
Roman Griffin Davis (“Jojo Rabbit”)
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”)*
Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”)
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”)
Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”)
Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”) Renée Zellweger (“Judy”)*
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Awkwafina (“The Farewell”)*
Ana de Armas (“Knives Out”)
Cate Blanchett (“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”)
Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart”)
Emma Thompson (“Late Night”)
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”)
Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)
Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”) Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)*
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates (“Richard Jewell”)
Annette Bening (“The Report”) Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”)*
Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”)
Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”)
Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”)
Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won (“Parasite”)
Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes”) Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)*
Steven Zaillian (“The Irishman”)
Best Original Score
Daniel Pemberton (“Motherless Brooklyn”)
Alexandre Desplat (“Little Women”) Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Joker”)*
Thomas Newman (“1917”)
Randy Newman (“Marriage Story”)
Best Original Song
“Beautiful Ghosts” (“Cats”) “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” (“Rocketman”)*
“Into the Unknown” (“Frozen II”)
“Spirit” (“The Lion King”)
“Stand Up” (“Harriet”)
Best Animated Film
“Frozen II” (Disney)
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” (Universal) “Missing Link” (United Artists Releasing)*
“Toy Story 4” (Disney)
“The Lion King” (Disney)
Best Foreign Language Film
“The Farewell” (A24)
“Pain and Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Neon) “Parasite” (Neon)*
“Les Misérables” (Amazon)
Best Television Series – Drama
“Big Little Lies” (HBO)
“The Crown” (Netflix)
“Killing Eve” (BBC America)
“The Morning Show” (Apple TV+) “Succession” (HBO)*
Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy “Barry” (HBO) “Fleabag” (Amazon)*
“The Kominsky Method” (Netflix)
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
“The Politician” (Netflix)
Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama Brian Cox (“Succession”)*
Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”)
Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”)
Tobias Menzies (“The Crown”)
Billy Porter (“Pose”)
Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama
Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”) Olivia Colman (“The Crown”)*
Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”)
Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”)
Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies”)
Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Michael Douglas (“The Kominsky Method”)
Bill Hader (“Barry”)
Ben Platt (“The Politician”)
Paul Rudd (“Living With Yourself”) Ramy Youssef (“Ramy”)*
Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Christina Applegate (“Dead to Me”)
Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)
Kirsten Dunst (“On Becoming a God in Central Florida”)
Natasha Lyonne (“Russian Doll”) Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”)*
Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
“Catch-22″ (Hulu) “Chernobyl” (HBO)*
“The Loudest Voice” (Showtime)
Best Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Christopher Abbott (“Catch-22”)
Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Spy”) Russell Crowe (“The Loudest Voice”)*
Jared Harris (“Chernobyl”)
Sam Rockwell (“Fosse/Verdon”)
Best Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Kaitlyn Dever (“Unbelievable”)
Joey King (“The Act”)
Helen Mirren (“Catherine the Great”)
Merritt Wever (“Unbelievable”) Michelle Williams (“Fosse/Verdon”)*
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Alan Arkin (“The Kominsky Method”)
Kieran Culkin (“Succession”)
Andrew Scott (“Fleabag”) Stellan Skarsgård (“Chernobyl”)*
Henry Winkler (“Barry”)
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Patricia Arquette (“The Act”)*
Helena Bonham Carter (“The Crown”)
Toni Collette (“Unbelievable”)
Meryl Streep (“Big Little Lies”)
Emily Watson (“Chernobyl”)
The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions:
Today, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced that eight-time Golden Globe winner and fifteen-time nominee, Tom Hanks, will be honored with the coveted Cecil B. deMille Award at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards. The highly-acclaimed star of such legendary films as “Big,” “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Cast Away,” and the upcoming release of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” will accept the honor at Hollywood’s Party of the Year® on Sunday, January 5, 2020 airing LIVE coast-to-coast from 5-8 p.m. PT/8-11 p.m. ET on NBC.
“The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is proud to bestow the 2020 Cecil B. deMille Award to Tom Hanks,” said HFPA President Lorenzo Soria. “For more than three decades, he’s captivated audiences with rich and playful characters that we’ve grown to love and admire. As compelling as he is on the silver screen, he’s equally so behind the camera as a writer, producer and director. We’re honored to include Mr. Hanks with such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, and Barbra Streisand to name a few.”
Chosen by the HFPA Board of Directors, the Cecil B. deMille Award is given annually to a talented individual who has made a lasting impact on the film industry. Honorees over the decades include Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Audrey Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Sophia Loren, Sidney Poitier, Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, and many more.
Hanks’ complex and moving performances have earned him the honor of being one of only two actors in history to win back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards®, he won his first Oscar® in 1994 for his moving portrayal of AIDS-stricken lawyer Andrew Beckett in Jonathan Demme’s “Philadelphia.” The following year, he took home his second Oscar for his unforgettable performance in the title role of Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump.” He also won the Golden Globe Award for both films, as well as a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® for the latter.
In 2013, Hanks was seen starring in Golden Globe nominated film “Captain Phillips,” for which he received Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nominations as well as in AFI’s Movie of the Year “Saving Mr. Banks” with Emma Thompson. Hanks was most recently seen alongside Streep in Spielberg’s Golden Globe and Oscar nominated film “The Post,” for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and won Best Actor with the National Board of Review. He will next be seen portraying Mr. Fred Rodgers in the upcoming biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Additional upcoming projects include the WWII drama “Greyhound,” which he also wrote, the post-apocalyptic “BIOS” and Paul Greengrass’ pre-Civil War drama “News of the World.”
His other feature credits include the Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski film “Cloud Atlas;” Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close;” the animated adventure “The Polar Express,” which he also executive produced and which reunited him with director Robert Zemeckis; the Coen brothers’ “The Ladykillers;” Spielberg’s “The Terminal” and “Catch Me If You Can;” Sam Mendes’ “Road to Perdition;” Frank Darabont’s “The Green Mile;” Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle;” Marshall’s “A League of Their Own;” Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13;” “The Da Vinci Code;” “Angels & Demons;” “Splash;” “Hologram for a King;” “Inferno;” “Sully;” and the computer-animated blockbusters “Cars,” “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 4.”
In 1996, Hanks made his successful feature film writing and directing debut with “That Thing You Do,” in which he also starred. More recently, he wrote, produced, directed and starred in “Larry Crowne,” with Julia Roberts. Hanks and Playtone produced 2002’s smash hit romantic comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” with his wife Rita Wilson. Other producing credits include “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Polar Express,” “The Ant Bully,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Great Buck Howard,” “Starter for 10,” and the HBO series “Big Love.”
In 2002, Hanks received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award.
He was later honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center with the Chaplin Award in 2009. In 2014, Hanks received a Kennedy Center Honor.
Produced by dick clark productions in association with the HFPA, the Golden Globe Awards are viewed in more than 210 territories worldwide. Lorenzo Soria is president of the HFPA. Allen Shapiro, Executive Chairman of dick clark productions, Mike Mahan, CEO of dick clark productions, and Barry Adelman, Executive VP of Television at dick clark productions will serve as executive producers.
About Hollywood Foreign Press Association
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was founded in 1943 – then known as the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association – by a group of entertainment journalists based in Los Angeles. During World War II, the non-profit organization established a cultural bridge between Tinseltown and millions of cinema fans around the world who demanded drama and inspiration through entertainment. The HFPA continues to do so today with a membership representing more than 55 countries. Since 1944, the group has hosted the annual Golden Globe® Awards – the premier ceremony which honors achievements in both television and film. The licensing fees from the Golden Globe® Awards has enabled the organization to donate more than $37.5 million to more than 70 entertainment-related charities, film restoration, scholarship programs and humanitarian efforts over the last 25 years. For more information, please visitwww.GoldenGlobes.com and follow us on Twitter (@GoldenGlobes), Instagram (@GoldenGlobes), and Facebook (www.facebook.com/GoldenGlobes).
About Dick Clark Productions
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. DCP is a division of Valence Media, a diversified media company with divisions and strategic investments in premium television, wide release film, specialty film, live events and digital media. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.