San Francisco Film Critics Circle nominees include Andy Serkis, Greta Gerwig, ‘Get Out,’ Holly Hunter, Sam Rockwell

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(20th Century Fox) Andy Serkis (left) portrays Caesar in “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

The San Francisco Film Circle just announced its five nominees in various categories today. Here’s the press release we sent out today.

Thrilled to see some of my favorites make the list, including ‘Get Out,’ Andy Serkis (best actor), “Frantz,” “The Big Sick,” “The Shape of Water.”

We decide the winners Sunday!

Here’s our press release including all the categories.

San Francisco, CA, December 8, 2017 – The San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC)
announced today the nominees in all categories for their 2017 Awards. Members
have combed through the year’s best films to decide on the nominees in each
category.
The circle, comprised of critics from across the Bay Area and Northern California,
will meet Sunday, December 10 at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco to decide
the winners. Winners will be announced starting at 12:15PM PST on the official
SFFCC Twitter account @SFFCC or https://twitter.com/sffcc.

Nominees in each category are below:

Best Picture
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
GET OUT
THE SHAPE OF WATER
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Director
Sean Baker – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Guillermo del Toro – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Greta Gerwig – LADY BIRD
Christopher Nolan – DUNKIRK
Jordan Peele – GET OUT

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(A24) James Franco gives one of his best performances in “The Disaster Artist.” 

Best Actor
Timothee Chalamet – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
James Franco – THE DISASTER ARTIST
Daniel Kaluuya – GET OUT
Gary Oldman – DARKEST HOUR
Andy Serkis – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Actress
Annette Bening – FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
Sally Hawkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Frances McDormand – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Margot Robbie – I, TONYA
Saoirse Ronan – LADY BIRD

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Armie Hammer – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Richard Jenkins – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sam Rockwell – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Michael Stuhlbarg – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

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(Amazon Studios/Lionsgate) Holly Hunter, Ray Romano and Kumail Nanjiani star in “The Big Sick.”

Best Supporting Actress
Holly Hunter – THE BIG SICK
Allison Janney – I, TONYA
Melissa Leo – NOVITIATE
Lesley Manville – PHANTOM THREAD
Laurie Metcalf – LADY BIRD

Best Foreign Language Film
BPM
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
FRANTZ
IN THE FADE
THE SQUARE

Best Animated Feature
THE BREADWINNER
COCO
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
LOVING VINCENT
YOUR NAME

Best Documentary
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
CITY OF GHOSTS
DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME
FACES PLACES
JANE

Best Cinematography
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Roger Deakins
DUNKIRK – Hoyte van Hoytema
THE FLORIDA PROJECT – Alexis Zabe
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Dan Laustsen
WONDER WHEEL – Vittorio Storaro

Best Production Design
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Dennis Gassner
DUNKIRK – Nathan Crowley
PHANTOM THREAD – Mark Tildesley
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Paul D. Austerberry
WONDERSTRUCK – Mark Friedberg

Best Editing
BABY DRIVER – Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Joe Walker
DUNKIRK – Lee Smith
THE POST – Michael Kahn
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Sidney Wolinsky

Best Screenplay (original)
THE BIG SICK – Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
GET OUT – Jordan Peele
LADY BIRD – Greta Gerwig
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI – Martin McDonagh

Best Screenplay (adapted)
THE DISASTER ARTIST – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – James Ivory
MOLLY’S GAME – Aaron Sorkin
MUDBOUND – Dee Rees and Virgil Williams
WONDERSTRUCK – Brian Selznick

Best Original Score
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
DUNKIRK – Hans Zimmer
PHANTOM THREAD – Jonny Greenwood
THE SHAPE OF WATER – Alexandre Desplat
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Michael Giacchino

Special Citation (for that underappreciated indie gem)
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
COLUMBUS
THE OTHER KIDS

About the San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC)
Founded in 2002, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle is comprised of critics from
around the Greater Bay Area. Its members include film journalists from the San
Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the East Bay Times, SF Weekly, the
East Bay Express, the San Jose Metro, Palo Alto Weekly, the San Francisco Examiner,
Variety, KCBS, KGO, KSJS, Radio Sausalito, The Wrap and more.

What to stream while on a flight? ‘Wheelman,’ ‘Mudbound,’ ‘Big Sick,’ ‘Barbra’ some of the best options

Stuck in the airport during the mad Thanksgiving dash? Don’t fret. There’s a lot you can stream on your devices to watch before, during and after that flight.

Here are some of my recommendations:

 

 

Don’t miss: ‘God’s Own Country,’ ‘Blade of the Immortal’

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(Samuel Goldwyn Co.) “God’s Own Country” is one of the best films of 2017.

“Murder on the Orient Express” supposedly goes off the rails and “Daddy’s Home 2” is getting slammed by critics.

So what should you see at the cineplex? I highly recommend “God’s Own Country.” It’s a deceptively simple story told with acuity and sensitivity. I also loved “Blade of the Immortal,” a gory samurai drama with a kick-ass girl heroine.

Anyway, here are my reviews of both.  See them before they vanish from the big screens.

“God’s Own Country”: Francis Lee’s award-winning, feature-length debut makes you feel not only like you’re a part of the rugged Northern England terra firma but that you’re rolling around in earthy passion. His rich drama about two men — a farmer (Josh O’Connor) and a Romanian ranchhand (Alec Secareanu) — and an undeniable attraction is not only wildy sexy but elemental and real. I love this film and have seen it three times and will gladly see it three more.

“Blade of the Immortal”: Takashi Miike has made a staggering number of films, including the harrowing nightmare “Audition” and the crazy-good “13 Assassins.” His latest is epic in length, but ever-so satisfying, a mashup of a supernatural fantasy with a samurai drama. It’s entirely gonzo as a young girl and a die-hard samurai take on the bad and the seemingly good but actually bad guys.  One of the most satisfying action films of the year.

Mill Valley Film Festival: Don’t miss ‘The Corridor,’ ‘The Divine Order’

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(Courtesy of Mill Valley Film Festival) A scene from “The Corridor.” 

The Mill Valley Film Festival is well underway and while numerous offerings in the lineup are already receiving national and international attention there are other gems worth seeing that aren’t as highly visible but are just as deserving of your time.

Two under-the-radar films I recommend are “The Divine Order” (5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Rafael Film Center) and “The Corridor” (8:45 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Lark).

Here are capsule reviews of both.

“The Divine Order” is a thoroughly entertaining dramatization of the drive to allow women the right to vote in a small town in Switzerland, a right shockingly not granted until 1971!  Director Petra Volpe adopts the right touch and tone, injecting humor amid the escalating drama in a film that elegantly captures the period and its attitudes. It helps that the cast, led strongly by Marie Leuenberger as the housewife Nora — who undergoes a liberation transformation and becomes the unofficial community leader for the movement — plays off each other so gracefully. (Screens again 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Lark Theater). Opens Nov. 24 in the the Bay Area.  

“The Corridor” is a riveting, fully immersive Bay Area-set documentary that illuminates an innovative program launched by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department that requires inmates without high school diplomas attend school while they’re behind bars so they can earn GEDs. Filmmakers Richard O’Connell and Annelise Wunderlich have done a comprehensive yet intimate job of exploring the program, particularly in presenting the stories and journeys of the inmates profiled. Don’t miss this one. (Screens again 10 a.m., Oct. 12, Rafael Film Center)

For tickets and additional information, visit mvff.com.

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(Zeitgeist Films) “The Divine Order” effectively dramatizes the drive to get women the right to vote in Switzerland. 

Mill Valley Film Festival: One of the best in the nation

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(Courtesy of Mill Valley Film Festival) Santiago Rizzo’s “Quest” chronicles the life of an East Bay teen who changes his life around once he meets a Berkeley teacher.

The Mill Valley Film Festival turns 40 and its lineup is as spry and wise at its age suggests.

The festival is a gem in the Bay Area, and features a plethora of award-worthy films . But it equally supports Bay Area filmmakers and indie artists.

With that in mind, here are a few of my picks for films you shouldn’t miss at the festival, kicking off this Thursday (Oct. 5.)

I’ll be posting short reviews of other films worth seeing in the days ahead.

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(Kim Swims Film)
Open-water swimmer Kim Chambers of San Francisco achieves something incredible in the inspiring documentary, “Kim Swims.”

Here are my picks.

Don’t let the honest ‘Some Freaks’ slip by you. It’s that good.

 

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(Good Deed Entertainment) Ely Henry, Lily Mae Harrington and Thomas Mann deliver breakout performances in “Some Freaks.” 

Anyone who endured high school rather than enjoyed it well knows what a soul-damaging experience the teen years can be. That more hellish ordeal has been a popular topic plumbed — sometimes successfully, other times mundanely — in numerous coming-of-age stories.

 

Rarely do these explorations — be it on screen or on the page – have depicted the painful, awkward period with such raw truthfulness like “Some Freaks,” a head-turner of an indie feature that deserves a wider release than it is getting. (You can see it in one theater in S.F this week or rent it on Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms).

Directed and written with unsentimental compassion and intense understanding by newcomer Ian MacAllister-McDonald, “Some Freaks” is a no-nonsense romantic comedy/drama with sharp edges aplenty.

Actor Thomas Mann (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) effortlessly taps into the beaten-down, hunch-shouldered, anxiety-riddled reality of Matt, a depressed high school kid with an eye patch. Matt is insufferably picked on by obnoxious Rhode Island high school brats. His life at home isn’t much more inviting since he’s living with his bossy sister (Marin Ireland) and her baby. Even his best friend Elmo (a well-cast Ely Henry) — who is gay and crushing hard on a straight, out-of-his-league athlete — demands a lot.

Matt meets and falls for the acerbic and unpredictable Jill (Lily Mae Harrington, giving the film its most radiant performance). She’s relentlessly bullied due to her plus size but maintains a sassy, no-guff demeanor. Suddenly, a seismic emotional shift happens, leading Matt to experience joy, likely for the first time in his life.

What makes “Some Freaks” stand out from other dramas dealing with teens lingering on the high school fringes is that MacAllister-McDonald and his leads don’t make the characters saints. These young people are flawed. They react poorly at times, and that genuineness gives the film an honest soul.

Jill eventually relocates Southern California where she adjust how she looks and attracts the attention of Patrick (Lachlan Buchanan, so perfect here), a golden boy from her former high school. What motivates Patrick to pursue Jill? Where will this lead?

Answers come, but the resolutions are never black-and white and pat.

What is an absolute is that “Some Freaks” announces the arrival of an exciting and original new filmmaking voice. Seek it out. Recommend others see it. It is that good.

 

SOME FREAKS

3. 5 out of 4 stars

Rating: Starring: Thomas Mann, Lily Mae Harrington, Ely Henry, Lachlan Buchanan, Marin Ireland

Director and screenwriter: Ian MacAllister McDonald

Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Rating: NR

 

 

More please! Netflix’s ‘Castlevania’ defies the video-game-to-film curse

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(Netflix) Trevor Belmont is the hunk on “Castlevania.”

 

After suffering through the insufferable “Assassin’s Creed” (made redeemable for its  flashes of Michael Fassbender’s shirtless upper torso), I had abandoned hope there would be a half-way decent, even mediocre, cinematic — or TV — adaptation of a video game.

Some have gotten close (“Silent Hill” happens to be my favorite), but most attempts are downright awful.

Netflix defies this curse. The streaming giant’s new and way too short four-part series “Castlevania” works.

It’s a gory Gothic experience, a visually arresting production made all the mightier by punchy right hooks of dark humor from writer Warren (“Red”) Ellis, an icon in the adult comic world.

The premise is intriguing: Count Vlad Dracula goes on a rampage in the 15th century after his smart, scientific-focused wife is branded and then burned at the “witch” stake by Catholic detractors.

That all happens in the prologue. In ensuing episodes we meet the sexy but fallen-from-favor Trevor Belmont (voiced by “The Hobbit’s” Richard Armitage), a demon-buster who is a reluctant hero, but a hero nevertheless. He decides to help out.

His fighting skills are much needed since Vlad has gone cuckoo, summoning devilish huge bats to level villages and exterminate everyone. Will the peasants and innocents survive?

The final episode sets the stage for an uprising, and then just ends. But that’s OK.

Why “Castlevina” works while many other adaptations failed is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ellis’s irreverence ensures that the carnage (bloody indeed) is balanced with wit. Ellis’s influence makes even the most tried-and-true horror tropes — which are summoned forth here — appear original, even daring.

From the raves garnered by this series, I’m hardly a lone wolf on liking it. Netflix too realizes that it has a hit on its hands, and has already ordered another eight episodes.