Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Top 10 TV Programs of 2018-2019

There's no business like show business. As streaming, broadcast television and the theatrical experience continues to wage a war to capture audiences, viewers have benefitted from this competition greatly. This is most evident in the TV landscape, where the variety of programming delivered some truly extraordinary storytelling. Notably, the best of them included brilliant showcases of the life and work of female entertainers, at a time when their voices are crying out to be heard. As I bore witness to the awe-inspiring narratives of these wrestlers, comedians and musicians, it filled me with hope that they will be silenced no more. Indeed, this current Golden Age of Television continues to thrill us in unforgettable and surprising new ways. So without further ado, here are my picks for the best of TV from this wonderful year.

  1. GLOW
  2. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
  3. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé
  4. Better Call Saul
  5. Fleabag
  6. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  7. The Good Fight
  8. Veep
  9. When They See Us
  10. Escape at Dannemora

Monday, July 15, 2019

Top 10 Acting Performances of 2018-2019 TV

Best Casting: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Queen Sugar, When They See Us
As has already been said in many other forums before, contemporary TV has gifted today's actresses with golden opportunities like never before. Indeed, in reflecting on the past season of television, the most memorable performances were largely drawn from a remarkable array of female characters. Whether they were forging life-changing careers in the entertainment industry or exploring deep personal traumas, these women kept us glued to our screens, compelled by their rich inner lives and unique perspectives. And right behind them were a trio of award-worthy performances from male performers, capping yet another extraordinary of acting for the "small screen". Here are my Top 10 Acting Performances of the 2018-2019 TV Season.
  1. Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  2. Alison Brie, GLOW
  3. Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
  4. Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects
  5. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag
  6. Betty Gilpin, GLOW
  7. Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul
  8. Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
  9. Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
  10. Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

As I sat in the movie theater for "Avengers: Endgame", a initial feeling of dread came over me. The trailers - "Aladdin", "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" and "Spider-Man: Far from Home" - shown before the film were a sad reminder of the state of popular cinema in 2019, with nary an original concept in sight. To make matters worse, the two prior installments of "The Avengers" had left me wanting. As such, I feared the worst for what would surely be an overblown piece of fan service.

After the subsequent 3 hours of this epic conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's "Infinity Saga", however, I admittedly felt guilt for my prejudice. Alleviating all of my fears, I was thoroughly satisfied with the accomplished filmmaking on display. Taking place in the apocalyptic aftermath of the "Infinity War", this film brings a level of humanity and humility rarely seen before in the MCU.

Reduced to vulnerable human beings in the wake of the cataclysmic events caused by supervillian Thanos, the remaining Avengers are desperate to reverse the course of history. Some years later, an unexpected solution arises when Ant-Man emerges from the quantum realm. Based on his experiences in this alternate universe, the Avengers devise a time-travelling master plan so crazy that it could spell either further destruction or salvation.

With a decidedly downbeat first hour, "Endgame" quickly lets audiences know that they are in for an ambitious story arc. Indeed, the stakes have never been higher, as the Avengers seem to have come to terms with their failure. The costumes and superpowers are largely absent and in their place are human beings mourning the friends and families they've lost.

Due to this rare moment of vulnerability, these characters who we've come to know and love reveal their true selves. And through this, the film allows the actors to shine by subverting their trademark personas. As the leaders with conflicting worldviews, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans bring new shades to Iron Man and Captain America. The former's cocky sarcasm is now tempered by a sense of despair and melancholy. And the latter displays a jaded cynicism that starkly contrasts his usual optimism. But perhaps the most eye-opening performance comes from Chris Hemsworth, portraying Thor as a man whose unwavering confidence has finally been shattered. In addition to his much talked about physical transformation, there's an everyman humility that showcases Hemsworth's comic talents to great effect. In my opinion, he's never been better.

Of course, while we bear witness to the fragility of their heroes, they must inevitably rise to the occasion. And as the script sets things in motion for the final showdown, the film kicks into high gear in ways that only a mega-budget blockbuster can deliver. Indeed, we can see the money on the screen, with dazzling visual effects and elaborate production design.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has long claimed that each film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is conceived as a particular genre film. Whether it's the intergalactic space adventures of "Guardians of the Galaxy" or the espionage thriller underpinnings of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", they are crafted with a keen understanding of the associated tropes. Unsurprisingly, this has paid dividends through the enthusiastic responses from cinephiles everywhere.

Admittedly, when these characters come together as The Avengers, the filmmakers sometimes struggled to craft a coherent vision. But that is not the case here. "Avengers: Endgame" shows a remarkable synergy between the heist, space exploration and character drama elements. And ultimately, it culminates in a sublime coda that speaks to the power of love and the precious gift of life. After more than a decade of making us want to be superheroes, "Avengers: Endgame" shows us the strength and beauty of being human.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

REVIEW: Working Woman

It’s been almost two years since the #MeToo movement exploded as a major cultural movement in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Unsurprisingly, this zeitgeist has begun to influence the stories being told on film, with several recent documentaries highlighting major cases of sexual abuse. Narrative features are also shedding light on this pervasive issue, including Michal Aviad’s shrewdly crafted Israeli drama “Working Woman.”

Read more at The Awards Circuit

INTERVIEW: Sheldon Shepherd

With the release of Idris Elba’s debut feature “Yardie“, authentic Jamaican culture gets a rare showcase on the big screen. Among its cast of British and Jamaican actors, actor/musician Sheldon Shepherd stands out as someone who fully embodies the island’s distinctive spirit. On the eve of the film’s arrival in US theaters, I spoke with Shepherd about the experience of making the film and his creative process.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Yardie

From “Get Out” to “A Star is Born”, there seems to be an increasing trend of actors making successful transitions to directing. Making an attempt to join that growing list is Idris Elba with his directorial debut “Yardie“, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Based on the novel by Victor Headley, this gangster drama is rooted in the streets of Jamaica, telling a familiar tale of violence and revenge.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: 3 Faces

As is typical of his filmography, Jafar Panahi’s “3 Faces” begins without a “based on a true story” disclaimer. This latest effort from the beleaguered director once again continues his penchant for palpable realism, offering a fervent critique of his native Iran. As pointed as ever, “3 Faces” poignantly examines the tensions within a society where art and culture don’t always make a perfect match.

Read more at The Awards Circuit


Early in Frances Anne Solomon’s “Hero: Inspired by The Extraordinary Life and Times of Mr. Ulric Cross,” Nicola Cross – daughter of the film’s titular subject – states that she wishes she had explored her father’s life story before his death. But as the saying goes, better late than never. And after viewing the subsequent two hours of this globetrotting saga, audiences will likely agree that this film is overdue. An ambitious documentary-narrative feature hybrid, “Hero” showcases an accomplished diplomat/lawyer/decorated war veteran whose untold story deserves to be discovered.

Read more at The Awards Circuit


Recently Oscar nominated for Best Documentary Short, “Black Sheep” tells a powerful true story about racism and identity in the United Kingdom. Its subject is a young black man named Cornelius Walker, who recalls his traumatic childhood experiences with violent racism after moving from London to a predominantly white housing estate in Essex. Deftly mixing interviews and reenactment, “Black Sheep” is one of the impressive contenders in its Oscar category. In speaking with director Ed Perkins, however, he revealed that the idea for the film arose unintentionally from a casual conversation.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Top 10 American Remakes of Foreign Films

With this week’s release of “Miss Bala” and “The Upside” earlier this month, American remakes of foreign films are a hot trend in Hollywood right now. Of course, this is nothing new, as American filmmakers have long borrowed from world cinema since the earliest days of the medium. While many of these fail to live up to the reputation of the original films, there are others which have achieved enough popularity to become known as the definitive versions of their stories. As we anticipate a year slated to bring even more remakes, here’s a look back at 10 such outstanding American Remakes of Foreign Films which either equaled or surpassed their predecessors.

Read more at The Awards Circuit