Most Valuable Players: Actors Who Appeared More than One Top 2017 Film

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Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothee Chalamet, Sally Hawkins, Lucas Hedges, Alison Brie, and Caleb Landry Jones are among the actors who appeared in more than one 2017 awards contender. Some are well-known actors we are seeing in a new light, like Bob Odenkirk, or well-known actors who just keep being great like Nicole Kidman and Robin Wright. Others are reliable stalwarts like Stuhlbarg, Tracy Letts, and Bill Camp. Others seem to have come out of nowhere to astonish us, like Chalamet and Jones. Indiewire has a great gallery of last year’s MVPs.

Copyright Fox Searchlight 2017
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12 Strong

B

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Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for war violence and language throughout
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Portrayal of misogynistic regime
Violence/ Scariness: Extended wartime violence, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 19, 2018

Copyright 2017 Warner Brothers
If it was fiction, you’d dismiss it as too far-fetched. But this recently declassified military mission following 9/11, with a tiny Special Forces group, just twelve men, led by an officer who had never been in combat, were sent to Afghanistan to take out a Taliban outpost. They were vastly overmatched in terms of men and weapons. And, most improbable of all, they had to travel by horseback. Men trained to use the very latest of technology were riding the mode transportation used by knights and cowboys. These guys are the best of the best, nothing but courage, patriotism, skill, and determination all the way through. Think of them as The Clean or rather Sandy Dozen.

This film begins with a brief reminder of the terrorist attacks leading up to the airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. And then, as in all films of men about to go into danger, we see happy families, just enough to make sure we care about these loving husbands and fathers. We know that Captain Nelson (Chris Hemsworth, back to being mortal after “Thor: Ragnarok” but no less heroic) is not going to be able to keep his promise to pick that adorable ladybug-drawing daughter after school, and pretty soon he knows it, too.

There are wives who bravely say that this is what they signed up for. One says, “Some wives cry; I clean,” as she scrubs her oven. Another looks at her husband grimly, insisting he give their son the bad news himself. Nelson has to undo his plans for a desk job to go back to his team. He also has to prove himself to his commanding officer, who selects him over five other teams because he seems to have the best understanding of the challenges, especially the weather that will make their mission impossible if they don’t complete it before winter makes the route impassable.

And then the twelve are on their way with just the briefest and sketchiest debrief from a CIA officer. There are three warlords in the area who all oppose the Taliban but otherwise are in mortal combat with each other. One of the challenges for the American team will be to keep that fragile alliance in place as they need the support of all of them to reach the outpost, liberating several locations along the way.

It is hard to follow at times. There are so many “the whole world depends on this next impossible thing” moments, so much bro talk, so much tech talk, so many reminders of how many days “in country,” so many similar-looking explosions and shoot-outs. But Hemsworth, Shannon, and Pena create real, relatable and yet heroic characters, and seeing them ride into battle on horseback against daunting odds is genuinely moving and inspiring. The most intriguing part is the developing relationship between Nelson and his local counterpart, General Dostum (Navid Negahban). The outcome revealed before the credits is appropriately both reassuring and disturbing.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive wartime peril and violence including guns and explosions with many characters injured and killed, some grisly and disturbing images, references to child abuse, strong language, and some sexual references.

Family discussion: What is the difference between a soldier, a warrior, and a warlord? How did Nelson and Dostum learn to trust one another? What can we tell about the man by the way they said goodbye to their families?

If you like this, try: the book by Doug Stanton and the movies “Act of Valor,” “Lone Survivor” and “Charlie Wilson’s War”

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Forever My Girl

C

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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements including drinking, and for language
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and alcohol abuse, reference to drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Sad death, scene in hospital, child in peril
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 19, 2018

Copyright 2017 Forever My Girl
Well, there is a brief song by Travis Tritt. And actor Alex Roe is personable and engaging even in the preposterously imagined role of Liam Page, a country singer whose every moment is obsessed over by zillions of fans and all of the magazines sold at grocery store checkout counters. But that can’t make up for the syrupy Nicholas Sparks wannabe storyline, clunky dialogue (we are told three times in the first seven minutes that hometown boy Liam is on the brink of stardom) and the excruciatingly chirpy child at its heart.

Liam Page runs out on his wedding, leaving Josie (Jessica Rothe) in their Louisiana hometown and going off to pursue a career in music. Eight years later, he is is a country superstar, performing in arenas and chased by fans as though he is a Beatle. A would-be groupie accidentally breaks his vintage cell phone, and he runs to the store barefoot offering $10,000 to get it repaired. Under the duct tape and the bent antenna there is a voicemail he just cannot lose (or, apparently, download to another phone). This is, of course, documented by fans on their (up to date) cell phones and a major news story.

Liam is a mess, drinking too much, behind on the songs he owes his record label. When he finds out that his hometown best friend has been killed in an accident, he returns, to stand outside the church during the funeral, unable to bring himself to go inside. He gets a grim greeting from the preacher, who is his father, and a punch in the stomach from Josie. But it turns out that Josie has a seven year old daughter, and it does not take a math whiz to figure out that Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson) unfortunately conceived as 90 percent precocious sass with gratingly quippy commentary about the “stats on surviving an accident in a convertible — they are low, staggeringly low.” “What happened to Mom’s rose garden?” Liam asks his father in case we are missing the metaphor. Don’t worry, no one possibly could.

The town (Georgia playing the part of Louisiana) is like the setting for a Hallmark channel Christmas movie starring Hannah Montana, with twinkly lights and bustling businesses on Main Street, and just filled with good neighbors who are endlessly supportive and kind and unanimous in their rejection of the hometown boy who jilted Josie. We know where this is all going, but it is still jarring when Josie goes from a Taylor Swiftian “we are never ever getting back together” to “I want to go on a magical superstar date!”

Listen, Nicholas Sparks is already Nicholas Sparks lite. You can’t really take it any further or, I should say, make it more shallow than that. Pretty people with pretty problems will always be playing on a screen somewhere, but this one is better suited for watching while folding laundry.

Parents should know that this film includes drinking and alcohol abuse, reference to drug use, sad parental death, offscreen fatal accident, mild references to groupies and pregancy, and some language.

Family discussion: Why did Liam leave Josie? Should she forgive him? Why?

If you like this, try: “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” “The Lucky One” and “Dear John”

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Mira Singer on the Theme of Failure in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”

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Mira Singer has an exceptionally thoughtful essay on the theme of failure in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” NOTE: To be read after seeing the films as there are spoilers.

Master Yoda, the wisest character in the Star Wars universe, says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” The film doesn’t just state this message — it proves it. Each of the characters’ failures leads to important lessons, character development, and thematic revelation. There is an inverse relationship between the success of the characters’ plans and the lessons they learn, which is the way life often works.

It is only because the characters fail that they learn what they learn and grow the way they do. What they want is different from what they need. Separating character want and need is a classic storytelling technique that this movie executes successfully — the characters pursue what they want, and they don’t get it. Instead, they get what they need.

FURTHER SPOILERS: I note that there were several films about retreat by the good guys this year including three different movies about the real-life Dunkirk rescue (“Dunkirk,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Their Finest”), “The Last Jedi,” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” I will have to think about what this signifies.

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Critics Choice Awards: Shape of Water, The Big Sick, and More

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It was a thrill to attend the Critics Choice Awards as a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I got to tell so many of the filmmakers I love how much their work means to me. And I am very proud of our selections.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced the winners of the 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards tonight, live from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Hollywood’s brightest stars shined at the gala event, which aired on The CW Network at 8PM ET (delayed PT), and was hosted by actor and activist Olivia Munn.

“The Shape of Water,” the most nominated film of the evening, took home four awards, the most of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Production Design for Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin, and Best Score for Alexandre Desplat.

The top film acting awards were bestowed upon Gary Oldman, who took home Best Actor for his work in “Darkest Hour,” and Frances McDormand, awarded Best Actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand’s co-star Sam Rockwell won the trophy for Best Supporting Actor, while Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for her standout performance in “I, Tonya.”

Nominated for five awards, Big Little Lies (HBO) earned four trophies including Best Limited Series and Best Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series for Nicole Kidman, while co-stars Alexander Skarsgård and Laura Dern were named Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series, respectively. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) won Best Drama Series, in addition to Best Actress in a Drama Series for Elisabeth Moss, and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Ann Dowd. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) won Best Comedy Series, in addition to Best Actress in a Comedy Series for its leading lady, Rachel Brosnahan.

As previously announced, Gal Gadot received the #SeeHer Award presented by the Association of National Advertisers in conjunction with The CW Network. Gadot accepted the award from her “Wonder Woman” director, Patty Jenkins.

“The Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics’ organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today’s film-going public. BTJA is the collective voice of journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.

The 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards show was produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. The BFCA and BTJA are represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig and WME.

About BFCA/BTJA
The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) is a partner organization to the BFCA and includes TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover television on a regular basis. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com.

WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP – “Darkest Hour”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY – “The Big Sick”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In The Fade”

BEST SONG – “Remember Me” from “Coco”

BEST SCORE – Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”

TELEVISION:
BEST COMEDY SERIES – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES – Ted Danson, The Good Place, NBC

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES – Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES – Walton Goggins, Vice Principals, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES – Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory, CBS

BEST DRAMA SERIES – The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES – Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us, NBC

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES – Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES – David Harbour, Stranger Things, Netflix

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES – Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu

BEST LIMITED SERIES – Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST MOVIE MADE FOR TV – The Wizard of Lies, HBO

BEST ACTOR IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Ewan McGregor, Fargo, FX

BEST ACTRESS IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TV OR LIMITED SERIES – Laura Dern, Big Little Lies, HBO

BEST TALK SHOW – Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC

BEST ANIMATED SERIES – Rick and Morty, Adult Swim

BEST UNSTRUCTURED REALITY SERIES – Born This Way, A&E

BEST STRUCTURED REALITY SERIES – Shark Tank, ABC

BEST REALITY COMPETITION SERIES – The Voice, NBC

BEST REALITY SHOW HOST – RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race, VH1

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