5 Actors Who Should Have Been Nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2019 Oscars

Look, I love the Academy Awards as much as the next guy. It’s one of my absolute favorite events of the year, and I will breathlessly speculate and watch all approximately seven hours of the live telecast in order to see what wins Best Picture.

That said, 2018 was an exceptional year for movies, and there’s very few spots at the 2019 Oscars. I saw … let’s just say an almost-embarrassing amount of movies last year (RIP Good Moviepass), many of which were exceptional and did not get their due when this morning’s nominations were unveiled.

But let’s peek into an alternate dimension–one where everything that got nominated this morning didn’t, and where we have to come up with five new contenders for every category (or 10 in the case of Best Picture). Here are my picks for the best movies, performances and achievements that should have been nominated for the Oscars.

Click here to visit my lists for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directory and Best Cinematography.

BEST ACTRESS

Because movies are meant to be watched, I’ve included a short clip of each actor’s performance alongside a very short write-up. Don’t just listen to my hot takes–judge for yourself how good these men were.

BEN FOSTER (LEAVE NO TRACE)

Ben Foster’s soft-spoken, PTSD-afflicted veteran–who tries and fails to adapt to the modern world–is a masterwork of understatement, a quiet performance that should be getting more attention.

TIMOTHEE CHALAMET (BEAUTIFUL BOY)

Beautiful Boy is a mixed bag of a movie, but Chalamet tries his best to singlehandedly carry it through his moving depiction of a young adult addicted to crystal meth. His rollercoaster journey is the emotional backbone of the movie.

RUSSELL HORNSBY (THE HATE U GIVE)

The best opening scene of the year is Russell Hornsby’s, as he instructs his young children exactly how they are supposed to behave around police officers so that they will not be killed. “The talk,” as it’s billed, sets the tone for the entire movie. Hornsby is a powerful force throughout The Hate U Give, defending his family from both police injustice and his old gangster partners.

SHIA LEBEOUF (BORG VS. MCENROE)

Shia LeBeouf fully embodies legendary tennis player John McEnroe, who was known as a hothead and the bad boy of the tennis world. LaBeouf plays the fierce, emotional competitor to the top tennis player in the world, and he makes every single scene he’s in electric. You spend Borg vs. McEnroe just waiting for LaBeouf’s next great scene. He’s never been better.

STEPHAN JAMES (IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK)

I have genuinely no idea how this guy is not the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor this year, let alone not even in the conversation for a possible nomination as of a week ago. Without James, I don’t think If Beale Street Could Talk works as a film. He imbues such warmth, charisma and heart into this film through his flashback sequences, while showing the way prison is grating away at him in the modern scenes. It’s a tour de force.

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5 Actresses Who Should Have Been Nominated for Best Actress at the 2019 Oscars

Look, I love the Academy Awards as much as the next guy. It’s one of my absolute favorite events of the year, and I will breathlessly speculate and watch all approximately seven hours of the live telecast in order to see what wins Best Picture.

That said, 2018 was an exceptional year for movies, and there’s very few spots at the 2019 Oscars. I saw … let’s just say an almost-embarrassing amount of movies last year (RIP Good Moviepass), many of which were exceptional and did not get their due when this morning’s nominations were unveiled.

But let’s peek into an alternate dimension–one where everything that got nominated this morning didn’t, and where we have to come up with five new contenders for every category (or 10 in the case of Best Picture). Here are my picks for the best movies, performances and achievements that should have been nominated for the Oscars.

Click here to visit my lists for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directory and Best Cinematography.

BEST ACTRESS

Because movies are meant to be watched, I’ve included a short clip of each actor’s performance alongside a very short write-up. Don’t just listen to my hot takes–judge for yourself how good these women were.

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY (THOROUGHBREDS)

Anya Taylor-Joy starts this movie as the audience’s primary sympathetic character and by the end has become one of the most memorable villainesses of the last decade. She somehow manages to be consistently the coldest person in the room while sharing scenes with an actually sociopathic best friend.

ELSIE FISHER (EIGHTH GRADE)

Elsie Fisher manages to completely nail down not only how eighth graders actually behave but how it feels to be one. That’s a difficult balancing act that few could pull off, and she deserves plaudits for being the entire core of this movie.

KIKI LAYNE (IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK)

Despite having voiceovers consistently throughout the movie, Kiki Layne manages to convey more through her expressions and body language than her literal dialogue. Watch a skilled actress at work.

REGINA HALL (SUPPORT THE GIRLS)

Support the Girls tells the story of Lisa Conroy (Regina Hall)’s crazy final day of work managing the Hooters-like sports bar Double Whammies, while dealing with a personal crisis of her own. From the film’s opening–Lisa crying in her car–to the final moments of unrepressed screaming, Hall is the heart and soul of this film.

THOMASIN HARCOURT MCKENZIE (LEAVE NO TRACE)

McKenzie’s breakout role as a young girl forced to live in modern society for the first time–and discovering the joys and pains of that–is the year’s biggest revelation.

5 Actors Who Should Have Been Nominated for Best Actor at the 2019 Oscars

Look, I love the Academy Awards as much as the next guy. It’s one of my absolute favorite events of the year, and I will breathlessly speculate and watch all approximately seven hours of the live telecast in order to see what wins Best Picture.

That said, 2018 was an exceptional year for movies, and there’s very few spots at the 2019 Oscars. I saw … let’s just say an almost-embarrassing amount of movies last year (RIP Good Moviepass), many of which were exceptional and did not get their due when this morning’s nominations were unveiled.

But let’s peek into an alternate dimension–one where everything that got nominated this morning didn’t, and where we have to come up with five new contenders for every category (or 10 in the case of Best Picture). Here are my picks for the best movies, performances and achievements that should have been nominated for the Oscars.

Click here to visit my lists for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directory and Best Cinematography.

BEST ACTOR

Because movies are meant to be watched, I’ve included a short clip of each actor’s performance alongside a very short write-up. Don’t just listen to my hot takes–judge for yourself how good these men were.

DAVEED DIGGS (BLINDSPOTTING)

I knew Daveed Diggs before Blindspotting as “that guy from Hamilton.” Now I know him as one of the brightest rising stars around. He plays his character, a moving company employee who’s just trying to keep the peace until his parole ends, with so many emotional layers it’s honestly incredible. Watch in just the scene above how many different feelings he flickers through, while suspending the scene (through his dialogue) in a sense of both deep reality and fantastical surrealism.

ETHAN HAWKE (FIRST REFORMED)

Without Ethan Hawke’s killer performance, there is no First Reformed. He plays a priest losing his faith, dying of sickness and on the verge of becoming radicalized.

MICHAEL B. JORDAN (CREED II)

Michael B. Jordan gives his all in Creed II. The physical transformation may catch eyes, but it’s his emotional work–grappling with his father’s history, discovering his daughter’s deafness, yelling at Rocky in the hospital–that really sets this above his work in the first movie.

NICK OFFERMAN (HEARTS BEAT LOUD)

This indie gem didn’t get nearly enough attention, and that’s a shame. Nick Offerman is a delight as the owner of a failing record shop who’s desperately trying to connect with his daughter over music. His drunken rebuff of a love interest is a heartbreaking sequence.

RYAN GOSLING (FIRST MAN)

Oh, First Man. You never got the love everyone expected given Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling teaming up for a Neil Armstrong biopic. Still, the ever-understated Armstrong is a hard and very unflashy part to play, and Gosling acquits himself exceptionally well. He’s playing a grieving father burying himself in his work to hide his pain–which he does with the exception of one scene–and scenes with his kids show how deep his emotional armor runs, preventing him from bonding with them so he can’t get hurt again. It’s a great performance, though not the flashy type the Academy usually rewards. It makes sense why he wasn’t nominated–but it’s still disappointing.

10 Movies That Should Have Been Nominated for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars

Look, I love the Academy Awards as much as the next guy. It’s one of my absolute favorite events of the year, and I will breathlessly speculate and watch all approximately seven hours of the live telecast in order to see what wins Best Picture.

That said, 2018 was an exceptional year for movies, and there’s very few spots at the 2019 Oscars. I saw … let’s just say an almost-embarrassing amount of movies last year (RIP Good Moviepass), many of which were exceptional and did not get their due when this morning’s nominations were unveiled.

But let’s peek into an alternate dimension–one where everything that got nominated this morning didn’t, and where we have to come up with five new contenders for every category (or 10 in the case of Best Picture). Here are my picks for the best movies, performances and achievements that should have been nominated for the Oscars.

Click here to visit my lists for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directory and Best Cinematography.

BEST PICTURE

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

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Four guests arrive at the El Royale, a former novelty hotel on the California-Nevada border that’s fallen into disrepair. Then everything goes to hell. This twisting, turning puzzle-box of a movie is constantly surprising, suspenseful and inventive. The cast is a great mix of established stars (Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges and Chris Hemsworth) and new, rising talents (Dakota Johnson, Lewis Pullman and movie MVP Cynthia Erivo). The movie wrestles with Christian themes of forgiveness, deception (of self and others) and whether redemption for a sinner is truly possible. There’s Nolan-style formalistic toying with time and perspective, leading to sequences that viewers will remain with you for years. There’s just enough weird symbolism poking around the edges to stimulate fan theories for decades (my favorite involves whether the hotel itself is a form of Purgatory). It’s a shame this intelligent thriller received no recognition at all at the Oscars.

BLINDSPOTTING

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Gentrification. Police brutality. Black identity. White identity. Passing down your sins to the next generation. These are just some of the heavy themes that Blindspotting covers. But while the movie can get just as heavy as any of these fellow dramas, there’s also a certain lightness and playfulness to it. Characters flow in and out of stylized, spoken-word dialogue. Hilarity comes from the mundane. Holding it all together is the most interesting friendship of any 2018 movie, Collin and Miles, who react in very different ways to their changing city, culminating in two different heart-stopping climaxes. It’s hard to fully explain Blindspotting, but it’s a movie everyone should see–and it’s clear the Academy didn’t, or it would have been nominated for Best Picture.

COME SUNDAY

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Full disclosure: I am a church kid. I grew up in church my entire life, and spent some of my formative years at a Pentecostal church (before writing for a Pentecostal national magazine as an adult). I say all of that to say: This has to be the most inside-baseball look at the Pentecostal church, and I love it. Better than any Christian movie, this is a movie that understands how Christians actually talk to each other, how faith manifests in daily life, and how a simple theological argument can ravage and tear apart a church. Led by a brilliant performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Come Sunday tells the true story of Carlton Pearson, a megachurch pastor who says he heard from God that everyone is saved–Jesus is not the only way to eternal life in heaven. What makes Come Sunday so smart is it never takes a side on whether Pearson heard correctly from God–Pearson clearly believes he does, and his church clearly believes he is mistaken. Your interpretation of Pearson’s beliefs change whether you view him as an underdog fighting a flawed institution or a tragic Shakespearean hero whose one tragic flaw (he cannot admit he was mistaken) will doom everything and everyone he cares about. Both films are equally enjoyable, and I have no clue how they accomplished that. Jason Segel, Martin Sheen and Lakeith Stanfield round out the talented ensemble. Curious? This film’s on Netflix, so go watch it right now.

THE FRONT RUNNER

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This movie about a powerful man whose private misdeeds catch up to him and cost him his political office was almost too timely to be successful, releasing in theaters just five weeks after the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings rocked the country. I think the proximity of those hearings–plus all the injustices unearthed by the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements–made people wary about this film. I read plenty of reviews saying The Front Runner even agrees with the main character’s quixotic vision that private life should have nothing to do with the public life, a political statement that outright turned off many. But respectfully, The Front Runner has a much more complicated message than, “Let these powerful men live their lives and have whatever office they want.” If anything, this dramatization of Gary Hart’s 1988 campaign makes the salient point that it’s not the powerful men at the center of these storms or the media who broke it who will pay the steepest consequences, though they feud with each other. It’s the people surrounding the powerful. It’s Donna Rice, portrayed in a small but moving role by Sara Paxton, who suffers as first Hart and then the journalists chasing him use and discard her while treating her like she’s nothing. It’s Oletha and Andrea Hart, his wife and daughter, who suffer as journalists bombard their house and destroy their personal lives through no fault of their own. Maybe Hart is the one screaming against the system–but he’s not the real victim here. And that’s not even factoring in the strong ensemble cast, Jackman’s compelling lead performance and the screenplay’s almost Sorkin-like banter and dialogue constantly happening in a low hum in the background. It’s a shame The Front Runner was never even an outside contender for this year’s Oscars.

GEMINI

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Gemini has mood for days. One of 2018’s most gorgeous films finds a celebrity assistant (Lola Kirke) on the run from detectives (led by John Cho) who believe she murdered her boss, starlet Heather Anderson (Zoe Kravitz). But both she and viewers know that she didn’t do it, so she needs to solve the mystery before she is caught. The movie’s twist alienated some viewers, but it’s still an original showcase of both acting and mood and a fresh update to the neglected film-noir genre.

THE HATE U GIVE

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Here’s my hot take of the year: inexplicable awards magnet BlacKkKlansman is not a very good movie. In fact, its script is basically the liberal equivalent of God’s Not Dead 2. (But that’s a future blog post…) I love a good politically-charged call-to-action movie, and I think racial tensions are one of the most important issues our country is facing right now. But it’s amazing to me that BlacKkKlansman is getting all the love when just a couple months later, The Hate U Give came to theaters and was more relevant and emotional, while boasting better acting, direction and writing. Neither film works in subtleties–I mean, the main character of The Hate U Give is literally named “Starr,” with a storyline ripped from the headlines and a few incredibly on-the-nose lines of dialogue–but boy is it effective at making you feel the struggle of today’s African-American community. The Hate U Give is about Starr, who witnesses a police officer shooting an unarmed black man, her friend Khalil, and who must then decide what to do with this information. Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall and especially Russell Hornsby bring incredible performances. But what I love about this movie is its mix of passion and fairness. By the end of the movie, Starr has becoming fully politically activated, leading riots in the street for racial equality and giving interviews on news channels. You’re with her every step of the way, feeling the crushing weight of the system’s unfairness, the pain of discovering her white friends may harbor unspoken racial biases against her, the immediate confusion of the shooting. But the film isn’t just raw emotions. One of my favorite scenes of the year involves a conversation with her police uncle, Carlos (played by Common), who explains why the shooting of an unarmed suspect could happen as part of police protocol and neatly gets to explain the other side’s stance without demonization. It’s a debate Starr more or less wins, but the movie is not so dogmatic as to insist the other side doesn’t exist or even have some valid points–it just disagrees. In a politically extreme world, I think that’s a great characteristic.

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

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This is the one that surprises me the most, given that Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight literally won Best Picture (sorry, La La Land) a couple years ago. If Beale Street Could Talk is no less moving, technically excellent or righteous anger-inducing. It’s a shame Academy Award voters overlooked it.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

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I thought the last thing we needed was another Spider-Man movie. What I couldn’t have known is that Spider-Verse knows we are at peak Spider-Man, with far too many Spider-Men crowding our screen over the past two decades–and leans into it, gets way self-aware and just enjoys itself. I have seen this movie twice, and I don’t think I stop grinning for the entirety of either screening. There was not a more fun movie in 2018, and there’s a case to be made that this is the best movie about a black superhero released this year. Spider-Verse has a unique artstyle that makes it one of the most beautiful animated films ever released. It’s a love letter to comics fans, an emotional coming-of-age story any filmgoer can appreciate, and unquestionably one of 2018’s best movies.

THOROUGHBREDS

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Thoroughbreds is dark, twisted and totally off its rocker. I loved it. In a way, it makes sense that the Academy Awards wouldn’t celebrate this movie about two teenage girls who decide to murder one girl’s stepfather just because they don’t like him. But the themes in this movie are so richly developed, crossing diverse subjects like the way we treat and discuss personality disorders to the way people in different classes relate to one another. The soundtrack, cinematography and direction are all just off-kilter enough to be distinctive and set a mood. The movie’s spiral into a surprising but ultimately unsurprising third act is deeply satisfying. Plus, Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke dazzle in their depiction of a toxic friendship. Thoroughbreds’ weird, offputting tone and subject material won’t be for everyone, but then again, neither is The Favourite–and that got nominated for Best Picture.

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

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Also known as the documentary that made everybody weep uncontrollably in a movie theater. Seriously, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is the most warm, fuzzy, emotional movie of the year, and this was a year when Paddington 2 came out. The documentary shows how Fred Rogers, an ordained minister, became a childhood television host in order to give kids what they most desperately needed: pure love. The rest of the movie breaks into the psychology of him and his viewers. It’s captivating, beautiful and will make you want to be a better person. It’s the opposite of the daily news and the antidote to all the maddening things happening in the world. It was indisputably my favorite film of 2018, and it didn’t even get nominated for Best Documentary.

REVIEW: Come Sunday

Come Sunday is the most striking film I’ve seen this year. The movie tells the story of Carlton Pearson, a Pentecostal megachurch pastor who declared God would never send people to hell and that everybody was saved. But more than that, it tells the story of Pearson’s community and the fallout of his proclamation. Like Silence, it’s a movie about devout Christians which doesn’t claim to have the answers. It’s an empathetic film about a theological debate, to which both sides have compelling points.

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The acting and direction is uniformly terrific. Chiwetel Ejiofor shines as Pearson, expressing his deep doubts, convictions and fears with just glances. Lakeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen and (surprisingly) Jason Segel all turn in terrific supporting performances as well. I felt the segments about Pearson’s home life were a bit too on-the-nose and maybe the least compelling parts of the film, but boy does the rest of it deliver.

The film grapples with the question of God’s love and mercy and the existence of hell. Full disclosure: I do not take Pearson’s side on this debate. But as I watched Come Sunday, I was able to empathize with why he believed everyone was saved while still disagreeing. I also expected Sheen and Segel to become the movie’s bad guys, heartless Puritanical church leaders whom Ejiofor would get to rage against. But they’re not. Instead, they’re loving, human beings. They act exactly like almost any of my Christian friends would. They’re confused and heartbroken when Pearson declares his universalist beliefs and try repeatedly to (lovingly) show him his error. But Pearson believes God has spoken to him, and their arguments fall on deaf ears. They are forced to leave him, eventually, but even flashforwards demonstrate their ongoing love for him and their hope for his reconciliation to the larger body of Christ. They’re not perfect, and Segel’s character falls into the (all-too-real) trap of believing that Pearson’s wrong because their congregation has left. But it was a relief to see a movie where characters spar with Bible verses as they wrestle with a thorny issue, while still remaining compassionate and loving toward one another. Only a late scene with an elder board gets fiery, and it’s understandable in the context.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Come Sunday, depending on your worldview, is either the Job-like story of a man who loses everything because he stands by doing what’s right, or it’s the tragedy of a man, deceived by his own emotions, slowly losing and alienating everyone he cares about. That impression will be crystallized by the film’s final scenes, with Lakeith Stanfield’s character, in which he begs for Pearson to lead him to salvation. He pleads he doesn’t know how to stop sinning but says Pearson can save him; Pearson responds he is already saved. For this hell-believing reviewer, it’s a heartbreaking twist on an earlier scene in which Pearson refuses to lead his uncle (played by Danny Glover) to salvation because he feels it won’t be genuine. Here, he has a beloved, dying friend who genuinely seeks salvation, but Pearson refuses on the basis that it’s unneeded. If hell isn’t real, neither is a tragic; it doesn’t matter what Pearson does. If hell is real, Pearson’s stubbornness–manifest both ways–carries eternal consequences for both men. Which means, in some ways, that Come Sunday becomes even richer viewed through a traditional Christian framework: here is a man who quite literally paves the road to hell with good intentions.

(Spoilers over.)

The film is alternately devastating and beautiful, bursting with empathy for every party involved. I sincerely hope more movies about complicated religious subjects are made, because Come Sunday proves it doesn’t have to be about the triumph of one side or another; there’s beauty in understanding. Maybe that’s what we need more of today.

REVIEW: Thoroughbreds

Guys, Thoroughbreds is really good. The script itself is quite good, but it’s easy to imagine this being directed in a relatively bland or predictable way. But the direction makes all the difference. From the first scene, director Cory Finley excels at making an incredibly tense, offbeat, nerve-fraying environment where everything might be fine right now, but everything feels mere seconds away from spiraling out of control.

Thoroughbreds is the story of two girls, Amanda and Lily, who hatch a plot to murder Lily’s stepfather. The first half of the movie coasts slightly on its tone as it hits fairly stereotypical beats for this sort of plot, but the back half is genuinely unpredictable as the plot zigs and zags delightfully.

But it’s not an enjoyable, Tarantino-esque murder-fest. Though Amanda and Lily are the film’s protagonists, few will walk away feeling like they’re heroic. Both actresses (Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy) are phenomenal at making you constantly shift your viewpoints on them. And the movie packs a powerful message about the dangers of our modern devaluing of life. I am not the main character and you are not a supporting character in my life story, and the instant we forget that–as many have–it can have devastating consequences.

Plus, the movie finds a way to tell a story almost entirely about violence without ever glorifying it the way most films–even anti-violence films–accidentally do through depiction. Violence and danger loom just out of sight of every frame, but the true blood and gore happen off-screen. In fact, if not for a few f-words, I’d swear this film was PG-13.

For its creative direction, restraint, soundtrack (!) and incredible leads, I highly recommend Thoroughbreds.

REVIEW: Super Dark Times

This is the fifth and final installment of Taylor’s “Final [Film] Countdown of 2017,” in which he rushes to watch as many good movies from 2017 as possible before the year’s Oscars ceremony.

It’s been about 20 minutes since the movie finished and I think my heart’s just beginning to settle down. Super Dark Times is an incredible movie that had me hooked in dread and tension like few others this year, although its commitment to tone leaves its final 10 minutes a bit rushed and a bit confusing.

The story is about two friends, Zach and Josh, who are typical teenagers until a horrific act of violence occurs that permanently affects their friendship. Those who know me know some of my favorite movies are about the slow-motion dissolution of relationships (The Social NetworkThe World’s End500 Days of Summer, etc.), so this was right up my alley. However, what keeps it shy of my best-of lists is that I’m not sure Josh’s arc gets fully followed. While Zach’s story is very well-told, his friend’s is ambiguous to a fault–it helps Zach’s story, but it leaves Josh’s actions in the third act seemingly completely irrational.

That said, the movie’s tense, paranoid vibe is incredible. Dream sequences are used sparingly but effectively to illustrate Zach’s untethering from reality. The acting by Owen Campbell (Zach), Elizabeth Cappuccino (Alison) and Sawyer Barth (Charlie) are all really remarkable, especially for their age.

In many ways, this film reminds me of Ingrid Goes West, another fascinating and haunting film that had some issues sticking the landing. Super Dark Times is a total thrill ride, but in the end, I’m not sure whether it had something more to say.

Best Part: From about 20 minutes left to 3 minutes left.

Worst Part: The final 3 minutes. Alternately, the absurd amounts of profanity used in the first 20 minutes.

REVIEW: Icarus

This is the fourth installment of Taylor’s “Final [Film] Countdown of 2017,” in which he rushes to watch as many good movies from 2017 as possible before the year’s Oscars ceremony.

This is my first documentary in the weekend marathon, and I found what I usually found with documentaries: that I had trouble maintaining interest the whole way through. This is more my fault than Icarus‘, however, as Icarus is easily the most interesting of the documentaries I saw in 2017. The whole movie unfolds in such a crazy, high-stakes way that you can hardly believe it’s real.

Certain sequences feel more like a spy thriller or an espionage movie than a documentary. Basically, the documentarian starts off by talking to a Russian doctor about how he can dope himself in order to achieve better results in a race. In short, he’s trying to expose steroid usage from the inside, showing that even an average joe on HGH can hang with the pros. It’s Supersize Me with steroids.

Until it dramatically stops being that. To say more than that would be to spoil the fun of this Netflix documentary, and I highly recommend avoiding further spoilers. I think part of my enjoyment of this film was slightly robbed by knowing in advance what the true subject of the documentary was.

That said, it was still a pretty good time.

Best Part: The doctor’s frantic Skype calls around the middle of the movie. (Kept vague for spoilers.)

Worst Part: Immediately after that segment, the film hits a slight skid in momentum before regaining composure by explaining itself.

REVIEW: The Breadwinner

This is the third installment of Taylor’s “Final [Film] Countdown of 2017,” in which he rushes to watch as many good movies from 2017 as possible before the year’s Oscars ceremony.

The Breadwinner is a gorgeous animated film about Padwana, a young girl in 2001 Afghanistan who disguises herself as a boy when her father is arrested by the Taliban. Animation is typically associated with kids films, but while this movie could be seen by children, it’s certainly rich enough for adults. The film explores institutionalized sexism, Islam and even the effect of the war on terrorism on everyday non-terrorists.

Much like CocoThe Breadwinner’s chief competition at this year’s Oscars–the film is not particularly subtle in its emotional beats, but it hits them effectively and hard. You know exactly what the movie wants you to feel, but boy does it make you feel those emotions anyway. (Spielberg films have a similar effect, in my experience.) Padwana’s story, told alongside another folk narrative that ultimately ties in surprisingly well, is exciting, unpredictable and very interesting.

The film also shines in making its location feel lived in. I feel like I understand the dynamics of Afghanistan better after watching this movie. Obviously, I’m no expert–and maybe the film’s depiction is inaccurate. But the lived-in experience of everyday people feels genuine and authentic. The movie skillfully displays the Taliban as menaces and nuisances even to the faithful Muslims of Afghanistan, albeit common menaces (the same way we might imagine violent gangsters in major American cities).

Ultimately, The Breadwinner is a great animated film that people of all ages will enjoy. In a review, I saw someone answered “You will like this movie if…” with the simple “…you like good movies.” I couldn’t agree more.

Best Part: The folk tale animation, often deployed in clever ways.

Worst Part: The movie is a bit “obvious” at times, although it’s still emotionally effective.

REVIEW: Columbus

This is the second installment of Taylor’s “Final [Film] Countdown of 2017,” in which he rushes to watch as many good movies from 2017 as possible before the year’s Oscars ceremony.

Columbus is a masterpiece of minimalism. It’s hard to believe this is director Kogonada’s first film, as he’s incredibly self-assured in his style already. Columbus tells the story of two people: Jin, a Korean-American translator who’s in town after his professor father fell into a coma, and Casey, a librarian dreaming of more who feels trapped looking after her addict mother.

This movie is so different in the best possible way. Some entire scenes are shot from just one camera angle that lasts for two or three minutes. The result is a film that breathes, that lives in the silences. Characters debate early on the nature of attention spans; this is a movie that rewards those with a lengthy attention span.

And my goodness, Haley Lu Richardson is phenomenal in this film, giving perhaps the best performance of the entire year. It’s a shame she got no consideration in this year’s Oscars. John Cho and Rory Culkin also turn in great performances.

Honestly, for those willing to abide a slow-burn and pay close attention, Columbus is one of 2017’s best treats. It’s a shame I didn’t discover it until 2018.

Best Part: Haley Lu Richardson. Literally every scene she’s in.

Worst Part: Hard to think of one. Maybe overly slow in some parts, but honestly, it’s mostly earned.