Movie Award Season!

So we are officially in movie award season! It’s very different this year, and I’m way more behind than I usually am. Part of it is that we haven’t even gotten nominations yet for most of the awards and many of the shows won’t be held until next month.

The Calendar:

March 7: Critics Choice Awards

March 8: Producers Guild nominations; African-American Film Critics’ Association nominations

March 9: BAFTA nominations; Directors Guild nominations

March 15: Oscar nominations!

March 21: Writers Guild awards

March 24: Producers Guild awards

April 4: SAG Awards!

April 7: African-American Film Critics’ Association awards

April 10: Directors Guild awards

April 11: BAFTAs

April 22: Independent Spirit awards

April 25: Oscars

The Movies (and Where/How to See Them):

Best Picture:

Da 5 Bloods (watch on Netflix) (one of the AFI’s 10 Best; Best Cast from SAG awards; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

The Father (currently in theaters; will hit streaming in mid-March) (nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes)

First Cow (streaming across various platforms) (Best Feature for Independent Spirit)

Judas and the Black Messiah (currently on HBO Max; then will be available to rent elsewhere) (one of the AFI’s 10 best)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (watch on Netflix) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; Best Feature from Independent Spirit; Best Cast from SAG Awards; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Mank (watch on Netflix) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Minari (available to rent across streaming platforms) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; Best Feature from Independent Spirit; Best Cast from SAG Awards; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (available to rent across various streaming platforms) (Best Feature from Independent Spirit)

News of the World (Available to rent across streaming platforms) (Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Nomadland (watch on Hulu) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; Best Feature from Independent Spirit; won Golden Globe for Best Drama; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

One Night in Miami (free with Amazon Prime) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; Best Cast from SAG Awards; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Promising Young Woman (available to rent across streaming services) (nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Soul (Disney+) (one of the AFI’s 10 best)

Sound of Metal (free with Amazon Prime) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) (one of the AFI’s 10 best; nominated for best drama at the Golden Globes; Best Cast from SAG Awards; Best Picture from Critics Choice)

Director nominations:

Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) (Independent Spirit; Critics Choice)

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) (Independent Spirit; Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

David Fincher (Mank) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Eliza Hittman (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) (Independent Spirit)

Regina King (One Night in Miami) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods) (Critics Choice)

Kelly Reichardt (First Cow) (Independent Spirit)

Aaron Sorkin (Trial of the Chicago 7) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) (Independent Spirit; won Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Acting nominations:

Actor:

Ben Affleck (The Way Back) (Critics Choice)

Riz Ahmed (The Sound of Metal) (Independent Spirit; nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) (won Golden Globe; Independent Spirit; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Adarsh Gourav (The White Tiger) (Independent Spirit)

Tom Hanks (News of the World) (Critics Choice)

Anthony Hopkins (The Father) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) (Critics Choice)

Rob Morgan (Bull) (Independent Spirit)

Gary Oldman (Mank) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian) (nominated for Golden Globe)

Steven Yeun (Minari) (Independent Spirit; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Actress:

Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy) (SAG award)

Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth) (Independent Spirit)

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) (Independent Spirit; nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) (won Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Sidney Flanagan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) (Independent Spirit; Critics Choice)

Julia Garner (The Assistant) (Independent Spirit)

Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Frances McDormand (Nomadland) (Independent Spirit; nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) Independent Spirit; nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie) (Critics Choice)

Supporting Actor:

Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods) (SAG award; Critics Choice)

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Colman Domingo (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) (Independent Spirit)

Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) (won Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Orion Lee (First Cow) (Independent Spirit)

Jared Leto (The Little Things) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award)

Bill Murray (On the Rocks) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Leslie Odom, Jr. (One Night in Miami) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Paul Raci (Sound of Metal) (Independent Spirit; Critics Choice)

Glynn Turman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) (Independent Spirit)

Benedict Wong (Nine Days) (Independent Spirit)

Supporting Actress:

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) (SAG Award; Critics Choice)

Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman) (Critics Choice)

Alexis Chikaeze (Miss Juneteenth (Independent Spirit)

Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Olivia Colman (The Father) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Yeri Han (Minari) (Independent Spirit)

Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) (won Golden Globe)

Valerie Mahaffey (French Exit) (Independent Spirit)

Talia Ryder (Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Independent Spirit)

Amanda Seyfried (Mank) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) (Independent Spirit; SAG award; Critics Choice)

Helena Zengel (News of the World) (nominated for Golden Globe; SAG award)

Screenplay nominations:

Lee Isaac Chung (Minari) (Independent Spirit; Critics Choice)

Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) (nominated for Golden Globe; Independent Spirit; Critics Choice)

Jack Fincher (Mank) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies (News of the World) (Critics Choice)

Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller (The Father) (Critics Choice)

Eliza Hittman (Never Rarely Sometimes Always) (Independent Spirit; Critics Choice)

Mike Makowsky (Bad Education) (Independent Spirit)

Darius Marder and Abraham Marder (Sound of Metal) (Critics Choice)

Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami) (Critics Choice)

Jon Raymond and Kelly Reichardt (First Cow) (Critics Choice)

Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) (Critics Choice)

Aaron Sorkin (Trial of the Chicago 7) (won Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Alice Wu (The Half of It) Independent Spirit)

Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (The Father) (nominated for Golden Globe)

Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) (nominated for Golden Globe; Critics Choice)

Pop Culture & Diversity

Yesterday, I discussed (super briefly) the Hollywood Foreign Press and the fact that there aren’t Black people in it.

This is a common problem with most award shows. It’s definitely getting better, but there is such a long way to go. And sometimes it seems like it’s getting better and then we find out that no, it’s really not.

The best example of this is a few years ago. Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman were both nominated for Best Picture. Unfortunately, the movie that won was Green Book. (Movies about racism shouldn’t center white people and their feelings.)

But there are also good signs. Of the AFI’s 10 best films of 2020, seven of the 10 are about BIPOC (eight, if you count Soul). The other seven (Da 5 Bloods, Judas and the Black Messiah, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Minari, One Night in Miami, Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7*) are doing really well this award season. (So is one of the other two, Nomadland. I’m honestly not sure why Mank is the tenth; I don’t think anyone liked it.)

Last night at the Golden Globes, three of the people nominated for Best Director were women. (One of them, Chloe Zhao, won; she directed Nomadland.)

Award shows are weird because they matter up to a point. They can give the people nominated (and especially the winners) a little more power and a little more leeway with the projects they do. But they also make weird choices and sometimes great movies are ignored. The Oscars, for example, have somewhere between 5-10 Best Picture nominees every year and have since 2010. But they still only have 5 nominees for Best Director and women are usually left off that list.

So I don’t know. I’m glad we’re moving in the right direction. But we have so far to go.

* = Some of the people involved are BIPOC

Award Season, Pop Culture & Gatekeeping

Yesterday was the first in movie award season. The Golden Globes kick it off every year, but it’s also my least favorite movie awards show. There are always a few nominations that are ridiculous to the point that it seems like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (or, as Jenna Maroney called it on 30 Rock, HuffPa) is actively trolling people. This year, it’s even worse because the group hasn’t had any Black members in years. And when I say years, I mean something like almost 20 years. (Learn more here.)

But that’s not really what I want to talk about right now. I love movies, as you know. I believe in the church of movies and the church of pop culture in general. We can learn about other people and cultures by seeking out stories that don’t reflect our own lives and experiences. I still haven’t seen Judas and the Black Messiah, because I want to be able to give it 100% of my attention and so far, I have been very scattered. (Thank you, pandemic life!)

A couple of years ago, Martin Scorsese complained about the current state of pop culture and how comic book movies are ruining everything. He’s doubled down repeatedly and here is one if you want to read more about it.

Now, here’s the thing. I don’t necessarily love comic book movies as a genre. There are ones that I love to an extreme degree that some could consider unhealthy (the 1989 Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Black Panther obviously, Ant-Man and Thor: Ragnarok) but they’re not necessarily something that I would 100% see in the theater. But as Roger Ebert said, if you say that an entire genre is not for you, you’re not sufficiently evolved as a movie-goer.

And I said all THAT to say this: I’ve been watching WandaVision and I love it. It started out as frothy fun, an enjoyable distraction to all of *gestures at life in 2020 and 2021* this. And in the most recent episode, this line: “What is grief if not love persevering?”

And you can be as much of a snob as you want, but that’s beautiful and it’s profound and it’s true and I don’t care what Scorsese says, that’s art.

Never Far Away

Finished Never Far Away by Michael Koryta. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Once a wife, mother, and witness to a gruesome crime, Leah Trenton was extended a miraculous olive branch in the form of the state’s protected witness program. But for this second chance at life, Leah would have to leave behind her Midwestern roots to the northernmost tip of Maine. Alone and isolated along the banks of the Allagash River, she is determined to focus on the present, on her reclaimed future, but the demons of her past are relentlessly chipping away at Leah’s protected hideaway.

Meanwhile, in the wake of their father’s untimely death, Leah’s children are sent to stay with her, though they are desperate to return back home. They embark on a cross country homeward journey but before they reach their destination, danger finds them and it is Leah who must come out of her seclusion to search for and protect her children.

Told with the deft plotting and enthralling storytelling of a genre master, these two captivating chase narratives will converge along the rugged Allagash River, in the wilds of Maine, where the wills, morals, and ingenuity of a broken family will be tested against all odds.”

I’ve been a Michael Koryta fan for a long time, since I got an ARC of So Cold the River at BEA. Every book since has been better than the previous ones and they’ve also gotten much more tense.

Never Far Away is no exception. I hate snow and winter and nature and this book takes place in Maine. Even so, the setting is one of the least terrifying things about this book. The Blackwell brothers pop up in the beginning and Dax is also here. AND somehow they’re not the scariest things, either. See, there’s this other guy who goes by Bleak. And you may think “Oh, that doesn’t sound too bad!” but you would be very, very wrong.

This is such a relentless thriller and I felt so much dread the entire time. I don’t know if it’s possible to top this, but I’m sure he will. Highly recommended.

Life in the Balance

Finished Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Veronica struggles to balance softball, friends, and family turmoil in this new honest and heartfelt middle grade novel by Jen Petro-Roy, Life in the Balance.

Veronica Conway has been looking forward to trying out for the All-Star softball team for years. She’s practically been playing the game since she was a baby. She should have this tryout on lock.

Except right before tryouts, Veronica’s mom announces that she’s entering rehab for alcoholism, and her dad tells her that they may not be able to afford the fees needed to be on the team.

Veronica decides to enter the town talent show in an effort to make her own money, but along the way discovers a new hobby that leads her to doubt her feelings for the game she thought she loved so much.

Is her mom the only one learning balance, or can Veronica find a way to discover what she really wants to do with her life?”

I’ve loved every novel that Jen Petro-Roy has written, but this one may be her best yet. It’s impossible not to love Veronica. She’s trying so hard to keep her life as normal as possible, but her mom’s in rehab (for alcoholism) and she’s afraid to talk about it. And she’s hoping to make the all-star softball team, because that’s something she and her mom always did together. (And it’s also a thing that the women in her family do; her great-grandmother was even a member of the Women’s Baseball League during World War II.)

But she’s also really angry and really sad and really scared (AND really guilt-ridden for it). She clearly feels like it’s her job to make everything easier for everyone else, so she pushes all of her feelings down while also lashing out sometimes. (As someone who would rather be angry than sad and scared, I relate.)

This is such a great story and I think it’ll help a lot of people. Even if the middlegrade audience reading this don’t necessarily have a relative or family friend with alcoholism, I think everyone can relate to uncertainty and major mood swings. (Thanks, pandemic!)

Highly recommended.

Gone at Midnight

Finished Gone at Midnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The case that captivated a nation and inspired the Netflix series Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel!

Fortune Magazine “Most Anticipated Books of 2020” Selection
A Goodreads Featured Release for February 2020
Oxygen’s List of “Best True Crime Books of 2020” Selection

“The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles is a palpable presence in Gone at Midnight. Given the checkered history of the Cecil Hotel (which was recently named to the Los Angeles registry of historic landmarks), I wouldn’t rule out Jack the Ripper.” —The New York Times

“Outstanding…true crime buffs won’t want to miss this gripping search for the truth.” —Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

A Los Angeles hotel with a haunting history. A missing young woman. A disturbing viral video followed by a shocking discovery. A cold-case mystery that has become an internet phenomenon—and for one determined journalist, a life-changing quest toward uncomfortable truths. Perfect for Murderinos looking for their next fix…


Twenty-one-year-old Vancouver student Elisa Lam was last heard from on January 31, 2013, after she checked into downtown L.A.’s Cecil Hotel—a 600-room building with a nine-decade history of scandal and tragedy. The next day, Elisa vanished. A search of the hotel yielded nothing. More than a week later, complaints by guests of foul-smelling tap water led to a grim discovery: Elisa’s nude body floating in a rooftop water tank, in an area extremely difficult to access without setting off alarms. The only apparent clue was a disturbing surveillance video of Elisa, uploaded to YouTube in hopes of public assistance.

As the eerie elevator video went viral, so did the questions of its tens of millions of viewers. Was Elisa’s death caused by murder, suicide, or paranormal activity? Was it connected to the Cecil’s sinister reputation? And in that video, what accounted for Elisa’s strange behavior? With the help of web sleuths and investigators from around the world, journalist Jake Anderson set out to uncover the facts behind a death that had become a macabre internet meme, as well as a magnet for conspiracy theorists.

In poring through Elisa’s revealing online journals and social-media posts, Anderson realized he shared more in common with the young woman than he imagined. His search for justice and truth became a personal journey, a dangerous descent into one of America’s quiet epidemics. Along the way, he exposed a botched investigation and previously unreported disclosures from inside sources who suggest there may have been a corporate conspiracy and a police cover-up. In Gone at Midnight, Anderson chronicles eye-opening discoveries about who Elisa Lam really was and what—or whom—she was running from, and presents shocking new evidence that may re-open one of the most chilling and obsessively followed true crime cases of the century.”

I have become very emotionally invested in this case (thanks, Netflix!) and after many deep dives, the only thing I know for sure is that there’s no answer that 100% makes sense. Every possibility requires a major leap of faith.

This was a very interesting and well-researched book. There are some parts where supernatural events get more attention than I think they should (I fully accept that this hotel could have bad energy, but I have a really hard time believing that it’s almost a sentient being, and that’s how the book comes across sometimes.) But it also raises very valid questions, and I do think this case should be reopened.

If you’re also very interested in this case, definitely check this out. (It’s free to borrow on Kindle Unlimited.)

Ultimately, though, I think that she was having a mental health crisis but that also someone in the hotel (maybe a resident or maybe an employee) took advantage of this mental state and she ended up dead.

Black Widows

Finished Black Widows by Cate Quinn.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Blake’s dead. They say his wife killed him. If so… which one?

Polygamist Blake Nelson built a homestead on a hidden stretch of land—a raw paradise in the wilds of Utah—where he lived with his three wives:

Rachel, the first wife, obedient and doting to a fault, with a past she’d prefer to keep quiet.
Tina, the rebel wife, everything Rachel isn’t, straight from rehab and the Vegas strip.
And Emily, the young wife, naïve and scared, estranged from her Catholic family.

The only thing that they had in common was Blake. Until all three are accused of his murder.

When Blake is found dead under the desert sun, all three wives become suspect—not only to the police, but to each other. As the investigation draws them closer, each wife must decide who can be trusted. With stories surfacing of a notorious cult tucked away in the hills, whispers flying about a fourth wife, and evidence that can’t quite explain what had been keeping Blake busy, the three widows face a reckoning that might shatter all they know to be true.”

This is the kind of book that will have you second-guessing everything. I went back and forth on which sister-wife I trusted (to be fair, the answer was usually “none of them”) and what I thought happened. There were many theories (all wrong).

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I am very into cults lately, and this one is a fantastic example. Blake’s first wife, Rachel, is a survivor of a cult and that definitely affected the rest of her life. While this could easily have overpowered the main story, it was used perfectly to explain a lot about Rachel, and it definitely was very, very suspenseful in its own right.

If you’re looking for a book that is incredibly fun and incredibly tense, this is for you.

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire

Finished We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of the acclaimed Blood Water Paint, a new contemporary YA novel in prose and verse about a girl struggling with guilt and a desire for revenge after her sister’s rapist escapes with no prison time.

Em Morales’s older sister was raped by another student after a frat party. A jury eventually found the rapist guilty on all counts–a remarkable verdict that Em felt more than a little responsible for, since she was her sister’s strongest advocate on social media during the trial. Her passion and outspokenness helped dissuade the DA from settling for a plea deal. Em’s family would have real justice.

But the victory is lived. In a matter of minutes, justice vanishes as the judge turns the Morales family’s world upside down again by sentencing the rapist to no prison time. While her family is stunned, Em is literally sick with rage and guilt. To make matters worse, a news clip of her saying that the sentence “makes me want to use a fucking sword” goes viral.

From this low point, Em must find a new reason to go on and help her family heal, and she finds it in the unlikely form of the story of a 15th-century French noblewoman, Marguerite de Bressieux, who is legendary as an avenging knight for rape victims.

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire is a searing and nuanced portrait of a young woman torn between a persistent desire for revenge and a burning need for hope.”

I love this book. I was pretty sure I would when I read the synopsis, but I had no idea just how much I needed to read it.

I’m going to be honest now, I’ve been angry for a long time. I could say since 2016, but probably before that. Everything about this world feels insultingly wrong sometimes and I hate it. And if this is how you also feel, this is the book for you.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book is perfection. Highly recommended.

Pop Culture Weekend

I’m so excited for this weekend!

I’m going to watch Judas and the Black Messiah (HBO Max) and the new Lara Jean movie (Netflix). Also, the new season of Are You Afraid of the Dark starts and I’m hoping to find and watch it. (The first is on CBS All Access, so here’s hoping.)

I’m also reading We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough (SO GOOD!) and The Gilded Ones (Namina Forna) is next. After that? Too many great choices.

If you’re going to be trapped at home for 11 full months (as of Saturday), at least the distractions are good.

Bingo Love

Finished Bingo Love by Tee Franklin.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.From TEE FRANKLIN (NAILBITER’s “THE OUTFIT,” Love is Love) and JENN ST-ONGE (Jem & The Misfits), BINGO LOVE is a touching story of love, family, and resiliency that spans over 60 years.”

Mari and Hazel meet and quickly fall in love, but they’re not allowed to be together. (Their families don’t approve and it’s very much a different time.) They end up getting married to other people and don’t see or contact each other at all for years. But when they do run into each other again, decades later, it’s clear that their feelings haven’t changed.

This story is incredibly bittersweet. We never have as much time with people we love as we would want, and Mari and Hazel spent so much of their lives apart.

But it’s also about being who you are and going after what you want, and that’s always a lesson worth learning.

Highly recommended.