Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Remembering Brandon Lee... Gone Too Soon

On this date in 1993, Brandon Lee — the then-28-year-old son of the legendary Bruce Lee — was killed in an accident while filming The Crow.

When I interviewed him for Rapid Fire in 1992, he told me how much he was looking forward to making The Crow -- and to breaking stereotypes by becoming a bankable Asian-American leading man.

Few things in life are sadder than a promise forever unfulfilled.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Forty Years Ago...

Forty years ago yesterday, I interviewed Lee Marvin at the USA Film Fest in Dallas. I joked with him that he had shot the President – Ronald Reagan – back in The Killers (1964), Reagan’s last movie “Yeah,” he responded with a wolfish grin, “but he wasn’t President yet when I shot him.”

Forty years ago today, John Hinckley tried to gatecrash into history by taking aim at the Commander in Chief. I was interim A&E editor for The Dallas Morning News, so I wound up working on the first and only “Extra” edition of my newspaper career. (It hit the streets that afternoon.) People may forget this now, but the early reports indicated Reagan was a goner. Film critic Philip Wuntch was out in L.A. for the Oscars, and he filed an absolutely brilliant overview of Reagan’s movie career on about one hour’s notice. And our theater critic Diane Werts went over to SMU where the USA Film Fest was taking place, to get a quote from Marvin. Team work, folks.

I forget who it was, but someone showed up that afternoon, along with their publicist, for a previously scheduled interview to promote their next movie. I think I may have raised my voice few octaves when I explained that we had more important things going on. They left, but only reluctantly. Priorities, people.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Update: Talking About (Another) Possible Closing of the River Oaks 3 Theatre

Looks like the Landmark River Oaks 3 — not just the last remaining vintage movie theater in Houston, but H-Town’s last dedicated arthouse of any sort — is in danger of closing again. I’ve been invited by genial host Craig Cohen to join him and Houston Film Critics Society president Doug Harris to discuss this dire situation Thursday on the KUHF radio program Houston Matters

The conversation begins around the 36:44 mark here.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Yes, it's true: Bill & Ted Face the Music qualifies for this year's AARP Movies for Grownups Awards. And so do Nomadland, Land, One Night in Miami...

I am now old enough to see Spike Lee, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ethan Hawke and a Bill & Ted movie all nominated for the Movies for Grownups Awards annually bestowed by AARP The Magazine. And I’m feeling good about that. No, seriously. 

Nomadland, One Night in Miami, News of the World, Minari, Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Land and Mank are among the titles appearing in multiple categories for the latest edition of the Movies for Grownups Awards, a two-decade-old program that aims to champion movies for grownups, by grownups, by advocating for the 50-plus audience (of which I have been a member for cough-cough many years), fighting industry ageism, and encouraging films that resonate with older viewers. 

But wait, there’s more: This year, the MFG organizers have expanded their horizons to honor standout TV programs in new categories. 

 “Each year at Movies for Grownups,” AARP film and TV critic Tim Appelo said Monday in a prepared statement announcing the nominees, “we spotlight films that feature today’s crucial issues and top grownup talents. In this pandemic year, when movies loomed larger than ever in our lives, we are excited to have such a bumper crop of masterworks — and to recognize achievements on TV for the very first time.” 

Hoda Kotb of NBC’s Today will host the AARP awards ceremony aired by Great Performances at 8 pm ET Sunday, March 28 on PBS. And if you just can’t wait that long, don’t sweat: The MFG Awards winners will be announced March 4 here.   

Here is a complete list of nominees for the AARP Movies for Grownups Awards. But remember: As David Letterman used to say, this list is for informational purposes only. No wagering, please. 

Best Picture/Best Movie for Grownups: Minari, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, The Trial of the Chicago 7, The United States vs. Billie Holiday 

Best Actress: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit), Robin Wright (Land

Best Actor: Ralph Fiennes (The Dig), Tom Hanks (News of the World), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Gary Oldman (Mank

Best Supporting Actress: Candice Bergen (Let Them All Talk), Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of a Woman), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian), Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari

Best Supporting Actor: Demián Bichir (Land), Bill Murray (On the Rocks), Clarke Peters (Da 5 Bloods), Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), Mark Rylance (The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Director: Lee Daniels (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Regina King (One Night in Miami), Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods), Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7), George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Ensemble: Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami, Promising Young Woman, The Trial of the Chicago 7 

Best Intergenerational: Hillbilly Elegy, Minari, On the Rocks, The Father, The Life Ahead Best Buddy Picture: Bad Boys for Life, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Da 5 Bloods, Let Them All Talk, Standing Up, Falling Down 

Best Screenwriter: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods); Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies (News of the World), Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Time Capsule: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, One Night in Miami, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, The Trial of the Chicago 7 

Best Grownup Love Story: Emma, Ordinary Love, Supernova, Wild Mountain Thyme, Working Man 

Best Documentary: A Secret Love, Crip Camp, Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation 

Best Foreign Language Film: Another Round (Denmark), Bacurau (Brazil), Collective (Romania), The Life Ahead (Italy), The Weasels’ Tale (Argentina) 

Best Series: Perry Mason, Succession, Ted Lasso, The Crown, This Is Us 

Best TV Movie/Limited Series: Mrs. America, Small Axe, The Queen’s Gambit, Unorthodox, Watchmen 

Best Actress (TV/Streaming): Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show), Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America), Regina King (Watchmen), Laura Linney (Ozark), Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek

Best Actor (TV/Streaming): Jason Bateman (Ozark), Ted Danson (The Good Place), Hugh Grant (The Undoing), Ethan Hawke (The Good Lord Bird), Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True)

Monday, January 18, 2021

Nomadland Voted Best Picture By Houston Film Critics Society


As a founding member of the Houston Film Critics Society, I am proud to say director Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland has been designated a multiple winner during final balloting for the 14th annual HFCS Awards. In addition to copping the Best Picture prize, Zhao’s artful mix of fact and fiction — inspired by the nonfiction bestseller of the same title by Jessica Bruder — earned top honors in the categories of Best Director and Best Cinematography (Joshua James Richards).

Searchlight Pictures currently plans to open Nomadland Jan. 29 in a limited number of IMAX locations nationwide, expand to more IMAX theaters over the next two weeks, and then add other theaters Feb. 19 with simultaneous streaming on Hulu.

Other HFCS winners include:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher

Best Foreign Language Feature: A Sun (Taiwan)

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: One Night in Miami, “Speak Now”

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Best Stunt Coordination Team: Tenet

Best Movie Poster Art: Da 5 Bloods

Outstanding Cinematic Achievement: Sound of Metal (for its Immersive Sound Design)

 “While 2020 may have seen changes in how we view movies,” HFCS President Doug Harris said Monday while announcing the organization’s awards, “the year should be remembered for the quality of those films that ultimately reached audiences. “It may have been a bit tougher to see some of these remarkable films, but the wait and the effort were worth it.  And that’s the message our Society members take to their listeners, viewers and readers.

“We look forward to further spotlighting all of our award winners,” Harris added, “during our first television broadcast on January 31, 4 p.m. CST, on Houston’s KUBE 57.  That programming will also celebrate our Texas Independent Film Award nominees and feature the announcement of the winners of our special honors for filmmaking in the state.”

This year’s nominees for the TIFF honor include Boys State, Miss Juneteenth, Ready or Not, The Vast of Night, and Yellow Rose.

The 40 members of the Houston Film Critics Society are working film journalists for television, radio, and online outlets, and in traditional print. Together, they reach millions of people each week across the United States with their critiques and commentaries on film. The organization’s mission is to promote the advancement and appreciation of film in the Houston community and beyond. For a list of members, visit the HFCS website.

And if you would like to cast a ballot of your own in this year’s awards race, remember: You can vote for the Fourth Annual Cowboys & Indians Magazine Movie Awards here. How do I know this? Because in my other life, I am a cowboy.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Minari leads nominees for Houston Film Critics Society Awards

This just in from the Houston Film Critics Society — an organization of which I am a founding member:

Minari – director Lee Isaac Chung’s study of a family from Korea starting a farm in Arkansas – leads nominees for the 14th annual awards from the Houston Film Critics Society (HFCS). The film is nominated for seven HFCS honors including the Best Picture of 2020.

Three female filmmakers – Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)Regina King (One Night in Miami) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) – are nominees for Best Director. Some 18 categories of film excellence will be recognized by the prestigious body of film journalists and announced on January 18th. The winning films, along with nominees and winners in the Society’s Texas Independent Film Awards, will be spotlighted in the Society’s first televised awards programming on January 31, 2021, at 4 pm CT on Houston’s KUBE 57.

“From a year that most of us would love to forget, comes an impressive collection of movies we will always remember,” says Doug Harris, HFCS President. “For the film industry, 2020 will be recalled as much for works that nourished our souls as for the ways world events changed movie habits. The impact of the artistic expression from this year’s nominees reminds us that the size of a screen, or where we view it, matters less than the quality of what we see.”

In addition to Best Picture, Minari is nominated for Director, Actor (Steve Yeun), Supporting Actress (Youn Yuh-jung), Screenplay, Cinematography and a Cinematic Achievement honor for seven-year-old actor Alan S. Kim. Following the film in overall nominations is Sound of Metal – the chronicle of a heavy metal musician’s hearing loss – with six nods including Picture, while three films – Nomadland, One Night in Miami and The Trial of the Chicago 7 – received five nominations each, also including Picture. Other contenders for that top award are Da 5 Bloods, The Father, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Promising Young Woman and Soul, also a nominee for Animated Feature.

The late Chadwick Boseman is a double nominee for Leading Actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Supporting Actor for Da 5 Bloods. His performance in the lead category joins Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) and Yeun; Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Bill Murray (On the Rocks)Leslie Odom, Jr. (One Night in Miami) and Paul Raci (Sound of Metal) are also nominated for supporting honors.

“The performances of our nominees bring to life, through film, the strength of the human mind, body and spirit,” observes Harris. “We are invited to walk in the steps of an incredible range of people who demonstrate their resilience in the face of challenge. Imagine what this work says about the strength of the human soul in a year filled with tragedy and uncertainty.”

Competing for the 2020 award for Leading Actress are Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Frances McDormand, Nomadland; and Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman. Nominees for the Supporting Actress honor are Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman; Olivia Colman, The Father; Amanda Seyfried, Mank; and Youn Yuh-jung for Minari.

The 40 members of the Houston Film Critics Society are working film journalists on television, radio, online and in traditional print. Together, they reach millions of people each week across the United States with their critiques and commentaries on film. The organization’s mission is to promote the advancement and appreciation of film in the Houston community and beyond. For a list of members, visit

2020 Houston Film Critic Society Nominations

(With Outstanding Cinematic Achievement, Best Movie Poster Art and the HFCS Lifetime Achievement Award winners to be subsequently announced)

Best Picture

Da 5 Bloods; The Father; Minari; Never Rarely Sometimes Always; Nomadland; One Night in Miami; Promising Young Woman; Soul; Sound of Metal; The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari; Chloé Zhao, Nomadland; Regina King, One Night in Miami; Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman; Darius Marder, Sound of Metal; Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal; Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Anthony Hopkins, The Father; Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods; Steven Yeun, Minari

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Frances McDormand, Nomadland; Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods; Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Bill Murray, On the Rocks; Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami; Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman; Olivia Colman, The Father; Amanda Seyfried, Mank; Youn Yuh‑jung, Minari

Best Screenplay

MinariNomadlandOne Night in Miami; Promising Young Woman; Sound of Metal; The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Animated Feature

The Croods: A New Age; Onward; Over the Moon; Soul; Wolfwalkers

Best Cinematography

Mank; Minari; News of the World; Nomadland; Tenet

Best Documentary Feature

Boys State; Collective; Dick Johnson is Dead; My Octopus Teacher; Time

Best Foreign Language Feature

Another Round (Denmark); Bacurau (Brazil/France); Beanpole (Russia); La Llorona (Guatemala); A Sun (Taiwan)

Best Original Score

Mank; The Midnight Sky; News of the World; Soul; Tenet

Best Original Song

All In: The Fight for Democracy, “Turntables”; Life Ahead, “Lo Si”; One Night in Miami, “Speak Now”; Over the Moon, “Rocket to the Moon”; The Prom, “Wear Your Crown”

Best Visual Effects

Tenet; The Invisible Man; The Midnight Sky

Best Stunt Coordination Team

Birds of Prey; Mulan; The Old Guard; Tenet; Wonder Woman 1984

Texas Independent Film Award

Boys State; Miss Juneteenth; Ready or Not; The Vast of Night; Yellow Rose 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Happy Birthday to The King: Elvis Presley's Top 10 Movies

Elvis Presley should have turned 86 today. Of course, maybe he will, and we don’t know it. But in any event: Back in 2017, I compiled a list of his ten best movies for Variety on the 40th anniversary of his (alleged) passing. Maybe we can argue over some of the rankings. But I still insist that his all-time greatest film is… well, you’ll find out here