OSCARS 2019: Best Picture Contenders

It’s already October and this is one of the most exciting parts of the Oscar race: with most of the contenders seen, after the major festivals have ended, and before the precursor awards. The narratives of the contenders are starting to be formed while most of the major backlashes are still yet to explode.

Here’s the Best Picture contenders, class of 2019 (according to their position right now, do comment if you disagree):

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TIER A – FRONTRUNNERS
These films are not just strong bets for the Best Picture nomination, but whose buzz are already positioning it for the win this early.

  • 1917 (Universal)
  • The Irishman (Netflix)
  • Marriage Story (Netflix)
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia)

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TIER B – STRONG CONTENDERS
These films have quite significant hurdles for the win, but the Best Picture nomination feels more confident.

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/Tri-Star)
  • Ford v Ferrari (Disney/20th Century Fox)
  • Jojo Rabbit (Disney/Fox Searchlight)
  • Joker (Warner Bros.)
  • Little Women (Sony/Columbia)
  • Parasite (Neon)

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TIER C – MAJOR SPOILERS
These films are still waiting for bigger buzz or for actual support from the precursor awards. But make no mistake: these can easily make the jump to the upper tiers.

  • Ad Astra (Disney/20th Century Fox)
  • The Farewell (A24)
  • A Hidden Life (Disney/Fox Searchlight)
  • Hustlers (STXfilms)
  • Just Mercy (Warner Bros.)
  • Richard Jewell (Warner Bros.)
  • The Two Popes (Netflix)
  • Us (Universal)
  • Waves (A24)

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TIER D – IN THE MIX
These films are not yet within the best Picture conversation, but the remaining months has the possibility to tip the scale in these films’ favor. Be watchful of these films because they can make it if their campaigns, box-office performance, and reviews are on their side.

  • The Aeronauts (Amazon)
  • Avengers: Endgame (Disney/marvel)
  • Bombshell (Lionsgate)
  • Dolemite is My Name (Netflix)
  • Judy (Roadside)
  • The King (Netflix)
  • Knives Out (Lionsgate)
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24)
  • Pain and Glory (Sony/Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Neon)
  • Queen & Slim (Universal)
  • The Report (Amazon)
  • Rocketman (Paramount)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  • Uncut Gems (A24)

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TIER E – LONG SHOTS
These films have massive hurdles to overcome if they ever come near the Best Picture conversation, but I’m already calling the possibility of them getting in.

  • The Banker (Bleecker/Apple+)
  • Cats (Universal)
  • Dark Waters (Focus)
  • Downton Abbey (Focus)
  • The Good Liar (Warner Bros.)
  • Harriet (Focus)
  • The Laundromat (Netflix)
  • The Lighthouse (A24)
  • Luce (Neon)

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TIER F – THE REST OF THE FIELD
These films probably have very slim to no chance of getting nominated in Best Picture, but it’s just too early to count anything out. We’ll never know.

  • Booksmart (Annapurna/United Artists)
  • Clemency (Neon)
  • Honey Boy (Amazon)
  • The Lion King (Disney)
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside)
  • Peterloo (Amazon)

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So far, those are our Best Picture contenders. Now, let’s view them per studio/distribution company:

DISNEY (including 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight) – 7
After buying Fox in its entirety, this media behemoth has a full plate this awards season, with at least seven films in the Best Picture conversation. They are also coming off of a Best Picture nomination for Black Panther (Marvel), Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox), and The Favourite (Fox Searchlight).  They also have animated contenders like Frozen II and Toy Story 4.

  • Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
  • Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
  • Ad Astra (20th Century Fox)
  • A Hidden Life (Fox Searchlight)
  • Avengers: Endgame (Marvel)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Lucasfilm)
  • The Lion King

UNIVERSAL (including Focus Features) – 7
This studio has some solid contenders. However, its subsidiary Focus is not doing very well with awards prospect with most of its bets in the long shot position. Focus nabbed a Best Picture nomination last year with BlacKkKlansman and the actual best Picture win with Green Book.

  • 1917
  • Us
  • Queen & Slim
  • Cats
  • Downton Abbey (Focus)
  • Harriet (Focus)
  • Dark Waters (Focus)

NETFLIX – 6
Hollywood’s enfant terrible studio is showing off its prowess this awards season with six strong contenders. Perhaps one of its bets has fallen off a bit after its festival run, but never count a Meryl Streep vehicle out of the race.

  • The Irishman
  • Marriage Story
  • The Two Popes
  • Dolemite is My Name
  • The King
  • The Laundromat

A24 – 5
This independent distributor has flexed its muscles in its 2015-17 run with Room, Moonlight, and Lady Bird. Its hold kind of cooled down last year, but this year might be its comeback with a dynamic roster of contenders.

  • The Farewell
  • Waves
  • The Last Black in San Francisco
  • Uncut Gems
  • The Lighthouse

SONY (including Sony Picture Classics) – 4
Another dominant media force, Sony only has four compared to Disney’s seven or Netflix’s 6, but its four bets are solid.

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Little Women
  • A Beautiful Day in Neighborhood
  • Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics)

WARNER BROS. – 4
After missing last year’s top prize with early frontrunner A Star is Born, this Hollywood all-timer comes back with four contenders.

  • Joker
  • Richarrd Jewell
  • Just Mercy
  • The Good Liar

NEON – 4
This independent distributor came close to a nomination with I, Tonya in 2017. This year, this studio continues to diversify its contenders. This year, it also has documentary contender Apollo 11, international feature contender Monos, and Honeyland, a contender in both categories.

  • Parasite
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Luce
  • Clemency

AMAZON – 4
While Cold War did well last year, Amazon also missed on its other contender Beautiful Boy.

  • The Report
  • The Aeronauts
  • Peterloo
  • Honey Boy

LIONSGATE – 2

  • Bombshell
  • Knives Out

ROADSIDE – 2

  • Judy
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon

ANNAPURNA (with United Artists) – 1

  • Booksmart

BLEECKER STREET (with Apple+) – 1

  • The Banker

PARAMOUNT – 1

  • Rocketman

STXfilms – 1

  • Hustlers

BEYOND THE BALLOT: Best Actress 1987 – The Nominated Five

I wasn’t planning on doing this year, but they I was able to rewatch Moonstruck. After that, I was inspired to watch Broadcast News and Anna.

So here we are, discussing the five performances nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress of 1987. And what a year this is! Not only there is variety in this lineup in the films and performances, but the quality of this line-up is off-the-charts.

We have:

Cher, from the romantic comedy Moonstruck.
Glenn Close, from the erotic thriller Fatal Attraction.
Holly Hunter, from the satire Broadcast News.
Sally Kirkland, from the independent drama Anna.
And Meryl Streep, from the period drama Ironweed.

Here is my personal ranking of the five performances:

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1 – Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (as Alex Forrest)

Take away the iconic status of this performance and what we have is a surprisingly vulnerable take on a character that the film so insistently tries to villainize. The film may have aged a bit in terms of its representation of infidelity, but Glenn Close’s work remains to be a potent examination of emotional fragility and instability. She manages to escape all shortcuts and broad strokes of this character. Career-best work for sure.

2 – Meryl Streep in Ironweed (as Helen Archer)

An unfairly underrated performance from her revered repertoire, Meryl Streep surprised me with a performance that is both haunting and devastating. It’s a performance that distills despair and hopelessness in such an effective way. Streep plays not a whole human being, but the remains of a once-alive person that is slowly disintegrating. She comes in late and leaves early, but the power of this performance stays.

3 – Holly Hunter in Broadcast News (as Jane Craig)

I’m on the side that thinks Broadcast News is more of a satire than a romantic comedy. Either way, Holly Hunter nails the steely, determined nature of this character that must have been and IS a powerful image of career woman. She benefits from strong writing and wonderful dynamic with her fellow actors. And when the film turns dark, she expertly navigates the grey areas of the story. She is in command and commanding in every scene effortlessly.

4 – Sally Kirkland in Anna (as Anna)Unlike the rest of the nominees, she does not benefit from her film AT ALL. It’s a confused film that made one perplexing choice after the other. So there is Sally Kirkland, giving it all in a freaking tour-de-force that doesn’t necessarily try to salvage the film that’s around her but defies all odds and creates an unforgettable portrayal of defeat and loss.

5 – Cher in Moonstruck (as Loretta Castorini)

Cher just radiates in a performance that is vanity-free and lived in. She benefits from witty writing that possesses a very specific tone of humor, and Cher gets the spirit of the material. It is deceptively low-key, but it is a performance that never coasts merely on charm. There is delicate maneuvering here, and Cher is the reliable core of this film.

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And here are the probable runners-up of this race:

Lillian Gish – The Whales of August
Faye Dunaway – Barfly
Barbra Streisand – Nuts
Bette Davis – The Whales of August
Rachel Levin – Gaby: A True Story
Diane Keaton – Baby Boom

And here is the rest of the field (please tell me if I missed anyone):

Anne Bancroft – 84 Charing Cross Road
Ellen Barkin – The Big Easy
Cher – The Witches of Eastwick
Cher – Suspect
Lindsay Crouse – House of Games
Jennifer Grey – Dirty Dancing
Daryl Hannah – Roxanne
Barbara Hershey – Shy People
Holly Hunter – Raising Arizona
Anjelica Huston – The Dead
Christine Lahti – Housekeeping
Emily Lloyd – Wish You Were Here
Carmen Maura – Law of Desire
Sheila McCarthy – I’ve Heard the Mermaids Sing
Bette Midler – Outrageous Fortune
Sarah Miles – Hope and Glory
Vanessa Redgrave – Prick up Your Ears
Theresa Russell – Black Widow
Debra Sandlund – Tough Guys Don’t Dance
Louise Smith – Working Girls
Maggie Smith – The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Julie Walters – Personal Services
Debra Winger – Black Widow
Joanne Woodward – The Glass Menagerie
Robin Wright – The Princess Bride

71st Primetime Emmy Awards: Nominations – FINAL PREDICTIONS

DRAMA SERIES
Better Call Saul
Game of Thrones
Killing Eve
Ozark
Pose
Succession
This is Us
alt. Homecoming / Bodyguard

ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jason Bateman – Ozark
Sterling K. Brown – This is Us
Kit Harrington – Game of Thrones
Richard Madden – Bodyguard
Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
Billy Porter – Pose
alt. Milo Ventimiglia – This is Us / Brian Cox – Succession

ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Emilia Clarke – Game of Thrones
Jodie Comer – Killing Eve
Laura Linney – Ozark
Sandra Oh – Killing Eve
Julia Roberts – Homecoming
Roin Wright – House of Cards
alt. Christine Baranski – The Good Fight

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jonathan Banks – Better Call Saul
Bobby Cannavale – Homecoming
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly – House of Cards
Peter Mullan – Ozark
alt. Kieran Culkin – Succession / Justin Hartley – This is Us

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Julia Garner – Ozark
Lena Headey – Game of Thrones
Susan Kelechi Watson – This is Us
Chrissy Metz – This is Us
Sophie Turner – Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams – Game of Thrones
alt. Rhea Seehorn – Better Call Saul / Gwendoline Christie – Game of Thrones / Keeley Hawes – Bodyguard

DIRECTING IN A DRAMA SERIES
Game of Thrones – “The Iron Throne” – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Game of Thrones – “The Last of the Starks” – David Nutter
Game of Thrones – “The Long Night” – Miguel Sapochnik
The Handmaid’s Tale – “Holly” – Daina Reid
Homecoming – “Protocol” – Sam Esmail
Pose – “Pilot” – Ryan Murphy
Succession – “Celebration” – Adam McKay
alt. Ozark – “Reparations” – Jason Bateman / The Handmaid’s Tale – “The Word” – Mike Barker

WRITING IN A DRAMA SERIES
Game of Thrones – “The Iron Throne”
The Handmaid’s Tale – “Holly”
Homecoming – “Stop”
Killing Eve – “Nce and Neat”
Pose – “Pilot”
Succession – “Nothing is Ever Missing”
alt. Ozark – “The Gold Coast” / Bodyguard – “Episode 01” / This is Us – “The Waiting Room”

GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Michael Angarano – This is Us
James Cromwell – Succession
Griffin Dunne – This is Us
Ron Cephas Jones – This is Us
Christopher Meloni – Pose
Bradley Whitford – The Handmaid’s Tale
alt. Alan Alda – The Good Fight / Andrew Lincoln – The Walking Dead

GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Hong Chau – Homecoming
Cherry Jones – The Handmaid’s Tale
Jessica Lange – American Horror Story: Apocalypse
Phylicia Rashad – This is Us
Cicely Tyson – How to Get Away with Murder
Carice van Houten – Game of Thrones
alt. Laverne Cox – Orange is the New Black

 

COMEDY SERIES
Barry
GLOW
The Good Place
The Kominsky Method
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Veep
Russian Doll
….. if 8, add Fleabag
alt. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, black-ish

ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Anthony Anderson – black-ish
Sacha Baron Cohen – Who is America?
Ted Danson – The Good Place
Michael Douglas – The Kominsky Method
Bill Hader – Barry
William H. Macy – Shameless
alt. Don Cheadle – Black Monday

ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Pamela Adlon – Better Things
Kristen Bell – The Good Place
Rachel Brosnahan – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Allison Janney – Mom
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
Lily Tomlin – Grace and Frankie
….. if 7, add Natasha Lyonne – Russian Doll
alt. Alison Brie – GLOW / Tracee Ellis Ross – black-ish / Christina Applegate – Dead to Me

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Alan Arkin – The Kominsky Method
Tituss Burgess – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tony Hale – Veep
Timothy Simons – Veep
Tony Shalhoub – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Henry Winkler – Barry
….. if 7, add Matt Walsh – Veep
alt. Kenan Thompson – Saturday Night Live / Marc Maron – GLOW / Stephen Root – Barry

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Alex Borstein – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant – Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky – Veep
Olivia Colman – Fleabag
Betty Gilpin – GLOW
Kate McKinnon – Saturday Night Live
….. if 7, add Leslie Jones – Saturday Night Live
….. if 8, add Cecily Strong – Saturday Night Live
alt. Marin Hinkle – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

DIRECTING IN A COMEDY SERIES
Barry – “The Audition” – Alec Berg
Barry – “ronny/lily” – Bill Hader
The Big Bang Theory – “The Stockholm Syndrome” – Mark Cendrowski
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “All Alone” – Amy Sherman-Palladino
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “We’re Going to the Catskills!” – Daniel Palladino
Veep – “Discovery Weekend” – Dale Stern
Veep – “Veep”
alt. GLOW – “Mother of All Matches” – Mark A. Burley & John Cameron Mitchell / Russian Doll – “Ariadne” – Natasha Lyonne

WRITING IN A COMEDY SERIES
Barry – “ronny/lily”
Fleabag – “Episode 01”
GLOW – “Nothing Shattered”
The Kominsky Method – “Chapter One: An Actor Avoids”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Vote for Kennedy, Vote for Kennedy”
Veep – “Veep”
alt. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Night at the Concorde” / The Good Place – “Pandemonium” / Russian Doll – “Nothing in This World is Easy”

GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Danny DeVito – The Kominsky Method
Luke Kirby – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Peter MacNicol – Veep
John Mulaney – Saturday Night Live
Paul Rudd – Saturday Night Live
Adam Sandler – Saturday Night Live
alt. Matt Damon – Saturday Night Live / Adam Driver – Saturday Night Live / Adam Scott – The Good Place

GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jane Lynch – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Sandra Oh – Saturday Night Live
Maya Rudolph – The Good Place
Molly Shannon – Will & Grace
Wanda Sykes – black-ish
Emma Thompson – Saturday Night Live
alt. Christine Baranski – The Big Bang Theory / Sally Phillips – Veep / Regina King – The Big Bang Theory / Cate Blanchett – Documentary Now!

 

LIMITED SERIES
Chernobyl
Escape at Dannemora
Fosse/Verdon
Sharp Objects
When They See Us
….. if 6, add The Hot Zone
alt. The Act

TV MOVIE
Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)
Brexit
Deadwood
King Lear
Native Son
alt. My Dinner with Hervé / Icebox / O.G.

ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Mahershala Ali – True Detective
Benedict Cumberbatch – Brexit
Benicio del Toro – Escape at Dannemora
Hugh Grant – A Very English Scandal
Jared Harris – Chernobyl
Sam Rockwell – Fosse/Verdon
….. if 7, add Ian McShane – Deadwood
alt. Jharrel Jerome – When They See Us / Anthony Hopkins – King Lear
ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Amy Adams – Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette – Escape at Dannemora
Connie Britton – Dirty John
Julianna Margulies – The Hot Zone
Emma Stone – Maniac
Michelle Williams – Fosse/Verdon
….. if 7, add Joey King – The Act
alt. Niecy Nash – When They See Us

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Paul Dano – Escape at Dannemora
Gerald McRaney – Deadwood
Chris Messina – Sharp Objects
Stellan Skarsgård – Chernobyl
Ben Whishaw – A Very English Scandal
Michael K. Williams – When They See Us
alt. Kyle Chandler – Catch-22 / Calum Worthy – The Act / Justin Theroux – Maniac

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Patricia Arquette – The Act
Patricia Clarkson – Sharp Objects
Vera Farmiga – When They See Us
Anna Gunn – Deadwood
Eliza Scanlan – Sharp Objects
Emily Watson – Chernobyl
alt. Emma Thompson – King Lear / Elizabeth Reaser – The Haunting of Hill House

DIRECTING IN A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE, OR DRAMA SPECIAL
The Act – “Free” – Steven Piet
Chernobyl – Johan Renck
Deadwood – Daniel Minahan
Escape at Dannemora – Ben Stiller
Sharp Objects – Jean-Marc Vallée
When They See Us – Ava DuVernay
….. if 7, add Fosse/Verdon – “Glory” – Jessica Yu
alt. The Haunting of Hill House – Mike Flanagan / Maniac – Cary Joji Fukunaga

WRITING IN A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE, OR DRAMA SPECIAL
The Act – “Free”
Chernobyl
Deadwood
Escape at Dannemora – “Episode 7”
Sharp Objects – “Milk”
When They See Us – “Part Four”
alt. Fosse/Verdon – “Providence” / Bandersnatch (Black Mirror) / A Very English Scandal

Baby Driver (2017) / Christopher Robin (2018) / You Were Never Really Here (2018)

BABY DRIVER [2017, A-/B+] – Ace humor; of course, it’s E. Wright. Really reaches peaks when it goes dark and stakes become palpable. Cast lives up to more brutal sides of narrative, characters. Slick style makes it edgy and lean. Wish it dwelt more on the romance, but we’re cool.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2018, B/B-] – Was it practicing restraint in movie magic or was it simply dull? Either way, it effectively imbues necessary charm for emotional investment in an otherwise predictable, low-risk narrative. Impeccable visual effects; it’s seamless and delightful.

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE [2018, A-] – Intense and cutting. Unafraid to immerse in the darkness of human experience. Ramsey exemplifies masterful eye; every stylistic choice aligned. Phoenix continues to reach unpredictable heights, holding it in until his terrifying implosion.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) / Deepwater Horizon (2016) / Lady Macbeth (2017)

DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016, A-/B+] – Ignore icky foreshadowing devices (there were a lot). Setup becomes more effective in dialogue. Terrific build-up. Once it hits its centerpiece, it’s exhilarating. Top-notch sound design, visuals. Surprisingly moving. A thrilling experience.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017, C/C+] – Exquisite visual panache can’t really make up for the fact that the first 2/3 is emotionally empty, with no real stakes. Forgettable music too. But something happens with the ballroom scene onwards. At least it had an engaging denouement.

LADY MACBETH [2017, B+] – Deliciously opaque and distilled. Moves in a calculated pace, carefully inching in details with alarming precision. Pugh is a true force of nature. In her threatening quietness, her piercing eyes, voice, and posture suggest menace. Astonishing work.

13 Hours (2016) / The Florida Project (2017) / Beautiful Boy (2018)

THE FLORIDA PROJECT [2017, A-/B+] – Immersive but unobtrusive. Vibrant but grounded. Patiently assembles scenes of seemingly sporadic buildup but rich characterization, only to accumulate its emotional gut punch by its finale. Baker realizes palpable life in every shot. The cast!

BEAUTIFUL BOY [2018, C] – So much potential in the material. So what happened? Feels tentative. I don’t approve of overarching visual style. Some odd editing, music choices. Tried to be a dual-faced family drama, only to serve an undercooked version of both sides. Chalamet MVP.

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI [2016, B-] – Starts really dull with forced, half-baked backstories. Eschews deeper political discourse for more focus in action. Excellent sound design. Overlong, but delivers the thrills, if not covering new grounds. Quite engrossing.

Hail, Caesar! / The Jungle Book / Passengers (2016) / Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

HAIL, CAESAR! [2016/B/B-] – Lush visuals. Terrific casting. Actors bring infectious joy to idiosyncratic story. So why do I feel indifferent? Either the film just failed to build up tension in narrative or it’s just too busy relishing in multiple narrative strands. Low-tier Coen.

PASSENGERS [2016, B/B-] – Did it want to be a survivalist drama, a romantic-comedy, or a space thriller? Taken individually, they work. As a whole, it’s an undecided, incongruous mesh of underexplored ideas. Visuals and music its peaks. There’s a better film in here somewhere.

THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016, B/B+] – I’m still tentative about the over-all look, but damn it’s a technical marvel to behold. Fascinating detours the plot takes are mere distractions from narrative’s thinness. Didn’t have a strong emotional connection, but it’s an exciting experience.

ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. [2017, B/B+] – Straddles a lot of issues, only to blunt them when narrative veers into personal drama. Mixed results on tonal shifts. Makes up for substantial focus on lead. Washington amazes in tricky character, so skillful in specificities and nuances.