Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Upside

                        Sentimental Sincerity

                                                          Review by Ken Burke

                         The Upside (Neil Burger)   rated PG-13

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Once again, we’re in “Based on a True Story” territory—although original events have been transformed from France to NYC; what else may be changed from historical fact I can’t speak for—with the unusual tale of Dell, an ex-con on parole needing a job which he stumbles into, becoming the 24/7 caretaker for Phillip, a billionaire quadriplegic whose limited life (and death of his wife) after a paragliding accident has left him with limited incentive to face each new day.  Although completely unqualified for this position, Dell’s hired (seemingly a combination of the boss admiring his new helper’s unfiltered attitude toward everything with the hint this ineptitude might accidently result in Phillip’s demise, which he’s ready for); Dell readily accepts based purely on the high salary he hopes will enable him to start making amends with his ex-wife and estranged son.  There are some sharp verbal exchanges here along with physical comedy bits (many of which are contained in the trailer in case you’d rather read this than buy a ticket) you’d expect in a Kevin Hart movie; however, there are also a lot of serious drama situations for both of the main characters (Hart plus Bryan Cranston as the often-perplexed-employer, with Nicole Kidman in an important supportive role also working for him) so don’t expect this to be a laugh-fest or (thankfully) any sort of misguided-silly-depiction of the disabled man (how you react to Hart’s quasi-stereotype of an ex-con Black man may take more of your consideration).  But, if you’re willing to flow with all that’s being presented—despite scathing negations of it from some other critics regarding what they perceive as shallow sappiness—I think you could find a lot to appreciate about this unusual plot, although its memory is likely to evaporate as quickly as January snow in north Texas.  (I speak from experience, although that frequent warm, summer-predictive weather often turned to true winter in bitter February even decades before current days of climate change so you may find some serious, more-lasting takeaway from The Upside as well.)

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters thusly: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: Dell Scott’s (Kevin Hart) an ex-con on parole in NYC, desperately needing a job (or at least signatures from places he applied) to keep out of trouble with the law so he goes to a listed address thinking it’s for a janitor position; instead—due to the frustration of a long wait—he barges in on the interview process (after prowling around in the library of this palatial place where he steals a copy of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn [1885]* as a [very late] birthday present for young son Anthony [Jahi Di’Allo Winston] who barely speaks to him, living with his Mom, Dell’s ex-wife, Latrice [Aja Naomi King], in a tiny, miserable apartment Dell found for them, one of his many disappointments as a dependable family man) to find the search (which haven’t gone well so far) is to find a full-time, live-in caretaker for quadriplegic billionaire Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), alive but bitter after a paragliding accident (in rough weather he should never have attempted to fly in) left him paralyzed from the neck down, his loving wife (already suffering from cancer) dead.  All Dell wants is a signature he appeared at a job application, but to his shock—as well as to Phillip’s executive assistant, Yvonne Pendleton (Nicole Kidman)—Phillip offers him the job (seemingly in response to Dell’s “what the f***?” attitude; possibly [as Yvonne fears] in hopes Dell’s lack of qualifications will trigger Phillip’s Do Not Resuscitate directive, taking him out of his misery).  Initially, Dell’s not interested, but when he comes back as directed the next day for Yvonne’s signature (after refusing an offer from a crooked old friend) he changes his mind when he sees what the weekly salary will be, giving him hope of using the money to rebuild relationships with his family.

 Of course, all sort of clumsiness, oversleeping, resistance, etc. occurs in Dell’s unfamiliarity with his duties (with the focus on an extended scene where Dell has to change Phillip’s catheter yet can’t bring himself to touch another man's penis, especially because he finds it involuntarily erect, leading to laughs when Yvonne suddenly walks in), but Phillip comes to respect Dell’s honest attitudes, even accepts that Dell didn’t let him die one night when he needed oxygen to keep breathing (Dell doesn’t consider this a DNR situation, especially because he desperately needs his new income), followed by letting Dell wheel him around Manhattan on that winter night so they could score some strong pot to help with Phillip’s ongoing leg pains as well as provide a better connection between them.  Things haven’t improved much with Latrice and Anthony, though, especially on a day when Dell’s driving his boss around in one of his otherwise-useless-luxury-sports-cars (rather than the disabled-equipped-van he’s supposed to use), picks up Anthony after school, but has to ask for the Twain book back (it’s a signed first-edition) proving to son Dad’s still a thief (Phillip’s surprisingly tolerant about the book, understanding Dell's full situation better by now).

*Given the active controversy about aspects of the depiction in this book of runaway-slave Jim, along with the frequent use of the n-word and other racist aspects of what many, nevertheless, consider as an American literary classic (with defenses its content if examined properly is actually anti-racist, its language and presentations of racial discord in the 1840s is simply representative of its retrograde-era needing to be understood/deconstructed/evaluated in context of its time even if it may seem offensive today)—it embodies the kind of work now coming with “trigger warnings” in some colleges or even banned from public schools and libraries—I expected something to happen with this potent-story-element, but all we got was more strain on the sadly-weak-father-son-bond.

 As the story progresses, Dell comes to appreciate some of the luxuries in Phillip’s well-appointed-life such as opera (after laughing at the beginning of an abstractly-staged-performance, then giving a standing ovation at the end as the event overtakes him) and modern art (he makes a crude-but-intriguing-painting he feels is as good as the odd ones Phillip spends enormous sums on), all of which comes together on a night when Yvonne arranges a surprise birthday party for Phillip (which he didn’t want, but Dell helps him express his isolation/anger by smashing things Phillip hates anyway) with Dell getting his boss into the flow of the event by encouraging some additional entertainment from hired opera singers even as Phillip tricks obnoxious neighbor Carter Locke (Tate Donovan) into buying Dell’s painting for $50,000 after some bogus buildup of its impending worth.  ⇒Dell’s other major attempt to inject joy into Phillip’s life goes badly, though, when he encourages this widower to make more direct contact with a woman, Lily (Julianna Margulies), he’s now had as a pen-pal for awhile so she agrees to come down from Buffalo (where she runs a library) for lunch at a fancy restaurant.  Dell leaves them alone, we begin to sense a romance starting, then suddenly Lily admits trying to interact with a man in Phillip’s condition is harder than she anticipated (she’d researched his situation, tried to prepare herself for it), so he leaves abruptly, gets angry at Dell, fires him.  Later, we find Dell employed as a supervisor in a place manufacturing those sophisticated wheelchairs (Phillip somehow drives it with a tube by his mouth) but sought out by Phillip’s staff to come help because he’s morose, driving everyone—including Yvonne—away (growing a scraggly beard in the process).  Dell arrives one night, drives them (speeding like hell) through the city streets, outruns the cops for awhile, gets stopped but gives an epilepsy-hospital-run-excuse (Phillip fakes it well), all of which we saw in the “6 months earlier” opening scene, then heads out to the countryside where the next day he’s arranged a paragliding flight (with a trusty attendant) for Phillip but has to go also, overcoming his fear of such above-terrestrial-adventures.  Later, Dell shaves Phillip, takes him to lunch in their countryside hotel, then leaves when Yvonne arrives (how Dell managed to arrange all this so quickly is not part of plot logic we should question too closely).  Back in the city, Dell’s welcomed into the suburban townhouse where Latrice and Anthony now live, with implications he put his painting money on a down payment ($50,000 won’t buy anything that close to NYC), so we finish with a sense of everyone back on their paths for personal happiness.⇐

So What? (Let me warn you: I’m in more of a parenthetical-mood than usual this week so I encourage you to look carefully at the color usage [seen best on Safari] to help decipher my convoluted sentences, which might keep you engaged long enough trying to follow them that the U.S. Govt. partial-shutdown will finally be resolved by the time you finish these next paragraphs.*Last weekend, in a quest for something I had at least some reasonable desire to see so as to be able to blog about it this week I had few choices among options I hadn’t yet watched (sorry, A Dog’s Way Home  [Charles Martin Smith] and Bumblebee [Travis Knight]; despite your solid returns so far [$11.3 million for the former in its first weekend at domestic {U.S.-Canada} theaters, $367 million for the latter after a month in release] I’ve seen enough of your ilk to hold me for quite some time), with my potential interest in The Upside because of the screen-commanding-characteristics of its stars yet balanced by great hesitation because of critical-consensus-lambasting of it (Rotten Tomatoes offers only 40% positive reviews, Metacritic actually comes in a bit higher for a change with a 45% average score; more details for both in the Related Links section much farther below).  

*However, given what passes for responsible leadership in Washington, D.C. these days you might want to further distract yourself into a state of ironic frustration with a listen to Paul Simon’s "Loves Me Like a Rock" (from his 1973 There Goes Rhymin’ Simon album) where the final verse likely refers to Watergate-era President Nixon but could easily be the theme song for the current White House occupant, justifying his shady claims to Executive Privilege.  I realize this all appears to have nothing to do with The Upside, but I’ve already told you how I’m parenthetical-slaphappy this week.

 Fortunately for both me and the movie’s under-the-radar production company (Escape Artists) and distributors (STX Entertainment, Lantern Entertainment)—with the $18 contributed by me and my ever-enjoyable wife/viewing companion/soulmate, Nina (matinee senior prices; see, there are some advantages to growing old, along with going into a huge dark room while the sun’s still out), adding to its $21.7 million worldwide take on debut weekend ($20.4 million of that domestically), finally pushing Aquaman (James Wan, 2018; review in our January 2, 2019 posting) into second place (although Aquaman’s global total’s now a bit over $1 billion, making it #35 [and climbing] on that All-Time list, so there’s still plenty of joy in Atlantis)—I was willing to see The Upside, largely because of a very positive endorsement from my local San Francisco critical-honcho, Mick LaSalle, whom I don’t always agree with, yet his encouragement (“[Burger] crafts several superb scenes that were nowhere in the original version [more on that in my review’s next section] […] And so ‘Intouchables,’ now ‘The Upside,’ has a story that really works.”) helped me overcome trepidation from those other sources about a simplistic-plotline (although this time it’s the streetwise-Black-guy providing needed-emotional-rescue for the rich-but-withdrawn-White guy, so the frequent dismissal of the Anglo-“savior” of the “Other” gets a nice rest for a change), threating to drown in sentimental dreck.

 Despite LaSalle’s support, though, I could see where certain aspects of this story could easily be dismissed as feel-good-sentiment for its own sake, hoping star-power would overcome disinterest (Dell’s unselfish use of the $50,000 to provide desirable living conditions for his estranged family even though he’s out of a job at that point needing resources for himself as well; Phillip’s quick recovery of his joie-de-vivre after that steeplechase through Manhattan, followed by paragliding the next morning despite the memories this sport holds for him regarding his life-changing-injury and the death of his wife; Dell’s seeming-overnight-ability to persuade Yvonne to reconnect with Phillip, despite what she experienced of his ongoing-harsh-attitude driving her away),⇐  just as this more-serious-than-comic-story feels like it has to work in some physical humor (Dell being overpowered by his high-tech-shower; Dell’s hesitant-yet-negotiated-acquiescence at changing Phillip’s catheter which we never see the result of given his shocked disgust at finding the disturbing penis has “risen to the occasion" [on its own, no intent by Phillip]) just to please Hart’s regular fans who expect some outsized-actions along with reactions from him as essential to whatever he’s starring in (as with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle [Jake Kasdan, 2017; I never reviewed it, probably didn’t bother when it came out in December 2017, but I do remember seeing it, probably on an airplane last summer] where once again [Central Intelligence {Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2016}]  Hart plays the frantic-sidekick to the confident presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).  So, while I initially enjoyed various aspects of The Upside (especially the humor Hart's able to bring to various verbal jousts with Cranston; the serious reality of a physically [and psychically]-diminished man in Phillip whose wealth and previous fame now provide him only with material comfort rather than a true sense of existence most of the time; the utter rejection of Dell by his ex-wife and son having been burned by Dad's previous inability to rise above his faults all too often), I found the realm of complaints by other critics valid enough I was somewhat satisfied with The Upside but not surprised it sat on a studio shelf for so long (more about that in this review’s closing section as well).

 Nevertheless, as fateful coincidences often occur (eloquent Texas folksinger Steve Fromholz used to say, "And fate will have it, friends"), that night after we'd viewed The Upside, followed by a marvelous dinner, Nina and I finally decided to watch Charlie Chaplin’s (very outspoken for its time) first spoken-dialogue-film, The Great Dictator (1940) that we'd recorded, kept from the Turner Classic Movies TV network some time ago.  It didn’t take me long to recall (having not seen this classic for years) Chaplin also put in a good bit of arguably-unnecessary-physical humor (opening scenes of WW I military malfunctions; Hannah [Paulette Goddard] constantly banging storm troopers—and Chaplin’s Jewish barber character—over the head with a frying pan in the ghetto; the inability of the train carrying Bacteria’s dictator, Benzino Napaloni [Jack Oakie], to stop where Tomainia’s dictator, Adenoid Hynkel’s [also Chaplin], trying to roll out the welcoming carpet) into a story attempting (before the full extent of Nazi genocide was known outside of occupied territories) to use satire to undermine the self-indulgent-grandeur Adolf Hitler (along with his inner circle) and Benito Mussolini had created for themselves, followed by the barber's speech at the film's finale (with some inadvertent-coloration creeping into this black & white clip) which calls for decent people of the world (and their armies) to live in cooperative peace rather than under the control of greedy megalomaniacs, an impassioned presentation for sure but one that could also be faulted as overly-sentimental with its optimistic assumptions about citizens of all societies rising up to depose their fanatical, nationalistic leaders rather than succumb to the greedy lure of power (and material wealth) themselves, a scene made even more overtly-sentimental (as Chaplin could be in many of his past productions, although he was willing to leave the question of whether class-differences are truly able to be overcome as an open dilemma in the ending of his magnificent City Lights [1931]) by the use of heart-tugging-background-music and the sun breaking through the clouds as the barber, misunderstood as Hynkel, comes to his humanity-embracing-conclusion.

Unlike most of my illustrations (which I "doctor" a lot), I've left
this one from City Lights in its original 4x3 ratio which is how
most movies looked until various versions of widescreen
came into common usage from about the mid-1950s.
 So, upon recognizing the appeal of further retrospection, I began to ponder The Upside from a different perspective, with the goal of trying to understandas well as appreciate—in a better manner its occasional use of slapstick comedy tied to its heartwarming-sentiment, a calculated tactic giving audiences a taste of what they expect from Kevin Hart (just as with Chaplin in ... Dictator those many decades ago, building on worldwide embrace of his established comic style) as well as how the current movie provides an “upside” to Phillip’s nearly-insurmountable challenges, so as to not have us feel melancholy about how his life had changed so drastically (even though as the result of his own egotistical challenges to the forces of nature).  It’s not great art in this tale of Dell and Phillip, but it is life-affirming.  Don’t get me wrong, though; my after-the-fact-further-level-of-acceptance for The Upside still doesn’t put it in a league with Chaplin’s triumphs, where—if I were truly reviewing them—I’d give 4½ stars to The Great Dictator (despite 5 Oscar nominations, satire can only go so far in condemning the atrocities of the Nazi-Fascist regimes; Chapin later admitted he’d been inspired to this ridicule by Leni Riefenstahl’s famed 1935 documentary Triumph of the Will yet would not have made his film if he knew how murderous Hitler’s policies actually were), but City Lights would easily earn 5 stars as it’s been part of my All-Time Top 10 for  years, despite its contrivances in keeping the “flower girl” from knowing who her benefactor was, providing needed (but wrongly understood by the police as stolen) money for an experimental procedure restoring her sight.  Further proof of City Lights’ excellence (especially for something made so long ago, in what’s still essentially a silent movie mode despite using synchronized audio for the soundtrack) can be seen in many more scenes from this charming, hilarious film if you go here to choose some. (I'll ask note that if you see Chaplin's ambiguous [in my opinion] ending as providing too much of a challenge for this now-financially-stable-woman [during the onset of the the Great Depression] to have a romance with a street bum you'd be witnessing a somewhat-similar-situation in The Upside where Lily can't quite bring herself to fully connect with Phillip, but if you interpret the would-be-City Lights-lovers as bridging their social gulf then you'd be in the realm of ... Upside's Phillip and Yvonne also overcoming their initial separation.)

Bottom Line Final Comments: The Upside is the third time around for the contents of this narrative, beginning with a French documentary, À la vie, à la mort (To Life, To Death) from Jean-Pierre Devillers, Isabelle Cottenceau (2003) about the fundamental situation of hugely-rich French businessman Phillipe Pozzo di Borgo, paraplegic from a paragliding accident, and his French-Algerian caretaker, Abdel Sellou, which inspired The Intouchables ((Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano; 2011), garnering nominations/awards and audience embrace in Europe, along with solid box-office-action in U.S. markets, decent-but-not-fabulous-critical-response (RT 75% positive reviews, only a 57% average score at MC).  This first semi-fictionalization of the di Borgo-Sellou camaraderie uses a plot structure (based on what I’ve read; I’ve never seen it) very similar to The Upside, although the caretaker character’s named Driss, his efforts to redeem himself with family members are focused on his cousin rather than an ex-wife and son.  However, The Upside’s had its unique aspects of downsides as it was made back in 2017 (so it’s technically not a 2019 movie but functions as one, just as books are often dated from publication rather than authorship), premiered that year at the Toronto International Film Festival but then was pulled from distribution because it came from Harvey Weinstein’s company whose assets were put in precarious position when the various harassment/rape scandals broke out about him, so this movie’s languished for a couple of years until it was bought by the current distributors.  When finally released, its associative problems could easily have continued, though, given Kevin Hart’s own recent scandals where he first accepted, then withdrew from the invitation to host the 2019 Academy Awards because of homophobic tweets he circulated a few years ago (adding unintended connotations to the catheter/erection-scene).  While Hart feels he’s learned from the negative responses to these earlier “jokes” (Eddie Murphy, likewise, was taking what could easily be considered disrespectful digs at gay men in Beverly Hills Cop [Martin Brest, 1984]) as well as been publically supported by well-loved-lesbian Ellen DeGeneres, there are others in the LGBTQ community (such as CNN’s Don Lemon, a gay Black man), who still aren’t happy with Hart’s responses to this current controversy, even as Hart counters with assertions of repentance and personal growth, so it might have been possible The Upside would have suffered some backlash, but I’ve heard little of that sort of boycott-themed-criticism while audiences have clearly shown interest in the movie, if for no other reason than the star-power of the 3 most-famous actors involved (however, Oscars are still without a host).

This isn't the most elegant shot of the Queen of Soul (who seems to have 2 heads here),
but overall it's the best photo I could find of this spectacular 1998 Grammy event.
 However you might currently feel about Kevin Hart or the premise of making what at times is a physical comedy about a quadriplegic (although Phillip’s condition is never trivialized, while his joy of movement within his wheelchair or sports car due to Dell’s antic driving shows he’s ready to be free of the quarantine of his lavish apartment or the posh-but-sedate social events he attends), The Upside’s had a positive debut, possibly coming at a contentious time in our society where laughs are welcome in any form (although, as previously noted, overall this story’s more drama than comedy so don’t seek it out with misguided-expectations).  To (finally, you say) finish up these comments I’ll close with my usual tactic of a Musical Metaphor for what’s gone before, this time with Queen Aretha’s rendition of “Nessun Dorma” (from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Turandot [1926]—which to my non-operatic-ears is what we hear with the movie’s last scene of a couple of paragliders soaring through the skies [could be Phillip and Dell, might be a brief flashback to Phillip and his wife; I admit I wasn’t watching that closely, taking my final notes]after Phillip introduces this to Dell on his car’s playlist, providing a nice metaphorical connection between the 2 men, given Phillip’s ongoing investment in opera, Dell’s awakening to the appeal of the art form, Dell’s ongoing “respect” for Franklin [to whose memory the movie’s dedicated]).  I’ll give you the version at this site,, from a 1999 broadcast of CBS TV's Late Show with David Letterman, which is as close as I could get to what Phillip's citing to Dell about Franklin's near-literal-last-minute-substitution for ailing Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Awards telecast where he received, in-absentia, the organization’s Living Legend award.*  (If you’d like to hear how Luciano’d probably have sounded that night had this throat been in better health, take a listen here to a 1998 Paris performance—for those of us non-Italian-speakers, I’ll also offer this translation of the lyrics [scroll down] where the second verse wording’s a bit different from what Aretha sings here in English; I can take no responsibility for the precision of either translation).

*1/20/2019 I attempted to include her actual Grammy performance, but both versions I found were taken off YouTube within 4 days of this review’s posting (after having sat harmless there for years!); in case the alternative I’ve offered above also disappears, here's a recording which should be safe.

 Given the song’s optimistic assertions from Unknown Prince Calaf that alluring-but-aloof (also brutal regarding potential future husbands, put to death for not being able to answer her 3 mysterious questions) Princess Turandot will never guess his name before dawn, thereby being required to marry him which, ultimately, she does with a change of heart (thereby saving the lives of her subjects who were to be killed if they couldn’t find the Prince’s hidden name)connecting just the “Nessun dorma” aspects that culminate with “I will win! I will win!” to the sense of uplift (both in attitude and successful paragliding)it ultimately permeates The Upside for most of the principal characters (except Lily, who has to investigate her own limitations in getting closer with a severely-disabled-person [even though he compensates with sophisticated-technology and a staff of attendants]), as well as how Hart's seeing his recent controversy as a process of triumph (“I feel positivity will always overpower negativity, and when we talk about the struggles that one may go through, the struggle is only setting you up for the big win.  You just have to be patient enough to understand what’s coming.  And when it does come, understand that it’s going to be more than worth it”—although I’m sure his detractors have a totally different take on his current state of mind).

 With all of these previous considerations to ponder, I’ll leave you with another (somewhat-related-in-all-these-sidewinding [surely brilliant??]-parenthetical-asides) Musical Metaphor also about determination in the face of adversity (even when such grit's neither acknowledged nor respected by those you hope to convince with sheer will), which reflects Dell’s ultimate desires to make life better for those he cares for, just as Phillip begins to find reasons for living beyond his deep regrets despite the daily difficulties he endures.*  Yet another reason for offering this final song is to provide some balance to that sense of "entitled" Presidential authority I've noted earlier in “Loves Me Like a Rock” (see, I found a way to make it relevant to this review after all) by referencing another individual who’s determined to stand up (even metaphorically, as with Phillip) for what he believes in as chronicled in Gordon Lightfoot’s "Don Quixote" (from his 1972 album of the same name) as this “horseman wild and free [… is found] Standing like a prophet bold […] striking up a knightly pose […] standing like a preacher now He shouts across the ocean to the shore,” as I can only hope our lawmakers in D.C. finally find such courage (time to be “strong” and “wise,” putting “gentle” and “meek” aside for now) to challenge that guy “up on the presidential podium” (hey, I said I was being parenthetical, not bipartisan [which I rarely am]) rather than just galloping off “In vain to search again Where no one will hear.”  You know, if nothing else, The Upside might well be worth your time if it inspires you to as many flights of fancy as it has me (unless you’ve found such diversions useless in a simple movie review; always possible I suppose), moving beyond anything within its narrative that might be considered mundane purely on its own terms.  You could certainly find less-rewarding-ways to spend your days during these cold, wet winter months (for us Northern Hemispherians waiting for Spring’s welcome return).

*Although Cranston’s faced some controversy of his own for portraying a disabled person without living that disability himself, a valid point, one often emerging within the frequently-criticized-realm of Hollywood casting; however, while it’s true there may well be essentially-unknown-quadriplegic actors who could offer an acceptable screen presence (as did newcomer Marlee Matlin, a deaf actor playing a deaf character in Children of a Lesser God [Randa Haines, 1986], even winning a Best Actress Oscar for the role) there’s always the marketing question of getting audiences into a theater when they have little-to-no-awareness of such actors’ careers or capabilities, hoping the name-value of the rest of the cast provides enough attention to help return a profit to the investors.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2018’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 24, 2019 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2018 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards 
and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the current Golden Globe nominees and winners for films and TV from 2018.

Here’s more information about The Upside: (7:51 interview with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, although it takes awhile for them to actually talk about this movie)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 27,323 (as always, we thank all of you for your support—especially those from that mysterious, wondrous Unknown Region, be it Mars or Wakandawith our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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