Best Film Performances of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Back in April, I revealed my lists of the best podcasts, TV shows, TV episodes, albums, songs, and movies of the 2010s. I declared that that was it for my Best of the Decade curating for this particular ten-year cycle. But now I’m back with a few more, baby! I’ve been participating in a series of Best of the 2010s polls with some of my online friends, and I wanted to share my selections with you. We’re including film performances, TV performances, directors, and musical artists, so get ready for all that.

First up is Film Performances. Any individual performance from any movie released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 was eligible, whether it was live-action, voice-only, or whatever other forms on-screen acting take nowadays. For actors who played the same character in multiple movies, each movie was considered separately.

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This Is a Movie Review: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, and Jane Curtin Bring the Literary Forgery Biopic ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ to Deliciously Caustic Life

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CREDIT: Mary Cybulski/Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally published on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Ben Falcone

Director: Marielle Heller

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Naughty, Foul-Mouthed Witticisms

Release Date: October 19, 2018 (Limited)

I would like to begin my review of Can You Ever Forgive Me? by first saying how happy I am to see Jane Curtin on screen in a role worthy of her talents. Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant are going to get the most praise out of this cast, and rightly so, as they play the two main characters with wonderfully caustic aplomb, but I want to make sure that Ms. Curtin does not get lost in the mix. Whenever I see her in old SNL clips, I wonder how she is not still one of the biggest comedy superstars around (at least she still is in my heart). Sure, few folks have ever maintained such a status into their seventies, but Curtin remains spry and clearly capable of throwing out some deadly zingers. And as Marjorie, the (understandably) impatient literary agent of an unruly client, she is doing exactly what any Jane Curtin fan wants to see.

That client is Lee Israel, who achieved a bit of success in the ’70s and ’80s with biographies of the likes of actress Tallulah Bankhead and game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen. She is now struggling to pay her bills, partly because she insists on only writing about people who were popular decades ago and partly because she is too antisocial to hold down any regular job or maintain any human relationship. So she turns to penning letters that she passes off as the work of famous writers like Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward, selling the forgeries to collectors who are willing to play top dollar. Melissa McCarthy may not seem like the obvious choice to play Lee, though her aggressive comedy chops certainly lend themselves well to cynical wit-slinging. McCarthy actually benefits immensely from being able to underplay a bit. Lee is just as unapologetic as McCarthy’s normal stable of characters, so in a way Lee is actually right in her wheelhouse, but with fewer temptations to go more over-the-top than is bearable.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a bit of a two-hander, with a significant chunk of the runtime consisting of the shenanigans between Lee and her drinking buddy/partner-in-crime Jack Hock (Grant), a bon vivant in similarly dire financial straits. I know Grant primarily as the villainous puppetmaster Dr. Zander Rice in last year’s Logan, but fans of his breakthrough performance in Withnail and I will likely find plenty to recognize and love here. And those unfamiliar with Withnail should be happy to discover his infectious comedy chops. Lee and Jack are a salty-and-tart odd couple; they’re both gay, but also somehow kindred spirits. Their friendship fuels each of them to find a purpose in life, although their relationship is a bit volatile, as much of it is built around a criminal enterprise. Can You Ever Forgive Me? Resembles redemption narrative, but not quite. Instead, it is a story of self-actualization that manages to have as much of a naughty good time as it can.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Recommended If You Like: Withnail and I, All About Eve, Sideways

Grade: 4 out of 5 Forgeries

 

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Happytime Murders’ Combines Noir Mystery with Wonderfully Inventive Crude Puppet Gags

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CREDIT: Hopper Stone/STXfilms

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2018.

Starring: Bill Barretta, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David Baker, Elizabeth Banks, Joel McHale

Director: Brian Henson

Running Time: 91 Minutes

Rating: R for Raucous Puppet Sex, Loopy Puppet Drug Use, Constant Puppet and Human Profanity, and a Description of an Unspeakable Act Involving Rice Pilaf

Release Date: August 24, 2018

The advertising for The Happytime Murders has made a big deal about how out of the ordinary its existence is: puppets that are usually family-friendly about to get no-holds-barred dirty to an unprecedented degree! But the movie itself, with a typical noir-style murder mystery premise, is fairly unassuming. It’s not particularly hard-bitten, just accepting of the fact that certain and lewd and violent acts are known to happen in this world. It’s as if puppet-noir were a well-established cinematic genre, as Happytime Murders does not feel the need to explain itself, at least no more so than any other movie.

It is not as if audiences should be wholly unfamiliar with what director Brian Henson and company are trying to pull off, as Happytime has a great deal in common with a certain 1988 film called Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Both feature a human and a non-human partnering up to solve a series of murders that the non-human has been framed for, in a Los Angeles in which the human population lives uneasily alongside their neighbors from another medium. Both are more adult in their storytelling than the average Disney or Muppet concoction, but while Roger Rabbit is safe for most ages, Happytime decidedly is not. And while the latter can be enjoyed simply as a story of a cynical puppet private investigator trying to clear his name, the main reason to see it is why the kids cannot come.

The jokes about the anatomy, sexual predilections, and drug habits of puppets do not have the tenor of “Look how disgusting we can be!” Instead, they are the sort of clever, fully committed gags that examine a previously unexamined premise and then take the consequences to their most absurd conclusions. The climaxes are both explosive and filled with a deep well of laser-deployed knowledge. As P.I. Phil Philips, Bill Barretta (the current performer of Muppets like Swedish Chef and Pepe) gives about as much depth as possible to a puppet character. His crackling banter with Melissa McCarthy is filled with a loopy zest that can only come from looking at an askew world and keeping a straight face. Every cast member realizes something important, and it is why Happytime works as well as it does: this is all very silly, but we must commit to everything like the joy of the world depends on it.

The Happytime Murders is Recommended If You Like: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, A femme fatale walking into a P.I. office, The Muppets, Spy, The Heat

Grade: 3.75 out of 5 Puppet Carpets Matching the Drapes

SNL Review May 12, 2018: Amy Schumer/Kacey Musgraves

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult: http://newscult.com/snl-love-itkeep-itleave-amy-schumerkacey-musgraves/

A Mother’s Day Message From the Cast of SNL – B-

Amy Schumer’s Monologue – B-

Mother Knows Best – B-

Handmaids in the City – C+

The Day You Were Born – C-

Gospel Brunch – C-

Kacey Musgraves performs “High Horse” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Bailey Gismert – B-
Michael Che’s Stepmom – C+

Wake Up Denver – B+

Kacey Musgraves performs “Slow Burn” – B-

Last Call – B-

James Madison High School Graduation (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

SNL Recap February 13, 2016: Melissa McCarthy/Kanye West

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My full review can be found on Starpulse: http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2016/02/14/saturday-night-live-season-41-episode-

I Can’t Make You Love Me – B

Melissa McCarthy’s Monologue – B-

The Day Beyoncé Turned Black – C+

The Cul-De-Sac Test Screening – B-

Movie Night – B

Kanye West featuring Young Thug, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and El Debarge – “High Lights” – B

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Rachel from Friends – B-
Von Miller – C
Leslie Jones – C+

The Art of the Pickup – B

Rap Battle (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

Bus Ride – B-

Kanye West featuring The-Dream, Kelly Price, Chance the Rapper, and Kirk Franklin – “Ultra Light Beams” – B

Whiskers R We – B-