By Lynn Venhaus Without sentimentality, “The Father” depicts a man’s growing dementia and the sheer terror of the disorientation he feels as he doesn’t realize what is happening as he loses his grip on reality. In a bravura performance, Anthony Hopkins draws us into his world as we are caught as off-guard as he is.
Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is a learned, successful man who refuses his daughter Anne’s (Olivia Colman) assistance as he ages. He begins to doubt her and other loved ones as he tries to make sense of what’s going on around him. The story is adapted from the play by Florian Zeller, who has directed this film
Many families endure these same situations as matriarchs and patriarchs age, so this is a relatable journey that hits close to home as we watch a proud, intelligent, successful man decline and his family feels helpless in response.
Because of the film’s honesty, it is a hard watch, but its shared humanity is what gets us through the experience.
Florian Zeller, who wrote the 2012 play, “La Pere” in his native tongue, won the 2014 Moliere Award for Best Play in France. The play went on to open in London and on Broadway, with Frank Langella winning his fourth Tony Award for his performance as the title character. The English translation by playwright Christopher Hampton, Oscar winner for “Dangerous Liaisons,” is what is used for the film adaptation.
With sly editing and deft production design, we are kept guessing about the time and place, and what’s going on in Hopkins’ residence and in his head.
Because it is adapted from a play, “The Father” can’t really outgrow its stage constraints.
The ensemble is first-rate, particularly Olivia Colman as his adult daughter. We feel her pain acutely.
Both Hopkins and Colman have received much acclaim for their performances, and with Oscar nominations March 15, one can predict their names will be on the short lists.
While Hopkins, one of our finest actors, has an incredible range as a performer, it is in this film’s final 10 minutes where he gives everything he is capable of and leaves us shattered.
As “The Father,” it is perhaps his best work in a storied career, including an Academy Award for the creepiest villain of all-time in “The Silence of the Lambs” and last year’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in an astute portrait of former Pope Benedict in “The Two Popes.”
This is a film that will linger for a long time.
“The Father” is a 2020 drama directed by playwright Florian Zeller. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss and Imogene Poots. Rated: PG-13 for some strong language, and thematic material, its runtime is 1 hour, 37 minutes. It is in theaters on March 12.
On this President’s Day, let’s look back at the films
centered around an American President, and what actors were best at portraying
the Commander-in-Chief – be it fact or fiction. Here are some of my favorite
dramas, comedies and even romances that included the most powerful leader of
the free world. We are only listing theatrical films and the HBO film
adaptation of “All the Way.”
If we included television, we’d have a wider pool, and that’s
for another list. What are your favorites that spotlight our U.S. leader?
1.Lincoln (2012) — Daniel Day-Lewis not only delivers the best presidential portrayal ever on screen, but also one of the best male performances of all-time. Day-Lewis won his third Oscar, and it was never in doubt. Just a remarkable portrayal of Abe as a man struggling to hold the country together and lead them to higher ground. Director Steven Spielberg brought a humanity to the story rarely seen in historical portraits.
2. Dave (1993) — Kevin Kline is Dave Kovic, who is hired to impersonate the commander-in-chief when President Bill Mitchell suffers a stroke during an illicit affair.
A comedic take on an everyman winning over government wonks with his common sense, solidly directed by Ivan Reitman. Sigourney Weaver is a formidable First Lady.
3. Thirteen Days (2000) – President John F. Kennedy saved the day when we were on the brink of nuclear war with Russia, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is a historical look back at this tense political time in 1962, through the perspective of White House assistant Kenneth P. O’Donnell (Kevin Costner), with Bruce Greenwood strong as JFK.
4. The American President (1995) – This is Aaron Sorkin’s idealism front and center before “The West Wing.”
Michael Douglas shines as a widowed president running for re-election who starts a romance with an environmental lobbyist played by Annette Bening, but the political fallout affects their relationship.
Savvy script, smart casting (especially Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox as chief of staff and press secretary) make this Rob Reiner-helmed comedy-drama a memorable one.
5. Air Force One (1997) – Harrison Ford as kick-butt President James Marshall. Love it! The fit commander-in-chief is a Vietnam vet in this political action-thriller directed by Wolfgang Petersen. A group of terrorists hijack the president’s plane and threaten the U.S. but our hero won’t let that happen on his watch. Glenn Close is the vice president and Gary Oldman the Russian bad guy, but it is Ford, in all his star power, as the take-charge head of state that made this movie one of the most successful of the ‘90s.
6. Nixon (1995) – Anthony Hopkins embodied the beleaguered president during his tumultuous White House years, with Joan Allen riveting as his long-suffering wife Pat. Oliver Stone directed, so the agenda is clear.
7. Frost/Nixon (2008) – Frank Langella was Oscar-nominated as the disgraced Nixon seeking redemption in his four-part interviews with Britain’s David Frost in 1977. Ron Howard sharply directed the adaptation of Peter Morgan’s 2006 play, with whip-smart movie script by the playwright.
8. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) – Director John Ford teamed up with actor Henry Fonda for this look at honest Abe during his early years. Fonda embodies the heroic ideals of the lawyer and statesman who would become the 16th president of the United States.
9. All the Way (2016) — Bryan Cranston won a well-deserved Tony Award for his masterful portrayal of Lyndon Baines Johnson during the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the 2014 play by Robert Schenkkan.
This is the Emmy-nominated HBO adaptation, written by the playwright and directed by Jay Roach. Cranston is again uncanny as political animal LBJ, and the all-star cast includes Anthony Mackie as Martin Luther King Jr., Stephen Root as J. Edgar Hoover, Bradley Whitford as Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Melissa Leo as Lady Bird Johnson.
10. The Contender (2000) — The wonderful Jeff Bridges is a likeable two-term Democratic President, Jackson Evans, who decides to break the glass ceiling and appoint a woman Vice-President after the current one dies.
However, his nominee, Ohio Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) gets entangled in vicious hearings with a bullseye on her back. This political thriller is written and directed by Rod Lurie, a former newspaper guy. Both Bridges and Allen were nominated for Oscars.
11. Primary Colors (1998) – John Travolta was at the top of his game portraying Jack Stanton, a charismatic Southern governor running for president. Recognize anyone? Based on the 1996 “Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics” by Newsweek’s Joe Klein, this fictionalized account of Clinton’s 1992 campaign had a crackerjack supporting cast (Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oscar nominee Kathy Bates), sharply directed by Mike Nichols and written by his former comedy partner Elaine May.
12. Southside with You (2016) – A ‘what if’ movie that works, quirks and all, with its imagining of what Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama’s first date was like back when they were lawyers in Chicago. Written and directed by Richard Tanner, this little charmer comes alive when the nervous future two-term president shows off his oratory skills at a community meeting. Parker Sawyer is a genuinely believable Obama but Tika Sumpter really shines as the life force who would become First Lady Michelle Obama.
14. Elvis and Nixon (2016) – You may think this is preposterous, but this really did happen. And it’s one goofy movie. On Dec. 21, 1970, rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley went to the White House for a meeting with President Richard Nixon – and that historical photograph is the most requested one at the National Archives. Talk about offbeat casting — Michael Shannon is a different kind of Elvis while Kevin Spacey impersonates Nixon.
16. Independence Day (1996) – Bill Pullman is memorable President Thomas J. Whitmore facing an alien invasion, and his rallyng-all-Americans speech is one of the best-known in films. Here is the transcript of that great speech:
President Whitmore: Good morning. Good morning. In less than an hour aircrafts from here will join others from around the world and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the 4th of July and you will once again be fighting for our freedom not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution but from annihilation.
We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist, and should we win today the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American President holiday but is the day when the world declared in one voice,
“We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
This epic sci-fi disaster film made $817.4 million and won the Oscar for Best VIsual Effects.
17. Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” (2013) and 18. “White House Down” (2013) These aren’t films of particularly lasting impact but the casting of the presidents is genius.
In “The Butler,” Forest Whitaker plays a White House employee who serves multiple presidents – and this casting is certainly eyebrow-raising:
Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, James Marsden as JFK, Liev Shreiber as LBJ, John Cusack as Nixon, and the most brilliant turn by Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan (with Jane Fonda as Nancy!).
Jamie Foxx is the kick-ass president in the action thriller “White House Down,” which came out at the same time as the inferior “Olympus Has Fallen,” all about a terrorist group creating chaos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He’s terrific and a good match-up with Channing Tatum as a heroic Secret Serviceman.
Honorable Mentions: Oscar nominee Sam Rockwell is pitch-perfect as George W. Bush in “Vice” (2018), but he’s barely a supporting character. In Natalie Portman’s tour de force “Jackie,” Caspar Phillipson and John Carroll Lynch are effective portraying John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
By Lynn Venhaus
We still have a race for Best Picture and Director, as we try to gauge the
momentum going into Sunday. Will it be “Parasite” or “1917,” or will fading
frontrunner “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood regain its luster? After all,
Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.
The 92nd Academy Awards take place Feb. 9, with
ABC broadcasting red carpet live coverage at 5:30 p.m. and the ceremony
underway at 7 p.m. CST. This year is the second in a row where there is no
host, and it seemed to speed up the proceedings last year. We shall see.
The acting Oscars were apparently sown up weeks ago, as
awards season began. If there is any movement, it may be in Supporting Actress,
where newcomer Florence Pugh is coming on strong.
The shoo-ins this year? You can safely bet on “Parasite” as Best International
Feature, Brad Pitt as Best Supporting Actor in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,”
his fourth performance nomination (and he’ll likely give the best speech of the
night) and Roger Deakins as cinematographer for “1917.”
Will there be surprises and upsets? Or will it be as the
pundits predict? Only time will tell. Let’s just hope it’s a fun watch and
deserving wins to put the finishing touches on 2019 in film.
And afterwards, we’ll have memes, fashion debates and acceptance
speeches to remember.
Here are my picks for the 24 awards:
1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Parasite
My original frontrunner, “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” has faded, and the big momentum is with either “1917” or “Parasite.” I think Oscar voters, with the older voting block, will go with the heart-wrenching World War I epic and be content for “Parasite” to win Best International Feature. While there is always the possibility of an upset, I think the massive endeavor “1917” is deserving.
Sam Mendes, “1917”; Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”; Todd Phillips, “Joker”; Quentin Tarantino “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and Bong Joon-Ho, “Parasite”
I am in the “Sam Mendes is a genius” camp but Bong Joon-Ho’s work in “Parasite” is worthy too. Both are innovative, visual artists. I’d like a tie, like Critics Choice Association. I’m going with Mendes, as he won Directors Guild of America, the big prognosticator.
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”; Leonardo DiCaprio “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”; Joaquin Phoenix “Joker”; Jonathan Pryce “The Two Popes.”
Hands down, Joaquin Phoenix. He gave us pathos as he showed
Joker’s pain behind the façade and made his descent into madness frightening.
Nobody is more fearless working in film today. Adam Driver would be a close
second for his acting showcase in “Marriage Story.”
Not a fan of Renee Zellweger’s “Judy” but she has won all
earlier awards, and I see no reason why she wouldn’t. However, my pick would be
the radiant Saoirse Ronan for “Little Women.” If there is an upset, Scarlett
Johansson – finally nominated – would be a worthy winner for her tour de force
in “Marriage Story.”
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”; Al Pacino “The Irishman”; Joe Pesci “The Irishman”; Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”
Perhaps the only sure thing Oscar night, Brad Pitt is a
lock as stuntman Cliff Booth. He’s not just deserving but overdue. Besides,
he’s certain to give the best speech of the night, given his track record this
While I think the acting Oscars have already been nailed
down, this might be the upset category. Laura Dern as the shark lawyer in
“Marriage Story,” obsessed with winning at all costs, is my pick, and she was
also terrific in “Little Women,” but Margot Robbie’s ambitious Fox News staffer
could edge her out or first-time nominee Scarlett Johansson could finally get
Oscar love as the mom in “JoJo Rabbit.”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”; Andrew McLaren, “The Two Popes”; Todd Phillips,
“Joker”; Taika Waititi, “JoJo Rabbit”; Steve Zaillian “The Irishman.”
My favorite is Taika Waititi for the sharp social satire
“JoJo Rabbit,” but the revered Steve Zaillian’s adaptation of “The Irishman”
could be the film’s only win for its masterful storytelling.
Best Original Screenplay
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, “1917”; Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”; Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”; Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin Wan, “Parasite.”
1917, The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, Once Upon a Time…in
What Roger Deakins did with “1917” is remarkable and propels him to his second win in three years. He had been snubbed for decades for his tremendous work in Coen Brothers’ films, then started working with director Denis Villeneuve a few years back – and finally won in 2018 for “Blade Runner 2049.” What he achieved with making “1917” appear to have been shot in two takes is incredible.
Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite.
How can “1917” be omitted here? I think a bone should be
thrown to crowd-pleasing “Ford v. Ferrari.” This film was a challenging shot,
and the editors captured both the thrill and danger of endurance racing.
Best Production Design
1917, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time…in
For its meticulous research and replica of 1969 Hollywood, it must be “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” However, the house in “Parasite” and all the trenches and realistic war landscape in “1917” make the case for those films.
Best Music Score
1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Star Wars: The
Rise of Skywalker.
Previously, I thought it was a battle between the Newman generations – Randy for
“Marriage Story” and Thomas for ‘1917.” But now I’m in support of Hildur Gudnadottir
winning for “Joker.’ From Iceland, Gudnadottir won the Emmy and Grammy for HBO’s
“Chernobyl” and the Golden Globe and BAFTA for “Joker.” She’d be the first solo
woman to win this Oscar, and I can get behind that.
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away Again,” Toy Story 4; “I’m
Going to Stand with You,” Breakthrough; “Into the Unknown,” Frozen II; “(I’m
Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman; “Stand Up,” Harriet.
After much debate — and enjoying the Panic! At the Disco
version of “Into the Unknown” a lot, I’m now resigned to Elton John winning for
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” his fourth nominated song but his first with
longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Best Costume Design
The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a
“Little Women,” of course.
Best Hair and Makeup
1917, Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
“Bombshell” for making the actresses look uncannily like the Fox women they portray, and for turning John Lithgow into a convincing Roger Ailes.
Best Sound Mixing
1917, Ad Astra, Ford
v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
“1917” is the likely winner but “Ford v Ferrari” would be a justifiable winner.
Best Sound Editing
1917, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
Ditto as to what I said about sound mixing.
Best Visual Effects
1917, The Avengers; Endgame,” “The Irishman,” “The Lion
King” and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.”
“The Avengers: Endgame” was so smooth and seamless, and the CGI not overdone, that I can’t imagine another movie winning. But there is that ninth little movie in a galaxy far, far away.
Best Animated Feature
The Hidden Link, How to Drain Your Dragon, I Lost My Body,
Klaus, Toy Story 4.
The fitting and grand finale to one of my all-time favorite franchises, Pixar’s
“Toy Story 4” should win, especially since “Frozen II” was snubbed. But Laika’s
“The Missing Link” is adorable and the final chapter of “Dragon” is its most
Best International Feature
Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite.
The safest bet is South Korean’s “Parasite.” What a
genre-bending masterpiece – its mix of comedy, drama, thriller and horror is
one that will linger in your head for days.
Best Documentary Feature
American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For
Without the magnificent “Apollo 11” even nominated, I’ll
give “American Factory” the edge, although “Honeyland,” about ancient
beekeeping traditions in has a lot of love (which I don’t share). Netflix’s “American Factory” is about a
re-opened plant in Ohio now owned by Chinese businessmen, and the culture clash
that develops. It is produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s company Higher
Best Documentary Short
In the Absence, , Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone if
You’re a Girl, Life Overtakes Me, St. Louis Superman, Walk Run Cha Cha.
As much as we’d love to see “St. Louis Superman” get national attention, it does have a questionable ending – and really, “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone If You’re a Girl” appears to be headed for the win.
Best Live-Action Short
Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, The Neighbors’ Window, Saria, A Sister.
This is one of those Oscar pool contest busters –usually the wild card. Although I’ve read “Saria” is gaining traction, I’m going with “The Neighbor’s Window” because, while its less of a gut-punch than the others, it seems the most unconventional. Overall, it’s a really depressing bunch. Best Animated Short
Dcera, Hair Love, Kitbull, Memorable, Sister.
Often whatever Pixar short is before Disney’s blockbuster
is the safe choice, but the studio didn’t put anything before “Toy Story IV” or
“Frozen II.” Pixar’s “Kitbull” is hand-drawn and about the friendship of a
kitten and an abused pitbull. Adorable, right? But “Hair Love,” about a dad’s
effort to braid his daughter’s hair, which was shown before “Angry Birds 2,” is
my choice for the gold.