Irma P. Hall

Jayne Mansfield

Back in 1996, when Billy Bob Thornton directed Sling Blade, its success seemed like a pretty big opportunity for the actor to change up his career focus and start accumulating awards by sitting in the director’s chair. That didn’t happen, though. Thornton has only made a handful of films since, and none that have come close to being as well-regarded as his first. However, it’s looking like this year could serve as Thornton’s best chance since Sling Blade at accumulating some more awards, because his latest film, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, looks like it’s got all of that good stuff that people who give out golden statues like. It’s a comedy of manners that throws excitable Southerners and stuffy Brits in the same space and examines the ways they chafe against each other, it’s set in the ’60s (so it’s got that oh-so-important element of nostalgia going for it, and there are plenty of period sets and costumes, shot with glowing gold light, which puts you in the perfect mood to squirt some tears at all of its ham-handed drama), and – probably most importantly – it boasts a cast of actors including names like John Hurt, Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Irma P. Hall, Thornton himself, and many others. These are not untalented folk.

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Over Under - Large

Though Steven Soderbergh has had a lengthy career full of acclaimed projects, he’s perhaps best known for his remake of Ocean’s 11, a successful compiling of some of the biggest names in Hollywood for a good, old-fashioned heist movie that was so successful it spawned two sequels. Despite the fact that he was better known for artier fare when Ocean’s Eleven was released, audiences responded well to this fairly simple robbery tale, and the slight modern spin that Soderbergh put on the film’s largely vintage aesthetic got pretty universal praise. If there are any filmmakers working today who have a heftier resume of acclaimed works than Steven Soderbergh, then they’re definitely named Joel and Ethan Coen. The Coen brothers have been making artsy, weird movies ever since the mid-80s, and though it’s taken them a while to achieve any real financial success, they’ve always enjoyed an ever-increasing amount of critical acclaim. That is, until they ventured into the romantic comedy and heist genres in 2003 and 2004 with Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. These two films are widely regarded as the Coens’ worst work, and their only movies worst skipping. This feeling is erroneous, however, because The Ladykillers in particular is very Coens and very fun, and the world was wrong for vilifying them for making a simple heist movie with a throwback feel. I mean, nobody minded when Soderbergh did it.

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