Showing posts with label 2023 Oscars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2023 Oscars. Show all posts

Saturday, February 4, 2023

For Your Consideration, Part I. Have You Seen These Oscar Nominated Films and Performances?

[I review two more of the 2023 Oscar nominated films for Best Picture: "The Fabelmans," and "The Banshees of Inisherin." I also review the Oscar nominated performance of Brendan Fraser in "The Whale."] 

But first, here is a list of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture 2023 (click on the links for my original reviews):

"Top Gun: Maverick," "Elvis," "Tar" and "Everything Everywhere All At Once." Stay tuned for my reviews of "All Quiet on the Western Front, "Women Talking" and "Triangle of Sadness" (and I probably won't get to "Avatar: The Way of Water," because not my kind of movie and at a whopping three hours and 12 minutes, it appears to be another one of those bloated, overlong films I am against, so I already know I won't like it.). 

That makes a total of ten nominees for Best Picture to be decided at the Oscars March 12 (and don't get me started on what I think about there being up to ten nominees.  Okay, you twisted my arm. I will start.  I don't like it!)

The Fabelmans (2022)

Director Stephen Spielberg's love letter to his family and his youth.

Young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan) gets the movie bug after seeing the big train crash scene in Cecil B. DeMille's 1952 epic "The Greatest Show on Earth."  He is five and living in New Jersey with his mother, Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Dad, Burt (Paul Dano).  The family is later joined by three daughters, and as time goes by, Sammy starts making movies using his younger sisters as his actresses.  Burt is a hard working scientist already involved in computers and Mitzi is more of a free spirit who was once a concert pianist but gave it up to be a homemaker and piano teacher. Burt is the steady, financially supportive one, Mitzi the fun emotionally supportive one. Burt thinks Sammy's interest in movie-making is fine as a hobby, but he will need to eventually get a "real" job.  Mitzi, on the other hand, thinks her son has something special and encourages him to make movies. 

In 1957, Burt is offered a job in Phoenx.  The family moves there along with Burt's best friend, Bennie (Seth Rogan), who by the way, unlike the kind but unexciting Burt, is charismatic and fun.  Mitzi had insisted that Burt get Bennie a job there too.  Mmmm.  The plot thickens.

When Mitzi's mother dies, Sammy's eccentric Uncle Boris arrives (played by a very funny Judd Hirsch).  Boris was a lion tamer and also worked in films.  He gives Sammy a speech about the conflict between family and art. If you have talent, you must cultivate it, but the dark side is the sacrifice one must make for art and the guilt associated with neglecting one's loved ones for it.  

And for that speech and short appearance in the film, Hirsch earned himself a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Hirsch is on screen for only a few minutes, and if he wins, he will join the ranks of Oscar winners who were on screen for less than 20 minutes.  Fun Fact: So far the acting Oscar for the least amount of screen time goes to Beatrice Straight for "Network."  She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for only five minutes and forty seconds of screen time!

Anyway, Sammy discovers a family secret that leads to his estrangement from his mother, and the family eventually moves to Saratoga, California for a good paying job for Burt, this time leaving Bennie behind.  Sammy also discovers that he and his sisters appear to be the only Jewish kids in a school full of WASPS, kids who don't seem to like Jewish kids.  Sammy - he wants to be called Sam now - is mercilessly bullied by the school jocks until he reveals his talent for movie-making by successfully filming the annual Senior Ditch Day.

And as this is a movie memoir about Spielberg's own life, the rest is history.

This is a departure from the kinds of films we are used to seeing from Spielberg.  It is clearly a labor of love, a bit of nostalgia about Spielberg's early life that beautifully captures the 1950's and 60's (and I should know, I was there!), all about people trying to figure out who they really are and what course to take in life.

But fact or fiction, the story, written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner, is compelling, and there are moments of brilliance, like the young Spielberg, er, Sammy recreating the train wreck scene from "The Greatest Show on Earth" with his newly acquired Lionel train set and Sam's meeting at the beginning of his film career with famed director John Ford (humorously played by director David Lynch), where Ford tells him that horizons on the top or bottom of the screen are interesting, a horizon in the middle is dull and then tells him to get the hell out of his office. You will love the little homage to that at the end.

There are many such special brilliant moments, and while watching, one can't help but wonder how many of those moments are true, the actual facts of Spielberg's life?  

You expect brilliance from a filmmaker like Spielberg, who is at the top of his game, but, like so many movies these days, it's just too long. It definitely dragged in places, and that is not surprising for a family drama where not that much happens in a two and a half hour long film.  Spielberg could have definitely shaved off at least 30 minutes and made this film even more compelling.  But all of the actors put in great performances, especially Michelle Williams, who is  nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and Gabriel LaBelle, who plays the teen-aged Sammy.  He reminded me of a young Tom Cruise and, I predict he has a wonderful acting career to look forward to.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though too long, an enjoyable movie experience, and I am hoping this one will win the Best Picture Oscar and beat "Everything Everywhere All At Once," which currently looks to be the front-runner and which I hated.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

What do you do when your best friend suddenly says "I just don't like you anymore?"

Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) have been best friends for years.  They have been meeting at the local pub every day at two o'clock for years, but one day Colm tells Padraic he doesn't want to be friends anymore, and in fact, he no longer likes Padraic.  Colm feels his life slipping away and he wants to concentrate on his music, not the dull chatter he accuses Padraic of inflicting upon him. Padraic is too nice and for Colm that's dull. So Colm tells Padraic to stay away from him and if he talks to him again he will start cutting off his fingers one by one, quite a threat coming from a fiddle player!

Well, easier said than done.  It's 1923 and the two live on a small isolated (fictional) Irish island with one pub.  The Irish Civil War is booming from across the water, and it seems that Colm has started his own personal war with Padraic, one that Padraic just can't accept.  He can't believe that they are no longer friends, and, because of that, he just can't seem to stay away from Colm. He needs to understand what happened, so he keeps pestering Colm. So Colm delivers finger #1. How far is this thing going to go?

The revelation here is Farrell.

I always thought of Farrell as a sort of wise guy, a hard man and super intense, but here he is vulnerable, and yes, kind of dull as the emotionally injured Padraic.  Not dull as an actor, mind you, but he plays the not-very-smart but very, very kind Padraic, beautifully.  Gleeson is no sloutch, either, but this is Farrell's movie.

Speaking of Gleeson, he and Farrell are besties in real life too.  They met on the film "In Bruges," and have been pals ever since.  In a recent interview with the two, Farrell tells the story of meeting Gleeson in his hotel room.  He had "set down the jar" a year or so before, so was feeling nervous when Gleeson asked him if he wanted a drink.  Gleeson proceeded to head over to the mini-bar and pulled out two bottles of water.  Farrell was touched that Gleeson knew he was sober and would do that.  Gleeson, likewise, gushed over his friend by saying that he knew right away that Farrell was a kind man.  Gleeson went on to say that his Dad had been kind and he was drawn to kindness.

So it's ironic that the two would play friends with a troubled relationship. 

Colm is getting older and sees his own mortality.  He is trying to find meaning in his life while he still has time and blaming that lack of meaning on others.  He no longer wants to be "aimlessly chatting," which he blames on Padraic. So he feels he needs to give up old friends and being nice.  He wants to concentrate on "meaningful stuff" like music and art. 

Can you be too nice? 

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (who is probably best known for his Oscar nominated "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and this year has nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), this is a tragicomedy, a treatise on friendship and a character study about what happens when one of your good friends moves on. And it asks the questions: Can you be too nice?  Is being nice the equivalent of being dull? And should we move away from friends who no longer seem to fit into our lives? These are the kinds of questions that could keep you up at night but don't get me wrong.  This is not all serious stuff.  It's quite funny at times and Farrell and Gleeson are an amazing couple!

Both actors are nominated for Oscars for their performances - Farrell for Best Actor and Gleeson for Best Supporting Actor.  

Who will win?  Both are deserving but I think the Best Actor trophy will go to either Brendan Fraser for "The Whale (see below)" or Austin Butler for "Elvis."  Both have already picked up Golden Globes and other awards for their performances (though Farrell also won a Golden Globe). Best Supporting Actor will probably go to Ke Hue Quan for "Everything Everywhere All At Once," as he has the comeback story of the year.

Rosy the Reviewer says...will "The Banshees of Inisherin" win the Best Picture Oscar?  Probably not.  Is it worth seeing?  A resounding yes!

The Whale (2022)

A housebound morbidly obese man tries to reconnect with his angry young daughter.

Brendan Fraser gained some weight, donned a fat suit, and with the help of some CGI, plays Charlie, a man so morbidly obese he is not only housebound, but barely able to get around his apartment. He earns money by conducting an online college course on writing essays. He is so ashamed of his appearance, he has told the class that his camera doesn't work and that is why they can't see him. 

Based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter (he also wrote the screenplay), the film does feel very much like a stage play as it takes place solely in Charlie's apartment and people come and go.  

First we meet Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a young missionary going door-to-door who happens to encounter Charlie having an attack while watching gay porn.  Thomas not only saves Charlie but he wants to also save Charlie's soul.  Then Liz, Charlie's friend and nurse (the wonderful Hong Chau), arrives. She doesn't want anything to do with religion.  She is not trying to save Charlie's soul, she is trying to save Charlie's life.  

Then, Ellie (Sadie Sink), Charlie's 17-year-old daughter arrives - sigh.  She is one piece of work if ever there was one.  She is angry, hates everyone, especially Charlie, and is just plain mean.  She has never forgiven Charlie for leaving her and her mother when she was eight.  You see, Charlie fell in love with a man and left his wife and daughter. His wife kept him from seeing Ellie, so Ellie and Charlie have had no relationship over the last eight years.  Sadly, Charlie's lover died and that is when Charlie started to stuff his sorrow with food and his grief and depression has led him to not want to live. He is very unwell and refuses to go to the hospital.

But despite Ellie's mistreatment of him, Charlie desperately wants to reconnect with his daughter before he dies. He offers to pay her to visit him, to give her the $100,000+ money he has saved and to write her school essays for her.  She reluctantly visits him but does everything she can to make his life miserable while she's doing it. I wanted to slap her. But Charlie wants to feel he has done something right in his life and his daughter is it. Poor Charlie.  If I had a daughter like her, I certainly wouldn't think I had done anything right. 

To get this movie, I think we are supposed to understand the themes in "Moby-Dick."

But I kind of didn't. I'm not even sure I read "Moby-Dick," or if I did, that I understood it at the time.  Not big into whaling ships and trying to kill a whale. But this is what I think I figured out. The "Moby-Dick" reference in the film is literal and figurative.  Literally, six-hundred-pound Charlie is a whale (duh), because he weighs about as much as a whale, and at least twice during the film, Charlie rises up off of the couch and appears huge, as if he is a breaching whale. And like Ahab in "Moby-Dick," Ellie hates Charlie for "swimming off," and leaving her and her mother, so she wants to make him pay. Is Ellie Ahab, wanting him dead for leaving her and her mother?  Not sure, but she is certainly mean enough to be Ahab.

There are also many religious references in the film. Though the whale in "Moby- Dick" has often been thought to be a metaphor for God or the force of nature, and most of the characters in the film have been affected by religion, the role of religion in the film is murky, and I didn't really understand why Thomas, the young missionary, was even in it. Seemed like a superfluous character with not much to do.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, this film is dark and even excruciating at times. If you remember "Black Swan," or "mother!" you know that Aronofsky definitely has a dark side and his movies can be difficult to watch. This one is no exception, but I did chuckle once when Brendan/Charlie says that he wasn't that bad looking back when he wasn't so fat.  Right, Brendan. You were one handsome kid! 

And speaking of which, this is one of those performances that the Academy loves to recognize, when a handsome actor is willing to make himself look unattractive in pursuit of his art.  But this performance is not all fat suit.  Fraser puts in a poignant, touching and sometimes scary performance and he is deserving of this nomination. It shows how far he has come since "George of the Jungle!" 

Rosy the Reviewer says...not a pleasant movie to watch, so I am not going to give it a big recommendation, but Fraser is the front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar and Hong Chau has a Best Supporting Actress nomination so you might want to see it for the performances.

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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