Showing posts with label 2024 Academy Award Nominations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2024 Academy Award Nominations. Show all posts

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Getting Ready for the 2024 Oscars, Part 2: "American Fiction" and "Poor Things"

[I review the last two movies I needed to see to be Oscar Ready: "American Fiction" and "Poor Things"]

American Fiction (2023)

An African American professor/novelist whose books haven't sold and who is fed up with best sellers that stereotype the black experience as one filled with drug dealers, rappers and poor single moms, changes course, and under a pen name, decides to write his own book - filled with black drug dealers, rappers and poor single moms. But, hey, it's a joke! But, much to his chagrin, it turns into a best seller!

This is a smart movie on several different levels. 

First of all, what some fail to realize is that the so-called "black experience" runs the gamut.  Yes, there are rappers, drug dealers and people living in poverty, but there are also many African American upper middle class people who are doctors and lawyers and know little about rappers, drug dealers and poverty.  And that is the world that Thelonious "Monk" Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) grew up in.  

Monk is a professor in Los Angeles whose novels have been awarded praise but none have been best sellers, and recently he can't even get published because his books are not "black enough."  And to add insult to injury, he is given a temporary leave of absence from his job because he is upsetting his students over racial issues. So he heads home to Boston to spend some time with his family and to take part in a literary seminar where, after low attendance at his panel, he discovers Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), whose new best-selling book about poor, black single mothers - "We's Lives in Da Ghetto" - has drawn huge attendance to her book reading. Ironically, like Monk, Golden, even though her book is about poor, single mothers, grew up middle class and privileged.

Disgusted, Monk pens a send-up, to show what black writers are burdened with, having to write about the "black experience" as one filled with bad English, violence, and drugs. He names the book "My Pafology" and uses the pen name Stagg R. Leigh and gives this new persona a criminal record. It was a joke!  But wouldn't you know, he is offered a $750,000 advance and a movie deal.  Again, disgusted, he demands that the title be changed to "F**k."  Surely that will scupper the deal.  Nope.  

Now we are on to level number two - family, where we are reminded that no matter what your color, there is drama and Monk's family is no exception.  His mother, Agnes (Leslie Uggams), is showing signs of dementia; his brother, Cliff (Sterling K. Brown), who is a plastic surgeon, is divorced and has come out as gay, now abusing drugs and alcohol; and his sister, Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross), also a doctor, has issues. Neither sibling can help Monk care for their mother, so with Monk on his own, facing the financial responsibility of finding their mother a care facility, the book and movie deals for his so-called joke of a book are very tempting.

Now, buttoned-up and professorial, Monk, is stuck with impersonating a thug with a criminal history, and to make matters worse, his book is submitted for a literary award and he is one of the judges, so now he has to judge his own book!

And then we have level three - this film is also a commentary on what is being published these days, the junk so many of us read, especially books that pander to white people stereotypes of life in the "hood." I know, it's judgy, but there is some merit to that.  Monk has written intellectual books to appeal to smart people, regardless of color, but his books don't sell because the public wants something easy and fast, something they can relate to even if it reinforces stereotypes, which in turn, forces black writers to write what sells.

Needless to say, this is a satire and very funny, but not without lots to think about.  

Jeffrey Wright is wonderful as Monk and deserving of his 2024 Best Actor Oscar nomination. Sterling K. Brown was a surprise and has earned my respect.  His uptight character in "This is Us" irritated the hell out of me, so I am glad I am able to give him another chance as he plays against that character as the "out of the closet," drug-using, "I don't give a damn," Cliff.  He, too, has been rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Erika Alexander as Monk's love interest and Myra Lucretia Taylor as Lorraine, the family's loyal housekeeper, add to this engaging ensemble. And good to see Leslie Uggams, who looks wonderful. Hard to believe she is old enough to be playing Monk's mother, a woman struggling with dementia.  

Fun fact: Speaking of Leslie Uggams, when accepting an award from her at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Wright couldn't help but reveal his longtime crush on her - “I've had a crush on you since the first day I saw you, mother. Who did not?”  Awww...

Adapted by Cord Jefferson from the novel "Erasure" by Percival Everett (Jefferson's adaption also has an Oscar nomination) and directed by Jefferson, this film forces us all to face our stereotyping, shines a light on the roadblocks that black people in the creative community often must navigate and reminds us that no matter what our race, we all share many commonalities.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a smart, grown-up film for smart, grown-up people. (In theatres - streaming soon on Apple+) 

Poor Things (2023)

A new take on the Frankenstein's monster story.

I am going to warn you right now.  If you loved this movie, you will not like my review because I decidedly did NOT love this movie, nor did I even like it, so if my criticisms of the film will make you mad, best to stop reading now.

But, anyway, before I get into all of that, here is some background.

Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) lives with Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe).  She calls him God and you soon find out the reason why, a rather obvious film nod to his skills of bringing back the dead. Bella, before she was Bella, when she was a sad and heavily pregnant other women, had jumped off a bridge and killed herself but was saved by Baxter when he transplanted the brain of her still alive unborn baby into her. Now Bella is a full-grown woman with the brain of a baby. You learn Baxter likes to do those kinds of experiments when you notice the chicken with the pig's head, the goose with a bulldog head, and the goat with a duck head wandering around the house. Yes, there are some laughs to be had in this film. A few.

And if Dr. Baxter's face is any indication, he appears to have come by this penchant naturally as his father also liked to experiment.  He has the face of Frankenstein's monster, all scarred and stitched up. Baxter hires Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), a young doctor, to work with Bella and observe her because in the end she is an experiment. God wants to know how her brain will progress. God keeps Bella close and even suggests that Max marry Bella, though he must agree to stay with him in the house forever.  Max agrees because he has feelings for Bella.

But then, Bella meets Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), an arrogant rake, who whisks her off on an adventure.  Oh, I forgot to mention that Bella is already addicted to masturbation and sex (she calls it "furious jumping") and Duncan is not averse to having sex several times a day, so it's a good match until Bella finds her way and matures and he loses control of her.  His frail masculinity is wounded. So Bella continues to mature and find herself until the movie finally ends (thank god) with a derivative ending reminiscent of the movie "Freaks."

So a case could be made for this film having a feminist message. Based on the novel by Alasdair Gray and adapted by Tony McNamara, it's about loss of innocence, how a woman goes from a child to embarking on a journey to find herself and eventually shedding herself from male dominance and control and becoming her true self.  I usually like movies like that, but sadly how it was presented overshadowed any deep message.  The film was too much in my face all of the time - masturbation, sex, full nudity, body parts being removed, blood and guts. I know it was supposed to be funny and surreal, but sitting in the theatre, I felt like I was in a Dali painting and I was the melting watch!

I can appreciate originality, good acting, beautiful production design and great cinematography (though the switching from black and white to color and back again was confusing as was the views from a fish eye lens and just seemed a bit indulgent).  I also like films with a message, which this film has, but it all has to add up to an enjoyable movie experience for me, and sadly, it was not. All of those good things I mentioned were overshadowed by overindulgence, shock value and just plain nuttiness.  I am sick of nutty movies. Don't get me started on "Everything, Everywhere All At Once."

And to continue my rant, I would like to comment on Emma Stone's Best Actress Oscar nomination for this (she has already won a Best Actress Golden Globe) and Margot Robbie's Oscar snub for "Barbie."  Emma basically played a two-year old for the first half of the movie and Margot played a doll come to life. Similar mental states, I would say.  Though Emma is an excellent actress, I just did not believe her in this role.  Her performance screamed of "Look at me, I'm a two year old!" She walked around stiff-legged, masturbated with an apple, talked funny and took a pee on the floor, all things I guess a two-year-old would do, but I didn't buy it.  I don't like it when I can tell an actor is acting. It did get better as her character matured, but I was already over it.  As for Margot as Barbie.  I believed and enjoyed every minute of her performance. Yet Emma received an Oscar nod and Margot did not. End of rant.

On the other hand, lest you think I can't find anything good here, Mark Ruffalo was quite wonderful and played against the usual brooding dark souls he plays.  His Duncan was a dark soul but a funny one. Dafoe and Youssef were also good. And the film is worthy of its Oscar nods for makeup and costume.

Speaking of Oscar nods, I know this film has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director (Yorgos Lanthimos, who was also nominated for a Best Director Oscar for "The Favourite" in 2019), and more, so I guess perhaps I am not the best judge of nutty movies. I mean, look what happened with "Everything, Everywhere All at Once." I really disliked that one, too, and said so, yet it went on to win seven Oscars including Best Picture.  I think I was the only person who didn't like that movie, and it looks like I am the only person who didn't like this one.  So does that mean my bad review of this one clinches a Best Picture win for it?  I hope not, but even if it does win, that changes nothing for me. Didn't like "Everything, Everywhere All at Once," and I really didn't like this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says..."Frankenstein" meets "Freaks" kind of sums it up for me.  Not an enjoyable experience. (In theatres)

There you have it.  I have now seen all of the movies nominated for Best Picture that I could find in the theatres or streaming.  As we get closer to Oscar Night - March 10 - more films might become available.  I will keep you posted.  Until then...

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Getting Ready for the 2024 Oscars, Part 1: Some Movies You Might Have Missed and a Recap of the Nominations

[I review the "The Holdovers" - nominated for a 2024 Best Picture Oscar - as well as "Rustin" and "The Color Purple" - films with Oscar nominated performances.]

Oscar nominations were announced this last week and no surprise that "Barbenheimer" ("Barbie" and "Oppenheimer") dominated. I pride myself in seeing all of the nominated films and performances before the ceremony that I can - I don't live in a very large metropolitan area so often the smaller films don't even make it here - but I am happy to say that I have already seen most of the films nominated and weighed in on them, too.

So if you are like me and you want to be in the know, you might have some boning up to do if you want to be Oscar ready, especially if you are going to participate in some Oscar competitions. I am here to help! 

Here are some nominated films and performances that I hadn't yet gotten around to or that had snuck up on me (and maybe you too) and where you can find them. 

Also, at the end of this post, I have listed all of the nominated films with links to my reviews which also tell you where you can find the films.

See you at the Oscars!

The Holdovers (2023)

A bittersweet dramedy about a history teacher, a cook and a student forced to stay behind at a boarding school over winter break.

My movie-going companion wanted to see this one ages ago, but I didn't know much about it and, not being a Paul Giamatti fan, I dragged my feet. Well, I should have picked my feet up.  

This was one of my favorite movies of the year.

Paul Giamatti plays Paul Hunham, who teaches Ancient History at Barton Academy, a New England boy's elite boarding school.  His students are rich, entitled and troubled.  It's Christmas break in 1970, the Vietnam War is in full-swing and five boys must stay at school over the break because of various family issues.  

Hunham is not a well-liked teacher, not by his students or his fellow teachers.  Ironically, Hunham also attended Barton on scholarship as a young man.  But now he is an authoritarian with a difficult personality and has no qualms failing his students if they don't produce, something that Barton's headmaster is not happy about, since giving a donor's son a failing grade leads to no money for the school.

So Hunham is on the naughty list for Christmas, and as punishment, must stay behind to babysit the boys who have to stay over Christmas break. And babysitting these boys is not an easy job.  They are troubled, especially young Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa), whose mother is leaving him at school so she can go off on honeymoon with her new husband. And no one likes Angus either.  Keeping them all company is the cafeteria manager, Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who is grieving the loss of her son, a graduate of Barton and who was later killed in Vietnam.

Hunham stays true to form, forcing the boys to study and exercise instead of enjoying their time off, but after a few days, one of the boys' father arrives in a helicopter to take them all skiing. See?  I said they were entitled.  Sadly, though, Hunham is not able to reach Angus's parents to get permission for him to leave so he is left alone with Hunham and Mary.

All kinds of hijinks and misadventures ensue as the mutual dislike of each other turns to understanding as Angus and Hunham each learn about the other and bond - we knew that was going to happen, but it's how they get there that will keep you watching.

Paul Giamatti has made a living being a curmudgeon ever since his dramatic outburst about merlot in the movie "Sideways (also directed by Alexander Payne, who directed this film)." I always saw him as a one-note actor, boiling over and shaking with anger as his specialty.  But here he shows a softer side.  Yes, he still gets to emote but his performance is very nuanced.  I believed him as a troubled guy with a disappointing life and I cared about him. His Best Actor Golden Globe win and now this Oscar nomination - well-deserved. 

But Da'Vine Joy Randolph was a revelation.  Not having seen the film yet and not knowing about her performance, I was surprised by her Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe win - who the heck is she? - but after seeing her in this, again well-deserved.  It was a wonderful performance.  And last but not least, newcomer Sessa was also wonderful in a difficult role and I am sure we will be seeing more of him.

Filmed at several Massachusetts boarding schools including Groton, the beauty of the campus and the snow-covered New England towns, covered bridge and all, belies the struggles going on with our characters in this very special, bittersweet film, very thoughtfully written by David Hemingson, whose original screenplay has been nominated for a 2024 Academy Award. The film has also been nominated for Best Picture, Best Film Editing with Giamatti and Randolph getting Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress nods respectively.  Sadly, director Alexander Payne was snubbed. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful bittersweet Christmas movie that you will want to watch year round. One of the best movies of the year! (Peacock)

Rustin (2023)


It's sad how people can be erased from history when they don't fit the mold. That's what happened to Bayard Rustin.

Bayard Rustin (Colman Domingo) was a mover and shaker in Martin Luther King's fight for civil rights.  He is right there behind King as King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech at the 1963 March on Washington, which Rustin was instrumental in making happen.  But Bayard Rustin was also an openly gay man and that didn't fit the picture.

Produced by Michele and Barack Obama, this is Rustin's story, a Quaker and activist who embraced non-violent protest working with Martin Luther King.  He actually sparked King to act, but early on, was dismissed by King when King feared being linked with a homosexual. It didn't help that Rustin was suspected of having Communist leanings.  

But in 1963, when Rustin wanted to plan a march on Washington, he enlisted King (Aml Ameen) again.  He also had to get approval from other movers and shakers in the movement - Roy Wilkins (Chris Rock), A. Philip Randolph (Glynn Turman), John Lewis (Maxwell Whittington-Cooper) and others. The organizers were hoping for 100,000 to show up in Washington D.C. for The March for Freedom and Jobs. They got that and more - 250,000 came and the Civil Rights Act passed nine months later.

Written by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black and directed by George C. Wolfe, the film, though very talky, is an historically important film, with a tour de force performance from Domingo, who has been rewarded with a 2024 Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Domingo has been a working actor for years, toiling on TV, but this is his first starring role in a feature film.  And he makes the most of it.  He also starred in "The Color Purple," (see review below) in a decidedly different role which he also knocked out of the park.

This was not just an homage to Rustin but an homage to political activism and organizing, reminding us of what it takes to make change happen and the people who brought about change via the Civil Rights Movement. And speaking of those people, I would have liked to have seen an epilogue showing the actors next to the real life people with something about what the real life people went on to do.  I know epilogues like that can be a cliche, but in this case, these people deserve to be remembered.

In an interview, Domingo said that Michele and Barack Obama had specifically chosen him for the role and that Barack had told him, "There would be no Barack Obama without Bayard Rustin."

Rosy the Reviewer important film about a man who deserves his place in history (Netflix).

The Color Purple (2023)

A musical version of the 1985 film.

This is the film version of the stage musical, which ran on Broadway from 2005-2008 (revived in 2016) and which, in turn, was based on the 1985 Oscar-nominated adaption of Alice Walker's 1982 novel. Most of you probably saw the first film and/or read the book, but in case you didn't, here is a recap of the story.

In 1909 Georgia, teenager Celie (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as young Celie) lives with her sister Nettie (Halle Bailey) and abusive father Alfonso (Deon Cole). Their mother has died and Alfonso has been sexually abusing Celie causing her to become pregnant twice.  Both children were taken away from Celie and Alfonso forces her to marry local farmer, "Mister" Johnson (Colman Domingo), who already has three children. She is basically there to take care of the children and act as a housekeeper.

Then Alfonso goes after Nettie but she escapes and moves in with Celie until Mister tries it on with her too.  But she is not having it.  She leaves telling Celie she will write her every day.

Fast forward to 1917. Now Celie (Fantasia Barrino) is older and resigned to her life of misery. Mister's son Harpo (Corey Hawkins) marries Sofia (Danielle Brooks), but unlike Celie, who is compliant and puts up with abuse, Sofia is defiant. Then singer Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson) comes to town and befriends Celie. These three women bond in this story of sisterhood.

After years of abuse, will Celie finally find her voice and be reunited with Nettie and her children?

If you read the book or saw the original movie, you know the answer.  Secrets are revealed and good triumphs over evil.  If only life was really like that.

This is a difficult story to live through because of the rampant racism and patriarchy that Celie and others have to endure.  But it's also a story of endurance and hope.  The acting is excellent, especially Brooks as Sofia (she won a Tony for her performance in the 2016 revival of the Broadway musical and has been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar) and Colman Domingo as Mister. With this role and his role in "Rustin (see review above)," Domingo certainly had a good 2023. And Whoopi Goldberg, who played Celie in the original film also makes an uncredited cameo appearance as Celie's midwife.

Though this is a musical, it's not one where people burst into song that much for no reason.  There is a little of that, but the music is mostly woven into dream sequences, church and stylized dances, so if you think you don't like musicals, this one probably won't bother you that much.

However, the film, directed by Blitz Bazawule with a screenplay by Marcus Gardley, is slow-moving, and though this is not a remake of the earlier movie per se because it's a musical, I had to ask myself - did we need this new version? 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can appreciate the production values and the film is worth seeing for the performances, but I don't think we needed this remake, even if it was a musical version, when we had a perfectly good Oscar nominated film already. When something is good, let's leave it alone, and the original was good (For rent of purchase on Amazon Prime)

And as promised, here is a round-up of the nominated films and performances that you need to see if you want to be in the know when the Oscars roll around.  I have included my earlier reviews that also tell you where you can find the film to stream, if available (click on the name of the film).


See you at the Oscars!

Nominated for Best Picture:

  • "Anatomy of a Fall" - Five nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director 
  • "Barbie" - Eight nominations including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress 
  • "The Holdovers" - Five nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (See review above)
  • "Killers of the Flower Moon" - Ten nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director 
  • "Maestro" - Seven nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress 
  • "Oppenheimer" - Thirteen nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director 
  • "Past Lives" - Two nominations including Best Picture 
  • "Poor Things" - Eleven nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director (Stay tuned for review next week)
  • "American Fiction" - Six nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Stay tuned for review next week)
  • "The Zone of Interest" - Five nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film (will review this film as soon as I can find it somewhere)!

And though these films were not nominated for Best Picture, they included some nominated performances and screenplay:

  • "Rustin" - Best Actor (See review above)
  • "Nyad" - Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress
  • "The Color Purple" - Best Supporting Actress (see review above)
  • "Society of the Snow" - Best International Feature (Stay tuned for review next week)


Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!