Showing posts with label Academy Awards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Academy Awards. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Academy Awards 2021: Which of These Films Will Take Home the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature?

I am a huge fan of documentaries.  I think it's something about real life being stranger than fiction. In 2014,  I "documented" my favorites with "15 Must See Documentaries," but since then I have seen others that should make that list and one of them has been nominated for an Oscar this year.

And speaking of the Oscars, the ceremony is this Sunday, April 25th, so I have been busily watching all of the nominated documentary features (those are the long ones, not to be confused with the Documentary Shorts category) in preparation for the annual family competition and to help you out, too, if you are attending an Oscar party or participating in a competition.  It's these categories of often little-seen films that can make or break it for you.  No need to thank me, I consider it my duty to help you out, and as I said, I love documentaries.

So let's get on with it!


My Octopus Teacher



A filmmaker forms an unlikely friendship with an octopus in a South African kelp forest.

I have to admit at the outset: I am not a huge fan of nature films.  I remember as a little girl, when I would watch "The Wonderful World of Disney," I would cry if they showed one of their nature films rather than animation. And as an adult, I don't like that whole Circle of Life thing, where the lion chases the gazelle, catches it and then tears it apart. I don't need to see that.

So I was surpised when I fell madly in love with this movie.  Well, with a little octopus.

South African filmmaker, Craig Foster, was going through a rough patch in his life so he decided that he would just jump in the water and explore, as one does.  He had filmed trackers in the Kalahari so he knews something about filming wildlife and observing their habits.  So he decided to use that experience to go into the water and do some underwater tracking. He went in with no wetsuite so it was cold, cold, cold, but he soon became accustomed to the cold, and as he continued to dive, he came upon an octopus and her den and after daily forays into the water, over time trust was developed.  He would go in the water every day and an unlikely friendship developed between man and octopus, and, people, you are not going to believe what you will see.  The octopus touches him with her tentacles, lets him hold her and she follows him around.  It's uncanny.

Foster likens an octopus to a snail without a shell but a very intelligent one.  Who knew?  The octopus doesn't have many defenses against its predators so must be smart to deceive them and this little octopus comes up with some amazing defenses. When those mean old sharks come around, you root for her to evade them.  You will learn everything there is to know about octopuses (it's not octopi, I looked it up).  For example, did you know they only live for a year?  They give birth and then die.  We women always get a raw deal!

Written and directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, the photography is amazing and the filmmakers created an environment where you will feel a part of the place, not just a visitor.

You have to hand it to awards shows for highlighting films like this, documentaries and foreign language films, for example, movies we would never know about were it not for them, so thank you, Academy Awards, I just saw a movie that touched my heart, and I am adding to my list as a favorite documentary.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a delight.  And I will never eat octopus again!
(Now streaming on Netflix)


Time



A woman, whose husband is serving a 60-year sentence for a bank robbery, documents her fight to get him released from prison.

Using home movies, hand-held cameras and cinema verite, this film tells the story of Fox Rich's marriage and what happened when she and her husband were down on their luck and decided the best course of action was to rob a bank.  For that, they both went to prison: she took a plea deal and received 12 years and was out in three and a half, but Rich's husband, Rob, didn't take a plea deal and was sentenced to 60 years with no chance of parole.

Directed by Garrett Bradley, I understand what he was trying to do here, but I had a difficult time with the execution. It is certainly an indictment of the criminal justice system in the United States, humanizing those who must suffer in prison with outrageous sentences often handed down to people of color and telling the story of those left behind.  It is presented in a series of vignettes and home movies that Fox (real name Sibil) has shot over the years, showing time passing as she gets her life together, raises their six boys, matures and continues to fight to bring Rob home. She is a compelling subject. All of that is good. However, the film jumps around in time with little context or narration, so it is often difficult to follow.

Time: the time spent in prison but more importantly, the time that is lost and what you missed while you are away.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I liked the content, just didn't like the presentation.  It was not a satisfying film experience for me.
(Available on Amazon Prime)






A private investigator in Chile hires an old man to go undercover for his client who suspects her mother is being abused in a nursing home. 

The daughter of a woman in a nursing home in Chile worries that her mother might be experiencing elder abuse so she hires a private detective who in turn hires a mole to go undercover, live in the nursing home for three months and to try to discover anything bad that might be going on.  The mole is 83-year-old Sergio Chamy.

There is plenty of humor here: from the P.I. interviewing men aged 80-90+ who don't understand technology to Sergio's popularity with the ladies in the nursing home. It wasn't lost on me that the number of women in the nursing home far outweigh the number of men.  But there is also a serious theme:  our old people are being warehoused and it's happening all over the world. When people age, they lose relevancy and it's just easy for family members to put them somewhere where they don't need to be reminded of them, even when they are still lucid and lively. One of the women running the nursing home said it made her sad when family members brought their aging relatives there when they could stay in their own homes. No sadder words spoken. One woman in the nursing home had been there for 25 years! You can't help but wonder if the client cared so much about what was going on with her mother, why wasn't she visiting her and finding out for herself?

After watching this film, you can't help but become an advocate for our elders being autonomous as long as possible. And the people we meet who are living in the nursing home are charming and lovely...and lonely. They deserve something better. You can tell this all makes me mad. I talked about my own mother's experience in my review of "The Father," which deals with similar issues. And yes, I am mad. What we are doing to our old people is a crime. We tuck them away out of sight and leave them there just waiting to die. You can imagine what I have told my own kids about that!

But there is hope. 

Here, in this film, written and directed by Maite AlberdiSergio finds purpose in his "investigation," and you will be surprised by what he discovers. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...an interesting investigation into one resident's condition that turns into an advocacy for many.  But let me tell you, watch this with "The Father," and if you are a person of a certain age, you will say "Lord, take me now!"
(In Spanish with English subtitles, available on Amazon Prime)





A team of newspaper journalists investigate health care fraud in Romania.

After a horrific fire in a nightclub where many people were killed, it comes to light that 12 days after the fire, more died in the hospital recovering from their burns and an indictment of the entire health care system ensues.  There are protests and a full-blown investigation is undertaken by writers at the Sports Gazette, an unlike newspaper to take on such a task, and it is discovered that there is hospital-wide fraud and incompetence, most particularly disinfectant that has been diluted and a government cover-up.

The newspaper publishes an investigative report about how the hospitals are using diluted disinfectants and it was killing people, and because of the expose, some government officials were forced to resign. If that fire had never happened, none of this would have come to light.  But then it all becomes a much bigger issue of corruption in the hospital system: neglect(think maggots crawling around in open wounds); inacurate blood transfusions; fake invoices; and it is discovered that schools are being bribed to issue hospital management degrees to just anyone, so a new, young Minister of Health tries to right the wrongs.  His name is Vlad and I couldn't help but think of Vlad the Impaler, but then I thought, no, he is going to be Vlad the Healer. I had high hopes for him.

The film shows how far Romania has come since its dictatorship - I mean, a newspaper exposing this scandal is a big deal - but, sadly, this film shows that the political scene is still corrupt, hospitals have been politicized, and there is only so much our Vlad can do.

Written by Alexander Nanau and Antoaneta Opris and directed by Nanu, this was a serious and interesting story about the power of the press and what an unfathomable maze political corruption can create.  It all unfolds in real time - no narration or talking heads - and this story is one that we can easily extrapolate to our own country, but, for me, it was too long.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an interesting foray into Romanian corruption that reminds us of our own issues. 
(In Romanian with English subtitles, now streaming on Hulu or available from Netflix on DVD)





A camp for teens with disabilities transforms their lives.

Camp Jened was a summer camp for disabled kids that started in the 1950's and became a springboard for the disability rights movement as many of the kids who attended went on to become activists, probably because the camp was an unusual one.

Just down the road from Woodstock, New York, in the 1960's and 1970's, Jened was itself a kind of Woodstock for disabled kids. The camp was heavily influenced by the hippie counterculture, which was a good thing. It became a sort of Utopia for the campers, where their disabilities were secondary to their personal freedom. Able bodied people sometimes forget that handicapped people want to be treated like everyone else, want everything everyone else wants and to do everything that everyone else does and the camp recognized that. Even if kids were in wheelchairs, they could play baseball, swim, and, yes, make out!

"There was a romance in the air if you wanted to experience it.  I never dated outside of camp.  But at Jened, you could have make-out sessions behind the bunks and different places like that." - Judith Heumann 

The camp was also a place where the kids were encouraged to express their feelings and many discussions about what it meant to be handicapped and how that affected them in the real world ensued and from that many activists emerged from the camp, kids who went on to work for social change for the disabled.  The camp empowered the kids to express their feelings about life as a disabled person which led them to take action as adults. It's a perfect example of how good and empowering childhood experiences can shape someone's future.

Written and directed by James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham (Barack and Michelle Obama were executive producers), the film is a combination of grainy, black and white footage of the kids at the camp and talking head interviews with them as adults where they reminisce about their time there and how being at the camp affected their adult lives. The film also follows several of the campers, such as Judith Heumann, as they make a name for themselves in the journey for disability rights.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a well-meaning and important film, inspiring even, but not one of my favorite documentaries.  



So which film should win Best Documentary Feature?

VERDICT: "My Octopus Teacher" should win, but "Time" was the darling of the 2020 Sundance Festival and the critics love it so that film could spoil it for my little octopus!




See you this Sunday at the Oscars!

Good luck and thanks for reading!



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Friday, April 9, 2021

Academy Awards 2021: Which Movie Will Take Home the Oscar for Best Picture?

And the nominees are.. "Minari," "The Father," "Sound of Metal," "Promising Young Woman," "Mank," Judas and the Black Messiah," Nomadland," and "The Trial of the Chicago 7."

It's that time again - the Oscars - the Superbowl for movie lovers, so it's time to bone up for those Academy Award parties you may be invited to, either in person (if you have your vaccinations) or via Zoom. I am here to help you win those competitions!

In this post, I will be reviewing "Minari," "The Father," "Sound of Metal," Promising Young Woman," and "Mank." (You can find reviews for all of the other nominees in previous posts by clicking on the red linked titles above). There are eight nominees in all.

Speaking of which, before I share my reviews, here's a question: 

You may not even remember this, but in the not too distant past, there were only five nominees for an Academy Award for Best Picture. On June 24, 2009, it was announced that the number of films to be nominated in the Best Picture award category would increase from five to up to ten, starting with the 82nd Academy Awards (2009).  As you can see, this year there are eight nominees.

What do you think of that?

There are those who feel it's a bit of waffling, not being able to hone in on the best five, thus nominating some films that are not deserving. There is also the cynical side, that some films are nominated based on their popularity and box office.  And an Oscar nomination does help at the box office, so studios would certainly want to to have a nomination for their films, right? So for them, the more the merrier.  But all of that aside, this is an interesting year.  With most theatres closed due to Covid, popularity and box office are both moot points, so it's kind of a pure year for these nominations, despite what you think about sticking with the five vs. opening it up to ten.  I think that any film that is an exceptional film experience is deserving of a nomination, but with that said, there are certainly ones this year that were good, but not exceptional, and I can tell you right now those are not going to win, even though I may have enjoyed them. 

So now on with the reviews!


Minari


During the 1980's, a Korean family moves from Los Angeles to Arkansas to start a farm.

With six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Original Score), this film is a contender for a Best Picture Oscar, because it has already won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, though that was a rather odd category since it's an American film, but I guess because the dialogue is mostly in Korean, that qualifies it as a "foreign film?"  Mmmm. Like I said, odd.

Anyway, what I thought was going to be a film about immigrants and racism was actually a film about chasing the American Dream, a marriage struggling with changes and a touching generational relationship between a little boy and his grandmother...themes we can all relate to.

Jacob (Steven Yeun, who actually went to my alma mater, Kalamazoo College - small college, small world), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two children, Anne (Noel Cho) and David (Alan S. Kim), have moved to a farm in Arkansas so that Jacob can grow Korean vegetables. They had been living in L.A. where Jacob had a job as a chicken sexer at a hatchery - checking the sex of chicks - (I am not going to tell you animal lovers what happens to the male chicks.  Let's just say there is a chimney involved), but Jacob had bigger dreams than trying to figure out whether a chick was a male or a female.  

However, when they arrive at their farm, it is not difficult to see Monica's disappointment at the trailer they will be living in and the ruptures in their marriage over this big move. And added to the work on the farm, they now both have to also work as chicken sexers again to pay the water bill because the farm's well has run dry. Monica is definitely not all in with this. For one thing, she is a city girl, and it doesn't help that they are in the middle of nowhere with no friends.  They are isolated and alone except for the evangelical Paul (veteran actor, Will Patton), who Jacob hired to help on the farm and who spends his Sundays carrying a cross up the road Jesus-style. Not particularly easy for them to relate to!

The kids are struggling too. Anne is a serious teenager having a difficult time finding her place in all of this and little David has a heart problem that worries Monica because they are so far from a hospital. Then Monica's mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) comes from Korea to live with them and to care for the children while Jacob and Monica work. She is not your conventional grandmother.  She likes to curse and watch professional wrestling on TV and drink that "sweet mountain water (you can probably guess what that is)" she has taken a liking to.  But young David doesn't take a liking to his grandmother saying she "smells like Korea," nor does he take a liking to sharing his bedroom with her, though you can figure out where that will go.  Grandma also brings her love of minari, a Korean herb, and she finds just the spot to plant it.

This is an immigrant story and, yes, there is some culture clash and family drama, but it's also an intimate, human story that everyone can relate to.  A man is doing his best to provide for his family and his wife is as supportive as she can be, but just as most married couples do, they also have some loud arguments about it all. One touching scene features the kids shooting some paper airplanes at them with "Stop arguing!" written on them. Couples arguing over the direction of their lives and their children worried about their arguing crosses all cultures.

The actors are real and relatable.  I usually dislike child actors but little David is hilarious.  But it's Yuh-Jung Youn, who plays the grandmother, who will tear at your heart strings. For this performance, she has already won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, has countless other awards and nominations for this performance and is nominated for an Oscar as well.  She is a legendary actress in Korean films and just might add an Oscar to her many other accolades, but she is up against Glenn Close for "Hillbilly Elegy" and Olivia Colman for "The Father (see review below)," in my opinion, her only real competition but stiff competition, indeed.  

You can tell this is a love project and it is.  It's a semi-autobiographical account of writer/director Lee Isaac Chung's own life. It's an examination of human nature that is real and that will resonate about life in all cultures, and it's also humorous, just like life. Chung manages to tell his story with no sentimentality or melodrama, despite some setbacks that the family experiences. No easy answers are provided, but the film ends on a note of hope, signified by that Korean herb, minari.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a quiet film that everyone will be able to relate to. It could win the Best Picture Oscar because I think it's a sentimental favorite, but compared to some of the other films, I don't think it deserves it.  (In English and Korean, with English subtitles - Available on Amazon Prime)


 

The Father



A man struggles with his dementia and so does his daughter.
After watching this film, I can't help but think Anthony Hopkins should win a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a man suffering from dementia. It's a bravura performance in a film that is a horror story about what can happen as we age and the effect it can have on families and caregivers.

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is suffering from dementia and the story is told from his point of view as he tries to remember things and make sense of what is happening around him. We are flies on the wall as he confuses people's faces and where he is living, so the film can also sometimes be confusing for the viewer as we live through his experience with him.

This is a sad story about what happens to our old people and could be seen as a plea for more services so people can age in place. But this film is not just sad, it's actually a horror story: the horror of getting old; the horror of realizing you are losing it; the horror of the isolation of being lost in one's own mind; and the horror of ending up in an institution or a nursing home and ending one's life alone among strangers. It's also a horror story for those who love and care for them. In this film, Anthony's daughter, played by Olivia Colman in an Oscar nominated performance, struggles with caring for Anthony while also trying to live her own life.

Since my mother went through this, needless to say, this film resonated with me. I remember the first time I realized my mother was suffering from dementia. She was good at hiding it, mostly, I guess, because I lived far away and only talked to her on the phone, but when she asked me if I had children, I knew it was over. She adored my kids. My mother ended up dying alone in a nursing home, and I have never gotten over that. I could write my own horror film called "The Mother," and I am sure I am not alone in that.

Hopkins is an amazing actor. He doesn't need to say a word. His face can tell the whole story. He should definitely win an Oscar for his performance, but I fear that Chadwick Boseman will win, which is not a bad thing because it, too, was a wonderful performance. Boseman put in a great performance in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" despite the fact he only had months to live, but after seeing this film, I just feel Hopkins deserves his second Best Actor Oscar.

Screenwriters Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (Zeller also directed) were able to put the viewer inside the mind of somone struggling with dementia. A heartwrenching film that had me weeping at the end. I cried for Anthony, I cried for my mother and I cried for myself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Hopkins should win for Best Actor, but the film itself could also pull a "Parasite" and take home the trophy for Best Picture. It's that good and everyone with aging parents needs to see this! But if you are worried about your own memory loss, maybe not!
(available to rent on Amazon Prime and in theatres)



The Sound of Metal

A drummer in a heavy metal punk bank must deal with the loss of his hearing.

Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a drummer in a heavy metal punk duo named “Blackgammon” with his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke). They are traveling around the country to their gigs in their Airstream RV. He’s an ex-heroin junkie and she has some issues, too, but things are going well until Ruben starts to have hearing issues. Can you imagine? A musician who can’t hear? He sees a doctor, has a hearing test and the news is not good. He can only hear 20-30% of sounds and his hearing is deteriorating rapidly. The doctor mentions cochlear implants as a possible solution but they are very expensive so he advices Ruben to eliminate exposure to noise and wait for further testing.
Lou is worried that Ruben will relapse, so she contacts Ruben’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor who is able to get Ruben into a rural deaf community for ex-addicts run by a man named Joe (Paul Raci), who lost his hearing while fighting in the Vietnam War. While there, Ruben goes through all of the stages of grief as he wrestles with his deafness and his addiction. He just wants to get the implants so he can get back to “normal,” but…
Joe tells him that “If you want to be here, [you need to] understand we are looking for a solution to this (he point to his forehead), not this (he points to his ears).”
So Ruben needs to learn how to be deaf.

He resists Joe at first, but after a time, he warms to the community and Joe asks him to become a permanent part of it, but Ruben is bent on getting the cochlear implants and getting back to his musical career, so he sells his gear and his Airstream and gets the surgery, only to discover how true that old saying is…”Be careful what you wish for.”
The film does an excellent job of letting us into Ruben’s head thanks to a stellar and Academy Award nominated sound design. We hear what he doesn’t hear. When he arrives at the deaf community, he doesn’t understand sign language so we don’t either and no subtitles are provided. We feel his isolation. We have to make our way through it just as Ruben does. But as he learns how to communicate, then we understand more too.
The film also explores the issue of cochlear implants, one that is controversial in the deaf community. When offered that opportunity, it turns out that many deaf people believe that deafness is not something that needs to be fixed or cured. They embrace the stillness of the deaf world.
Directed by Darius Marder with a screenplay by Darius and his brother, Abraham, this is a small film with six big Oscar nominations: a Best Actor nod for Riz Ahmed’s amazing performance as Ruben; a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Paul Raci, who plays Joe, as well as nominations for Best Editing, Best Screenplay and Best Sound.
Rosy the Reviewer says…what could have been a sappy melodrama full of cliches is a quiet study in hearing loss and addiction and an insight into the world of the deaf. This film's Best Picture nomination was a surprise and despite the fact that it's a good film, I predict it will not win.
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)




Promising Young Woman

A promising young woman devotes her life to taking revenge for what happened to her friend.

Carey Mulligan has a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in this Oscar nominated rape revenge film which is a perfect addition to the Me Too Movement. And I loved every minute of it!

Early on we learn that Cassie (Mulligan) hangs out in bars, pretending to be drunk, so as to lure seemingly nice guys into taking advantage of her so she can teach them a lesson. The cold opening is great and made me laugh. But later, the film takes a more dramatic turn when we learn why Cassie does this. We learn that Cassie was a rising star in medical school, but dropped out after her friend and fellow student, Nina, experienced a traumatic event. Cassie was a promising young woman, but what happened to her friend so disturbed her that she couldn’t continue, so now Cassie lives with her parents, works at a coffee shop by day, and hangs out in bars at night, on a mission to teach these so-called nice guys some hard lessons. Cassie is right and truly pissed off and also takes on an old classmate and the college Dean who did not protect Nina.

But then Cassie meets really nice guy Ryan (Bo Burnham) and lets her guard down and everything looks like it’s going to turn out alright for her. There is a love montage and everything – you know, that collection of scenes where the two lovebirds are doing goofy things together and laughing and kissing and singing along to a bad song? How is this going to turn out? Well, I figured some of it out beforehand, but did not see the ending coming. The film has twists and turns that keep you guessing.

Every woman who has ever encountered misogynistic scumbags disguised as nice guys will be able to relate to this. And you nice guys out there? This is also a cautionary tale for you. Take advantage of a drunk girl in a bar and you just might meet a Cassie. This is also a story about the “bro culture,” where nice guys in a group can do some terrible things and excuse their bad behavior because they were drunk, or blame the girl because she was drunk or give themselves a pass because they were “just kids.” Sound familiar?

Directed by Emerald Fennell, the creator of “Killing Eve,” (she is nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), this is a dark and stylish film that exposes rape culture and the promising young nice guy who couldn’t possibly have done such a thing. Except he did. One can’t help but make the leap to current events and the institutions that are still protecting these “nice guys.”
Rosy the Reviewer says…I don’t predict that this will win the Oscar for Best Picture, but it has five Oscar noms, and it’s a mesmerizing tale for today that is not just relevant but a really great film experience.
(Available On Demand and on DVD from Netflix)



A look at 1930's Hollywood and the writing of "Citizen Kane."

I like to pat myself on my own back and say that I am rarely wrong about films.  Fans of my reviews can back me up.  I mean, c'mon, I have won the family Academy Awards competition many times! But for this film, I may have dropped the filmic ball. It has ten Academy Award nominations, but when I first tried to watch it, I could barely get through the first hour and then gave up. So you can imagine my surprise when it was awarded those ten Academy Award nominations, most notably a Best Picture nod, so with a deep sigh I decided to give it another chance. Maybe I missed something.

This film is ostensibly about how the screenplay for the acclaimed film “Citizen Kane” came to be, but it ends up being much more than that.

When Orson Welles came to Hollywood in 1940 at the age of 24, he was a “wunderkind (and count how many times he is called that in this film!).  In his twenties, he had already directed high profile plays in New York and formed the Mercury Theatre, a repertory company that presented productions on Broadway, but by the time he came to Hollywood he was probably best known for his “War of the Worlds” broadcast, a radio show about space aliens invading earth that was so real it caused worldwide panic.

So Hollywood came calling and Welles was given complete artistic control and could work with whomever he wished and make whatever movie he wished.  He chose writer Herman Mankiewicz and the movie was "Citizen Kane.”

Mankiewicz, known as “Mank,” was already an established Hollywood screenwriter since the 20’s, having come from a career in New York as a journalist and drama critic for "The New Yorker." He was known as a screenplay “fixer,” a writer called upon to fix up a screenplay that needed some work.  He was known for his satiric wit and snappy dialogue which came to typify many of the films of the 1930’s.  And by the time Welles called upon Mank to help him with the screenplay for “Citizen Kane,” Mank was also bit of a drunk. Well, not exactly a bit of a drunk.  A very big drunk.

When the film begins, it’s 1940 and Mank (Gary Oldman) is drying out in a motel in the California desert after a car accident and expected to finish the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”  A young stenographer, Rita (Lily Collins), whose husband is fighting overseas, is helping him, and his minder is John Houseman (Sam Troughton), Welles’ friend and partner, who checks up on him periodically.  Through a series of flashbacks, we discover how Mank ended up in the seedy motel in the middle of nowhere, writing the screenplay for “Citizen Kane” and fighting his raging alcoholism.

As you probably know, “Citizen Kane” was a thinly veiled and unflattering story of William Randolph Hearst, the premiere newspaper magnate of the day who had built his castle, San Simeon (aka Hearst Castle), on the Central Coast and lived the life of an American king.  He wielded great power and has been credited with the creation of Yellow Journalism, sensationalism over fact, the kind of reporting we often see today. Hearst has also been accused of fanning the flames of fervor with his propaganda that resulted in the Spanish-American War.  In addition to all of that, he also had aspirations to make movies, mostly to help his mistress, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).  Needless to say, when Hearst found out about “Citizen Kane,” he was not amused.

So the film focuses on Herman Mankiewicz’s contribution to “Citizen Kane,” considered one of the greatest films of all time (and I concur), but it also attempts to be much more than that: a look behind the scenes of a 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood, the cutthroat politics of the Hollywood movie machine and the politics in general of the very rich which draws strong parallels to the Trump Era.

Directed by David Fincher, with a screenplay by his father, Jack Fincher, this is also a very intellectual, literary film, very talky with lots of snappy dialogue, just like Mank’s films, and very insider, even for fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The film assumes you will recognize the names that are thrown around.  I mean, do you know who Wallace Beery was?  John Houseman? Irving Thalberg? Upton Sinclair?  If you don’t, you could be lost at times and little context is given.

It’s all very 1940's film noir – black and white, lots of shadows, unusual camera angles (Welles invented many of them in “Citizen Kane”), a bleak scenario and three-piece suits and fedoras.

Gary Oldman, who plays Mank, is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar and that is well-deserved. It's good to see him get a meaty role that he can sink his teeth into and he does. He chews the scenery big time, in a good way. But Amanda Seyfried, who plays Marion Davies is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and I don't see it because she really doesn’t have much to do. And Lily Collins has absolutely nothing to do, her character really being unnecessary, but at least she didn't get an Oscar nom which would really have made me mad.

There is a risk in making a movie about a narrow subject (the writing of “Citizen Kane”) and an even greater risk throwing names around and populating the film with real-life characters few people remember. The screenplay for “Citizen Kane” was brilliant.  I wish I could say the same for this one (Interestingly, no nomination for this screenplay, which says a lot. Can a film really win Best Picture without a nominated screenplay?).  And to make matters worse, it’s in black and white, which will turn off many movie watchers at the get go. I am being a bit tongue in cheek with that last comment. There are times when black and white is appropriate and this is one of them, and to prove the point, there is an Oscar nomination for the cinematography.

Despite what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with this film, it just didn't work and, sadly, the cinematography was the only thing I liked about this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says…so it turns out, much as I love movies about the movies, and despite it’s ten Oscar nominations, I didn't miss anything the first time around. This film just didn’t do it for me, and I am sad to say I found it boring. I predict it will not win the Best Picture Oscar, either, despite having the most nominations of any of the films. If it does, I will eat Hubby’s fedora!


Thanks for reading!

See you at the Oscars on April 25!



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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 IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Let's Dish About the 2018 Oscars!




"Alright, Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close-up!"

OK, well Gloria probably did it better than I did, but, you see, I always wanted to be an actress which explains my interest in the movies.  But I wasn't just going to be an actress, I was going to win an Academy Award, which also explains my obsession with the Oscars. This was the 90th anniversary of the Oscars and I think I have watched 65 of them!  Even as a little girl, I would beg my mother to let me stay up and watch. 

However, my face also shows how I felt after losing the family Oscar pool to my daughter!

I have had a night to settle down after losing the family Oscar pool after a winning streak.  I "only" got 20 out of 24 correct this year. My daughter got 21. That would be OK if it weren't for the fact that I don't think she has even seen any of the nine movies AND I HAVE SEEN THEM ALL!!!  And by myself.  And I went rain or shine.  And some days I was all alone in the theatre except for some guy behind me drooling and chewing his popcorn loudly.  I am a committed movie-goer and I even write reviews for all of them!!!  Could I beat family members who hadn't even seen any of these films?  NOOOO!

But, OK, like I said, I am over it.  It's a new day, so let's get this over with and do some dishing.

Let's start with the shallow stuff.


I am not even going to comment on the vapid crap that goes on with the interviews on the Red Carpet.  Let's just get to the clothes.




Best Dressed



Jane Fonda rocked it!

I mean, c'mon. She's 80 and representing for us old folks.  Not only is her dress to die for but her hair, the length of the dress, accessories, everything is perfect.


But then Nicole...she always brings 100%.  I call her "Miss Fashion Forward."





And I have to give props to Mary J. Blige.  White dresses were all over the place this year.



I may not have been as impressed with her performance in "Mudbound" as the Academy, but I loved her dress and give her props for being the only woman to be nominated for an acting award AND a songwriting award in the same year.

Of the men, I thought Chadwick Boseman rocked it!








And for Best Shoulders, I nominate Diane Warren!






And then there were the not so good choices:




There is bad...




Jennifer seems to be sporting a sort of "I don't care" attitude here.



But
there is worse...






Emily Blunt's dress looks like baby doll nightgown meets bridesmaid!




And finally there is god-awful...


It may be Chanel but it's still god-awful.

Salma, what were you thinking?


As for the show itself, here's what I liked:


Jimmy Kimmel:

I haven't really been a fan of Jimmy in the past but he has grown on me and I think he does a great job hosting the Oscars. He paid homage to the fiasco last year when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were giving the wrong card for Best Picture by saying, "When you hear your name, don't get up right away.  Give us a moment."  Also offering a jet ski and a trip to Lake Havasu as an incentive for the winners to keep their speeches short was hilarious.

He also humorously handled the issue of sexual harassment and the #metoo movment in the movie industry by pointing out that "Oscar" was the most beloved and respected man in Hollywood because he keeps his hands where you can see them at all times, doesn't say the wrong things (because he can't speak) and doesn't have a penis!




It was a great night for women and the older women stole the show!  


Jane Fonda (who amazingly is 80) and Helen Mirren both looked gorgeous; Rita Moreno wore the same dress she wore 56 years ago when she won her Oscar for "West Side Story;" but it was the 93 year old Eva Marie Saint who stole the show.  She looked fantastic and elegant and not a modicum of old lady could be seen.  I hope I am still going strong like she is when I'm in my 90's!


Can you believe she is 93?



Jordan Peele winning Best Original Screenplay!
The first African-American to EVER win in this category.







Favorite speech - Frances McDormand's!



Inclusion Rider!



Now on to what I didn't like:

Though I think Kimmel does a great job hosting, I'm not a fan of the big "events" during the show such as trooping over to the theatre next door.  These sorts of  shenanigans are starting to be a "thing" at the Oscars and are supposed to be funny and show us that the stars are just regular folks like us.  I think Ellen started it with passing out pizza and taking group selfies.  If they want the Oscars to be shorter, why do those sorts of things? 

And what was with the sparkly set?  It looked like the set for a production of "Frozen."


Or a monster movie.  I expected the Abominable Snowman to come out.

And I was not a fan of Gael Garcia Bernal singing the opening to "Remember Me," the Oscar winning song from "Coco."  

I know he was in the film but he can't sing. Why put us through that?


But all in all, I thought it was a good show.  It's something I look forward to every year and I know it's going to be long so I break out the snacks and the champagne.  


I thought Sam Rockwell summed it up in one of the best acceptance speeches of the night. 


It's all about a love for the movies!







Speaking of which...


See you Friday 

for my review of 


"Fifty Shades Freed"

  
and

  
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 
  
I Die Project." 


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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
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 IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.