Showing posts with label Andrea Riseborough. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrea Riseborough. Show all posts

Thursday, February 16, 2023

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

[I review another film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar - "All Quiet on the Western Front" - and the Best Actor nominated performance of Paul Mescal in "Aftersun" and the Best Actress nominated performance of Andrea Riseborough in "To Leslie," hers being a controversial Oscar nomination]

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

"War is hell."

So said General William T. Sherman about the Civil War.  He was right but he had no idea just how hellish because WW I - The Great War - was yet to come, a war that killed 9.7 million military personnel and over 10 million civilians, all to secure mere inches of land fighting along a trench secured front. 

And many of those trenches were along the Western Front, the place where the German and French armies met and what eventually decided the war.

This is the story of 17-year-old Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer) and his school friends, Albert Kropp (Aaron Hilmer), Franz Muller (Moritz Klaus) and Ludwig Behm (Adrian Grunewald), who, in 1917, three years into WWI, are caught up in the patriotic fervor of the war and the glamour of possibly becoming war heroes, so they enlist in the Imperial German Army. Oh, how easy it is to get teenagers riled up about going to war. They are sent to Northern France, wearing recycled uniforms of dead soldiers (there are particularly upsetting scenes about how that all worked), where they meet "Kat" Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch), an older soldier, but their romantic ideals of war are soon shattered as Ludwig is killed the first night and the realities of trench warfare set in. Add barbed wire, poison gas, tanks and aircraft and it's a hellish reality, indeed.

Based on the 1929 anti-war novel by Erich Maria Remarque, with a screenplay by Edward BergerLesley Paterson and Ian Stokell, and directed by Berger, this film, a remake of the 1930 American film of the same name (there was also a 1979 TV version), is from the German soldier's point of view and evokes man's inhumanity to man, brutally capturing the hell of war.   

As you know, I am not a fan of remakes, especially remakes of perfectly good foreign films, but this is the flip side, a German remake of an American film, and I give it a pass because, for one thing, it's been over 90 years since the original, and modern filmmaking technology enables the filmmakers to really show just how brutal and grueling war is. And I think that needs to happen to stop war. But this is also a good, well-acted and engrossing story of young men swept up into something they could barely comprehend.

Watching this film I was struck by how much I have missed good, old-fashioned linear movie-making. 

I have missed a good story that is easy to follow from beginning to end, with a point that is easily made and one that filled me with emotion. With the popularity of movies like "Everything Everywhere All At Once," superheroes and horror, I was getting nervous that I wasn't going to enjoy movies anymore, but this one renewed my hopes. It's a real life horror film that depicts the horrors of war.  It's difficult to watch, but this is a film everyone needs to see. If we don't understand what a horror war is, we will never stop the politicians who promote it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this one probably won't win Best Picture, but it won my heart. In German with English subtitles. (Netflix)

Aftersun (2022)

A young woman reflects back 20 years on a summer spent with her father.

Eleven-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) is on a summer holiday at a budget resort in Turkey with her 30-year-old Scottish father, Calum (Paul Mescal). Sophie records the holiday on a video recorder and that footage is interspersed throughout the film. If you do the math, Calum was very young when Sophie was born, and he is still young. They are even mistaken for brother and sister. He is now amicably separated from Sophie's mother and is a loving father but he seems depressed and worried about money. Something is not right with Calum. His life perhaps hasn't turned out as he had hoped but he doesn't want to lay this on his child.

This is a leisurely venture into the mind of an eleven-year-old on vacation with her Dad with some flashbacks from the older Sophie's point of view as she reviews those videos.  Now as an adult, perhaps Sophie understands more clearly what her Dad was going through during that sunny summer vacation in Turkey.

Written and directed by Charlotte Wells, this is a British film about how we never really know our parents.  Sophie is a perceptive 11-year-old, but she is also an 11-year-old.  She is on vacation and, though she loves her Dad and senses some unease with him, she also wants to have fun. She likes to play arcade games with a newfound friend; she wants to watch the older kids flirt.

I read somewhere this question: Do children ever question whether or not their parents are happy? That stuck with me.  So true. I don't think as a young girl I ever wondered (or cared) if my parents were happy. However, I remember sitting on the edge of my parents' bed one day with my Dad and asking him, "Why is it that I know my friends better than I know you and Mom?"  He was probaby taken aback, but maybe not.  I was that kind of kid.  He replied, "Because we don't want to burden you with our problems."  Okay, and off I went. I was eleven. It never occurred to me to ask "What problems?"

The film takes forever to get going, at least 40 minutes before much happens, and even then it's just  a series of small vignettes that evoke the 1990's, though I never really understood the rave references that are interspersed throughout. But Mescal and Corio create a believable father/daighter relationship that pulls you in, and eventually we, and she, realize the pain he was going through.

As for Paul Mescal's Oscar nominated performance?

 I am hard pressed to see how this performance merits a Best Actor Oscar nomination.  It's not that Mescal isn't a great actor, he is. It's just that his role is very understated. I didn't get the Oscar performance vibe from it. There was perhaps five minutes of Oscar-worthy scenery chewing.  But maybe that's the draw. Subtlety. Mescal is being rewarded for believability and realness. But if I had seen this film before I knew he was nominated, I would not have said, that guy is going to get a Best Actor nomination for that performance.

But, oh geez, did I love him in "Normal People." He and and his co-star, Daisy Edgar-Jones (she went on to star in "Where the Crawdads Sing"), helped get me through the Pandemic.  It was one of the best series of the year (and if you missed it the first time around, you must see that series).

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wistful coming of age tale, all about trying to make sense of one's parent, and despite it's slow progression, the film eventually cast a spell.  Will Paul Mescal win the Best Actor Oscar?  No, but I see one in his future. (Amazon Prime)

To Leslie (2022)

Maybe winning the lottery isn't such a good thing, after all.

Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) is a West Texas single mom living with her teenaged son.  She wins $190,000 in the lottery and plans to buy her son a guitar and herself a house.  Six years later, she is broke, homeless, a drunk and a drug addict, estranged from her son (Owen Teague), friends and other family members. All she has to show for herself now is a pink suitcase filled with junk.

What happened?

The film doesn't really go into details or a flashback about what happened over those six years, but the story is not an unusual one when it comes to lottery winners. Believe it or not, it's a common outcome for many lottery winners.  They are more likely to go bankrupt than anyone else, a phenomenon that occurs when people are suddenly rich but have no idea how to handle money. And it is clear when Leslie wins with all of her "Woo hoos" and "I'm buying everyone a drink" reaction to her win, that she is a good old girl, ill-prepared for success.

So this is all about just how far down will Leslie go?  Can she redeem herself?

After several false starts (she really wants to be good), Leslie finally has an epiphany of sorts, meets Sweeney (Marc Maron who puts in a surprisingly poignant performance), a motel manager who gives her a job cleaning the rooms that includes room and board and he also helps her get clean. But will she make it?

So winning the lottery can be controversial.  And, believe it or not, so can an Oscar nomination.

There is Oscar controversy around this film.  Well, not the film itself but around the star, Andrea Riseborough and her Best Actress nomination. Her nomination was a big surprise, especially a performance in a film that only made $27,000.  And that's not for opening weekend, that was what it made for its entire run last year (it came out in March). Nobody saw it. 

So how can someone get an Oscar nomination when no one has seen the film?

Written by Ryan Binaco and directed by Michael Morris, this is your basic low-budget indie film, shaky camera and all, which might explain why no one saw it, even with an unrecognizable but excellent Allison Janney in the cast.  It's also grim and not a fun movie to watch, but Riseborough's performance makes the film so word must have gotten out about that.  The rest is Oscar controversy history. 

And here is the controversy.

Allegedly there was a grassroots campaign for Riseborough that included private screenings of the film by some of Riseborough's famous fans, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, and other celebrities advocating for her on their social media. However, the Academy has a rule against campaigning.  Film reps are only allowed to contact voters once a week per movie and supposedly there were more than that. Okay, I get that part, but not sure how word-of-mouth is really breaking any rules.  But there are those who are not happy about who Riseborough might have replaced in the nominations, such as Viola Davis, thus a flap has been stirred up.  As a result of this mini-scandale (I'm using French because I am a classy gal), the Academy conducted an investigation and Riseborough's nomination was upheld, but the Academy has also said it will conduct a review of campaign procedures for the future.

But, did she deserve the nomination?

Yes, she is as deserving as any of the other actresses. Hers is a raw, believable performance, especially considering Riseborough is a British actress playing a West Texan. It's a difficult role and she is all in.  I believed every minute of her performance.  And why shouldn't she be nominated?  She is not new to films. She has been in the biz since 2005, starred in many films but is one of those actresses where you recognize her face, but you don't know her name.  Among her many credits, she played Michael Keaton's love interest in "Birdman," Wallace Simpson in "W.E."  and most recently starred in "Amsterdam" and has four projects already in post-production. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...will she win the Best Actress Oscar?  No, but this nomination will certainly help her career.  We will now know her name and not just her face and she is certainly deserving of that. (Amazon Prime)

Final thoughts: Why was Andrea Riseborough's Best Actress nomination so controversial and Paul Mescal's was not?  No one really saw "Aftersun" either. They both took the place of other, more well-known, actors who might have been nominated. I remember thinking Brad Pitt deserved one for his role in "Babylon," but he was snubbed. So everyone needs to get over griping about Riseborough's nomination.  She deserved it.


Thanks for Reading!

See you at the Oscars March 12!

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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, 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)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)