Showing posts with label Oscar predictions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oscar predictions. Show all posts

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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