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

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Road to the 2022 Oscars, Part 3: Which Film Will Win Best Picture?

[I review Best Picture nominees "West Side Story," "Belfast," "Nightmare Alley" and "Drive My Car"]

If like me, you participate in Academy Award competitions or you just want to be knowledgable around the proverbial water cooler or at cocktail parties, I feel it is my duty as Rosy the Reviewer, that critic you have come to count on for true, reliable (and often all about me) reviews, to review as many of the Best Picture nominees as possible before the event on March 27. So here we go.

And the nominees are...


The Power of the Dog

Don't Look Up 

Licorice Pizza

King Richard


As well as "West Side Story," "Nightmare Alley," "Belfast" and "Drive My Car," which I am reviewing here.

With the four reviews in this post, I have now reviewed all of the nominees (click on the links above for my earlier reviews) except "Dune" and "Licorice Pizza," but that's okay, because they are not going to win anyway (but if I watch them between now and the awards on March 27, I will probably review them, so watch this space, and if you didn't see "The Road to the 2022 Oscars, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2," here they are)

I could go into the whole issue of there being ten Best Picture nominees (which I don't agree with and don't get me started), but I won't so let's get on with it.

West Side Story (2021)

Stephen Spielberg decided he needed to remake "West Side Story."  Oh, no he didn't!

When I first heard that Steven Spielberg was remaking "West Side Story," my first thought was "Whaaaaat?"  Why?  Because number one, I hate remakes of perfectly wonderful films, and number two, you can't remake perfection.  I mean, the 1961 film was directed by Jerome Robbins, a king of Broadway musicals and Robert Wise, Hollywood royalty, and the film won Best Picture along with nine other Oscars. With music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by a very young Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Robbins, it also was the film version of a play that changed the face of musicals. So, I said out loud (I do that sometimes), Mr. Spielberg, don't mess with "West Side Story," and I decided to boycott it, which wasn't difficult since there was that little thing called the pandemic, so going to a movie theatre was no longer my idea of fun.  And it actually looks like the public agreed with me because the box office for this remake was disappointing.  

But then the Academy Award nominations came out and the film was nominated for Best Picture, not to mention nominations in several other categories, and it is also streaming for free on HBO Max and Disney+ so I decided I needed to do my due diligence as a critic. So here I am.  Despite my misgivings, I did go into watching the film with an open mind.  I really wanted it to be good. I really did. It wasn't. 

As a bit of background, back in the 50's, it was Robbins' original idea to make a contemporary musical play about Romeo and Juliet. So Romeo and Juliet became Tony and Maria, and the Capulets and Montagues became two rival gangs - the Sharks (the Puerto Rican gang) and the Jets (the white American gang) - both fighting for turf on the Upper West Side of New York City. The play was a smash on Broadway and the 1961 film adaptation won Best Picture and nine other Oscars, the most ever for a musical. The music, lyrics and choreography were all new and exciting, and it was unusual for a musical to deal with real life issues like race and immigration. This musical heralded the modern world. 

In this version (screenplay by Tony Kushner), Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) lives with her brother, Bernardo (David Alvarez) and his girlfriend, Anita (Ariana DeBose, nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). Tony (Ansel Elgort) is just out of prison and is living in the basement of Doc's general store under the watchful eye of Valentina (Rita Moreno), Doc's widow.  And like the original, Tony and Maria meet at a dance, fall in love and all hell breaks loose from there. But in the meantime, there is that sublime music and fantastic dancing. 

When you try to remake a classic film, you run the risk of the remake being compared to the original, and in this case, since the 1961 film was so iconic, that couldn't be helped.

First of all, I can't quibble with the production values.  As in any Spielberg film, they were wonderful, though I missed some of the set design I have come to associate with the film, such as the underground parking garage.  And the acting was mostly fine, though I think that Elgort was miscast. He underplays too much, and I just didn't feel any passion coming from him. Likewise, there was something about the Riff character (Mike Faist) that didn't do it for me. However, I commend Spielberg for hiring an all hispanic cast to play the Puerto Rican characters, something that was not the case in the original. Also everyone did their own singing, again not the case in the original, but that's about all the props I can give this film that to me was not a satisfying film experience.  

So what went wrong?  

The opening was not at all inspiring. I know Spielberg was making a point about gentrification as the camera panned over the rubble of reconstruction.  But I missed the ominous whistling in the opening of the original. There was a little of it, but it was really down-played.  I also missed the underground parking garage where the Jets sang "When You're a Jet" with the finger-snapping choreography.  I mean, how many of us haven't copied that hopping and snapping down a deserted street late at night?  Duh-duh-da-da-da, duh-duh-da-da-da...

And what the heck was Rita Moreno doing in this film?  I guess I can answer my own question.  Spielberg created that character for her to play to give this remake an authentic feel.  See?  There she is, the original Anita.  Okay, I get it but when she sang "Somewhere," one of the most beautiful and romantic songs in the film, one that Tony and Maria are supposed to sing together, well, I lost know. And to make matters worse, Moreno can't really sing. That beautiful song was just lost. 

Those all might seem like small things but put all together, I just couldn't buy this remake.  It lacked passion and it just didn't come together for me.

Okay, so Spielberg wanted to remake a classic film.  But why? He didn't really do anything new with it. It was fairly faithful to the original.  It was still in the 1950's. Why not update it?  Adapt it for the present day? Make it shorter? He did add some realism, making a stronger case for the immigration and racial issues in the story as well as adding the rise of gentrification, but even with that, the film lacked energy. 

Can you tell I am upset? I just can't fathom why Spielberg would want to take this on and think he could make it better. The only positive I can see in this new version is bringing this wonderful story, music and choreography to a younger generation who might have overlooked the original, but then I would say, "You have to see the original."

I was twelve when I saw the original film.  I was smitten with every moment of it, and I cried my eyes out at the end.  Did I cry at the end of this one?  Well, I did a bit, but it was an emotional response to the music which reminded me that seeing this film back in the early 60's was the beginning of my teen years, a time long gone. I was also reminded that my young daughter starred as Maria in a high school version of the play, another time that is long gone. My daughter is now 37 and lives in another state.  So there is a lot of emotion around this film, a reminder to me that time has moved on. But this story and the music - timeless.  I just wish Spielberg had done a better job with it.

Rosy the Reviewer's not going to win Best Picture so see the original instead.                                                                                      (Streaming on HBO Max and Disney+)

Belfast (2021)

Actor/Writer/Director Kenneth Branagh's coming-of-age tale of his childhood in Belfast in the 1960's.

As the camera pans over a modern day Belfast in living color, it slowly fades to black and white and we find ourselves in 1969 Belfast at the beginning of The Troubles.  

Now if you don't know what The Troubles were you need to bone up, but basically it was a time where Northern Ireland was engulfed in a conflict that appeared to be between the Catholics and the Protestants, though it wasn't really a religious war.  It was a nationalistic conflict between those who wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and those who wanted to stay, and since those who wanted to stay were mostly Protestants and were in the majority and those who wanted out - the Irish Nationalists and Republicans - were mostly Catholic and the minority, the conflict appeared to be a religious war. But it was indeed a war.  The Protestants took advantage of their majority and many made life miserable for the Catholics. Anyway, like I said, you need to bone up on that part, because the film takes place during The Troubles and it is always in the background.  It plays a major role, but the film is not really about that. It's really about family. It's Branagh's personal story of his childhood, a love letter to Belfast and the adult world seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy. 

As the film begins, we meet nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), running up the street of his neighborhood, carefree, until a mob appears, reminding us of the time and place he lives in. He lives in Belfast with his mother (Caitriona Balfe) and brother, Will (Lewis McAskie).  His Dad (Jamie Dornan) is also around but works in England, so he is gone for weeks at a time, putting a strain on his parents marriage. They struggle over his Dad's desire to move to England because opportunities are better there and his mother's desire to stay.  But Buddy also has Granny (Judy Dench) and Pop (Ciaran Hinds) who live nearby, and the entire neighborhood is his playground, Protestants and Catholics living peacably together and everyone looking out for everyone else. Buddy plays with his friends, has a crush on a girl, goes to the pictures to see "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," a typical life for a young boy except there is always that ever present war playing out around him. (I couldn't help but wonder if that scene of the family enjoying "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was the moment Branagh decided to become and actor)!

I usually have an aversion to overly precocious child actors but young Jude Hill is a wonderful young actor and, well, adorable.  I couldn't take my eyes off of his face.  Jamie Dornan has come a long way since he used to tie up Dakota Johnson in the Fifty Shades of Grey films and is a fine actor.  There is one scene in this film where Dornan's character comes to a realization and it plays out slowly on his face, one of those "a picture is worth a thousand words" moments.  Likewise, veteran actors Judy Dench and Ciaran Hinds can always be counted on to bring in wonderful performances and this film is no exception.  It's also refreshing to see actors allowing themselves to age naturally, unlike American actors.  Let's just say we are not supposed to look like Jane Fonda when we are 84.  But the main revelation for me was Caitriona Balfe, who I did not recognize at first, even though I had watched several seasons of "Outlander."  As Claire in "Outlander," I actually thought she wasn't a very good actress.  I found her to be stiff and overly formal, but here she shines as a woman fighting for her marriage, torn between her love of her husband and her desire to stay in Ireland. She is also gorgeous.  Just ask Hubby.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet and poignant little film with a great Van Morrison soundtrack, but not likely to win Best Picture.                              (on DVD and for rent on Apple+, Amazon Prime and Vudu)

Nightmare Alley (2021)

An ambitious con-man running from his past hooks up with an unethical psychologist.

Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) is a mysterious film noir figure running from what appears to be a murder. In fact, in true film noir fashion, he is a man of few words.  He says nothing for the first 11 minutes of this film. He joins up with a carnival where he meets Clem (Willem Dafoe), whose "act" is a geek show. So what is a geek show, you ask?  Let's just say the "ew factor" is very high.  It's an act in which a man bites the head off of a live chicken and eats it.  Clem seeks out alcoholics with troubled pasts to be his geeks, luring them in with promises of a temporary job, then regularly giving them opium-laced alcohol to keep them in line. So right there, you know this film is going to be dark.  They don't call this genre film noir for nothing. And yes, it shows the guy biting the head off of the chicken.  I just hope there is a disclaimer at the end of the film saying no chickens were hurt during the making of this film.

I can't help but wonder how the word "geek" came to be used for socially inept people when it was originally a guy biting the heads off of chickens. And who are these people who would pay to see such an act? But I digress.

Stan also meets "Madame Zeena (Toni Collette)" and her alcoholic husband, Pete (David Strathairn). Zeena is a so-called clairvoyant who with the help of her husband uses coded language to read the audience. Oh, the tricks of the carny trade that you can learn in this film.  Pete has a whole book with the coded language and he begins teaching tricks to Stan. But Stan is an ambitious guy. He is also a murderer. He kills Pete, steals his book and runs off with Molly (Rooney Mara), another carnival performer he has fallen in love with. 

A couple of years later, Stan is in Buffalo and has reinvented himself as a medium and has a successful nightclub act with the help of Molly, who uses the coded language from Pete's book to feed him clues.  All is going well for Stan until he meets psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), who has figured out his act and is impressed with his skills.  However, she is not what you would call an ethical doctor.  Many of the Buffalo elite have been her patients and she has tapes of all of their sessions. The two join forces to con the rich out of their money.  But Stan is a loser and it doesn't go well for him.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, who won the 2018 Best Director Oscar for "The Shape of Water  (the film also won Best Picture)," this is a remake of the 1947 film from the book by William Lindsay Gresham (del Toro also wrote the screenplay with Kim Morgan). The film has an all-star cast and breathtaking production design thanks to Tamara Deverell.  It felt like a film noir movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood - think "The Postman Always Rings Twice" or "Double Indemnity," with a little bit of Tod Browning's "Freaks" thrown in -  but at two and a half hours, it's just too long, though I have to say that Hubby stayed awake the entire time which says something about how mesmerizing this film is. And it didn't fall under my usual aversion to remakes since I had not seen the original and, anyway, remaking something after almost 75 years doesn't bother me as much (but don't mess with "West Side Story" - see review above).

I have never been a big Bradley Cooper fan.  Not sure why, but he is outstanding here.  His Stan is malevolent and self-serving but just sensitive and inept enough for you to care what happens to him.  Blanchett is her throaty-voiced, vampy self whom we have come to expect and Mara Rooney is the one person who seems to have a soul.  Ron PerlmanRichard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen also make appearances.

I have to say that I knew how it all would end about halfway through the film, because I have this theory that appears to work almost every time.  If there is a plot element that is odd or a character, especially one played by a big name but the character doesn't appear to have much to do, that plot element will figure prominently at some point or that character will be the one who did it.  Anyway, even though I figured it out, that did not dampen my enjoyment of this film, if enjoy is the right word.  The film is very dark and there are not many redeemable characters but it is a satisfying, if too long, movie experience.

Rosy the Reviewer noir at its finest, but again, not likely to win Best Picture.                                                                                            (streaming on HBO, HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu) 

Drive My Car (2021)

After his wife's unexpected death, a reknowned actor and director travels to Hiroshima to direct a play and discovers not only his wife's secrets but comes to grips with his grief.

When one of the main plot elements is a man's wife dying and she doesn't die until an hour into the film, you know it's going to be a long movie. And this one is at a whopping three hours.

Actor and theater director Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), who is preparing to star in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," is married to Oto (Reika Kirishima), a screenwriter who seems to have her most creativity right after sex. One day, as Yūsuke is leaving for work, Oto tells him she wants to talk to him later that evening. But Yūsuke returns home late to find Oto dead from a brain hemorrhage. Two years later, Yūsuke has given up acting but accepts a residency in Hiroshima, where he will direct a multilingual adaptation of "Uncle Vanya".  Because of his glaucoma, the theater company requires that Yūsuke not drive but be chauffeured in his own car, his beloved red 1987 Saab 900 Trubo. He objects at first, but relents after meeting young Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), who proves herself to be a good driver. Over the course of the film, secrets are revealed in that car and Yusuke and Misaki bond, him sharing his guilt over his wife's death and she over the guilt she feels about her mother's death and each helps the other with their grief.

After the death of Oto, the car serves as a haven for Yusuke as he drives around listening to a tape of Oto reading him his lines when he was preparing to star in "Uncle Vanya." Later, it's a safe place for Yusuke and Misaki to share their stories.

If you are not a Chekhov fan or someone who enjoys the acting process, this might be a slog for you. The last half of the film consists of rehearsals for the play where not much happens. Even I, who does enjoy Chekhov and have dabbled in acting, found this to be tremendously tedious. 

I know this film, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi with a screenplay by Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe (based on a short story by Haruki Murakami), is all about collaboration and the creative process and life and death and the kitchen sink, it just went on so long I had to fast forward through some of it. Why do movies have to be so long to get the point across? Since this was not the only film I have seen recently that exceeds two hours by a mile, I am starting to think that our contemporary directors are having difficulty editing themselves, that every single filmed moment is important to them. They can't stand to let any of it go onto the cutting room floor. But let me say - less is more!

However, I must be alone in my views, because this film is the first Japanese film to ever be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and it has also been nominated for Best International Feature (the category used to be called Best Foreign Film). Only a few films made in other countries have had that distinction, "Parasite," a film from South Korea, was one of them, a surprise win for 2020's Best Picture AND Best International Feature.  I really liked "Parasite."  I did not like this film.

But like "Parasite," will this film also have the distinction of winning Best Picture and Best International Feature?

Rosy the Reviewer says...No.                                                                         (In Japanese with English subtitles now streaming on HBO Max)

My Prediction for the Best Picture Oscar?  

Though it's not my favorite movie of the year nor is it my favorite Jane Campion film, I believe the winner will be:

"The Power of the Dog"

(though "CODA" could be a spoiler)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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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)

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!


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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