Showing posts with label Oscars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oscars. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Road to the 2022 Oscars, Part 2. "Who Will Win Best Actor?"

So far the front-runners for the Academy Award for Best Actor appear to be Will Smith for "King Richard," Benedict Cumberbatch for "The Power of the Dog" and Andrew Garfield for "tick, tick...BOOM!" - all starring in movies I reviewed previously (click on the links for full reviews).

I would venture to add Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicholas Cage to that list, who each gave outstanding performances in these unique films.


Don't Look Up (2021)





A giant comet able to wipe out humanity is headed toward earth.

Writer/Director Adam McKay won an Oscar in 2016 for his screenplay for "The Big Short," a satiric comedy/drama about the financial crisis of 2007-2008.  This time he turns his brilliant satiric mind to global warming, but it could just as easily be about the Covid pandemic.  

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a Michigan State University astronomy Ph.D. candidate discovers a previously unknown comet.  Her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) calculates that it is headed toward earth, that it is large enough to obliterate the planet and will hit earth in approximately six months.  Along with Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), the head of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, they meet with President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her Chief of Staff, who just happens to be her son (Jonah Hill), and who keeps sniffing and rubbing his nose for some reason.  The two seem unconcerned about the comet.  

So Dibiasky and Mindy appear on television on a morning talk show, where once again they are brushed off and treated like alarmists by hosts Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) and Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett). Kate loses it on air and becomes a figure of ridicule whereas Mindy is deemed a "hot scientist" because of his looks, which gives him the confidence he had lacked, having been suffering from panic attacks and insecurity. However, despite her initial indifference to the comet, when Orlean is caught in a sex scandal she decides to divert attention from herself to the comet and the decision is made to use nuclear weapons to blow up the comet.

In the meantime, Dobiasky has been silenced and Mindy has been hired as National Science Advisor and appears regularly in the media.  He also embarks on an affair with Brie Evantee despite the fact he has a loving family back home.

Enter billionaire Peter Isherwell, a Steve Jobs-type clone brilliantly played by Mark Rylance who seems to be able to transform himself into any character.  In fact, I didn't even recognize him at first.  Isherwell owns BASH, a tech company.  He also happens to be one of Orlean's top donors and has discovered that the comet contains trillions of dollars worth of minerals so Orlean aborts the original plan and agrees to exploit the comet by fragmenting it and then retrieving it from the ocean using Isherwell's technology. We can't let all of that money go to waste, can we? 

Interestingly, Isherwell's company has such advanced technology that he reveals they can also see every moment of everyone's life right up to how and when they will die. He tells Mindy that he will die alone, which upsets Mindy and gives him pause about the choices he has made, and Isherwell tells Orlean that she will be killed by a Bronteroc. A what?  He said his company has advanced technology but couldn't figure that one out.

So how is the world reacting to all of this?

There are those who want the comet destroyed, those who are in favor of the fragmentation plan because it will create jobs and there are those who deny its existance.  The White House advises "Just Don't Look Up" as in, ignore it and it will go away, just like the flu.  Now Mindy also starts to lose it, decrying the indifference of humanity and ranting on TV that Orlean is downplaying the crisis and ignoring the data.

What will happen?  Is the planet doomed?

Okay, who are we kidding here?  This isn't really about a comet.  It's really all about our unwillingness to ignore scientific data and our indifference to impending doom, and though McKay originally wrote his screenplay about global warming, this could just as easily be a stand-in for the mishandling of the Covid pandemic by the Trump Administration. The movie was already in production when the pandemic hit but, because of all of the political and emotional strife surrounding it, McKay decided to make his screenplay "15 percent crazier."  

Though McKay hammers on the political and governmental side of inaction when faced with a crisis, he also casts a shadow on us humans too, who seem to care more about pop culture, like the break-up of a rap singer and his girlfriend, than our fellow humans and the end of the world. We are so consumed with our own lives and interests we have lost sight of the big picture - doing our part to save humanity. And it's all distorted by social media and the almighty dollar. What should really matter is our loved ones and our human connections. And this is not just about global warming or a pandemic. You can apply this to any catastrophe that involves public health or the need for us humans to give up our particular interests and band together for the greater good.

It's an all-star cast led by DiCaprio, who is no longer that young, handsome baby-faced leading man we first saw in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" and who went on to play Romeo in "Romeo + Juliet" and Jack Dawson in "Titanic."  No, this is a mature DiCaprio - don't get me wrong, he's still killer handsome - but DiCaprio has moved on to character roles, albeit handsome characters, and can be counted on to give Oscar-worthy performances which he does again here (he won in 2016 for "The Revenant.")

McKay who should be nominated for a Best Director Oscar also has fun paying homage to "Dr. Strangelove," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Lawrence was up for the lead role) and all those "end of the world" movies we have come to love, but don't get me wrong.  This is very much a satire so it's not all doom and gloom.  There is fun to be had, well, fun until you realize just how right on he is.

Note: Don't stop watching when the credits roll.  There is an epilogue and you will finally find out what a Bronteroc is.

Rosy the Reviewer...along with a Best Actor nomination for DiCaprio, Rylance should get a Best Supporting Actor nod and this picture should be nominated for Best Picture.  Why?  Because they all had IMPACT!!! (Netflix)



Pig (2021)


After his truffle pig is kidnapped, a hermit living in the Oregon wilderness must go back to his old life to find his pig.

I have never been a huge Nicolas Cage fan.  Let's just say I totally got why so many comedians would do impersonations of him.  He had mannerisms.  But here all of that is not in evidence as he puts in a subdued but riveting performance as a man who has turned his back on his old life.

Rob Feld (Cage) has retreated to a life alone in the Oregon wilderness, living in a shack with his truffle hunting pig.  He supports his lifestyle, if you can call it that, through Amir (Alex Wolff), a young guy who buys Rob's truffles to supply to high-end restaurants in Portland.  When Rob's pig is stolen, he reaches out to Amir, his only lifeline to the outside world, and the two drive to Portland and enter into the restaurant "underground," a world of secrets and violence.  I mean, who knew restaurant people have their own "fight club?"

Rob thinks he knows who might have stolen his pig so the two stop at Eurydice, the hottest restaurant in town where we learn that Rob was once the hottest chef in town. The chef, Derek, who use to work for Rob reveals that it was probably Amir's wealthy father and restaurant impresario, Darius (Adam Arkin), who was behind the theft of his pig, so next stop, find Darius. 

When things start looking bleak for finding the pig, Rob tells Amir, 

"I don't need the pig to find truffles."

Amir replies, "Then why the f**k did we do all of this?"  

Rob replies, "I love her."  

Enough said.

But it's not just love for the pig that is driving Rob. Reminiscent of Ricky Gervais' wonderful series "After Life" - this is all about what can happen when you lose a loved one, how each of us grieves in our own way and what it sometimes takes to accept grief and loss.  

The film is moody and atmospheric, and when Rob visits his old house, the story of how Rob ended up in the woods slowly unfurls. But the film is not the least bit slow. I appreciated how it got down to business right away. Instead of lingering on Rob's lonely life out in the woods, within 11 minutes, the pig was kidnapped and we were off and running.

This is Cage's film and he gives a wonderful, subdued performance but Wolff holds his own and is equally excellent as Rob's sidekick.

Written by Vanessa Block and Michael Sarnoski and directed by Sarnoski, the film paints a shady picture of Portland restaurant life and shows a very unique and satisfying way to seek revenge.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if he is nominated, I don't think Cage can beat Will Smith or Benedict Cumberbatch for Best Actor but this is a very strange but original and mesmerizing little film where an older and toned down Cage gives one of the best performances of his career. Don't miss it. (Hulu)

Oscar nominations will be announced February 8.


Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

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 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)

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Road to the 2022 Oscars: "The Power of the Dog" and "The Lost Daughter"

This is the time of year when I usually make up my Top Ten Best Films list, but I just can't seem to do it.  I don't feel I have seen enough films in the last year to come up with ten, especially ones I really, really liked, so I am going to skip that little enterprise and concentrate on the upcoming Oscars instead.


The Golden Globes have come and gone.  If you blinked, you missed them because, though the awards were announced, there was actually no ceremony this year due to the controversy surrounding them. I am not surprised that the Golden Globes have lost favor since I always wondered who the heck "the foreign press" was and why they had such power.  Now I guess they no longer do, but since the Golden Globes always preceded the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe nominations often gave a hint of what would come from the Academy and I am assuming that is still the case.  

So that said, Jessica Chastain and Nicole Kidman will most likely get nods from the Academy. Kidman won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her role as Lucille Ball in "Being the Ricardos" beating out Chastain's performance in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," something I don't agree with. Chastain's performance was a career high for her. Kristen Stewart was also nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Princess Diana in "Spencer." I can't really fault her performance, but I hated that movie.  (And if you want to know how much I hated it, check out my earlier review of "Spencer."  Likewise, click on the links above for my reviews of "Being the Ricardos" and "The Eyes of Tammy Faye.") 

So I expect that those three actresses will also get nods from the Academy. 

That brings us to my latest reviews below, films and actors with Oscar buzz.


The Power of the Dog (2021)


Two very different brothers "happily" live on their ranch together until one brother brings home a wife.

Jane Campion is one of our premiere directors and screenwriters (her screenplay for "The Piano" won an Oscar) but unlike some writer/directors, she is not that prolific.  This is her first feature film in 13 years and only her eighth feature film in her 30+ year career.  Perhaps it is her meticulousness that holds her back, because a Jane Campion film is detailed, offering lush cinematography, beautifully framed shots and a slow moving but meaningful pace.  Sometimes you don't know what the hell is going on but it's always an interesting film experience.  And this film is no exception.  Settling in with a glass of wine (or two) is in order.

It's 1925 Montana (well, it's actually really New Zealand standing in for Montana)  and the Burbank brothers live together in their big Victorian house on their sprawling ranch. The two brothers couldn't be more different. George is kind, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) is mean. George is a bit chubby, wears a suit and drives a car.  Phil is lean, wears chaps, rides a horse and calls George "Fatso." George is interested in Rose (Kirsten Dunst), the woman who runs the local restaurant, Phil is interested in her effeminate son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), but not in a good way. George represents progress, Phil is hopelessly lost in his version of the masculinity of the Old West and his worship of the memory of Bronco Henry, an old dead ranch hand. 

George, played by Jesse Plemons, who is married to Dunst in real life, courts Rose and marries her.  However, mean old Phil is not happy about losing his brother. When Rose moves into the big Victorian house with her son, Peter, Phil gets really mean and torments both Rose and Peter. But you know how little boys sometimes torment little girls they really like?  There is some of that going on with Phil except its maybe Peter he really likes deep down.  However, that's not something you would want to admit if you were a cowboy in Montana in 1925. Let's just say Phil is a tad repressed and hides his true self behind a facade of masculinity.

Adapted by Campion from the novel by Thomas Savage, the film is beautiful but very slow.  Not much happens for quite awhile except Cumberbatch being mean, Rose getting drunk because life on the ranch is hell and George being gone most of the time. Then Phil warms up to Peter - mmmm - and then all of a sudden there is this unexpected ending that made me go "huh?" and then "oh." It's all pretty grim.

Not my favorite Jane Campion film, but whether it's my favorite or not, her films are always special.  

Here the performances are particularly noteworthy. Cumberbatch plays against type here. His Phil is so mean he beats up a horse (I hope that horse was just acting)! I can't really remember Cumberbatch ever playing a really mean character.  But he can play anything. Smit-McPhee has already won a Golden Globe and has been nominated for a SAG Award.  He is quite a wonderful new face. Dunst and Cumberbatch have also been nominated for SAG Awards; and Campion has already won a Golden Globe for Best Director and the film won for Best Motion Picture, Drama (Cumberbatch and Dunst were nominated), so expect similar nominations from the Academy on February 8th. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...beautifully produced and framed, wonderful performances, and even though I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, it's a must see because this is the frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Picture. If it wins, you want to be able to say you saw it, right? (Netflix)


The Lost Daughter (2021)


Some of us are meant to be mothers and some of us aren't.

Leda (Olivia Coleman), an English professor and translator, is on vacation at a resort in Greece and everything is going swimmingly until a large family arrives to disturb her solitude, one of whom is Nina (Dakota Johnson), a young woman with her young daughter.  While everyone is on the beach, the young daughter goes missing briefly and Leda finds her but it does something to Leda. It brings up her painful past. In flashbacks, we see Leda as a young mother (Jessie Buckley) trying to balance her career ambitions with the needs of her two little girls and let's just say motherhood can be a bitch, for Leda anyway. 

Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal in her directorial debut (she also adapted the screenplay from the novel by Elena Ferrante), nothing much happens in the first 30 minutes of the film but then a sense of foreboding sets in and the film takes off. It's obvious Leda is troubled, especially when she strangely makes off with the little girl's doll and keeps it, despite a huge search for the doll and the little girl being bereft.   

This is a tour de force for Coleman.  I mean what can't Olivia Coleman play?  She has been everything from a police detective in "Broadchurch" to Queen Elizabeth II in "The Crown" and everything else in between.  Now she's a messed up Mom.

So far, both Gyllenhaal and Coleman were nominated for Golden Globes as well as other awards and Coleman has been nominated for a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, winners to be announced February 27.  Expect her to get an Oscar nod as well. 

Though praise for Coleman's performance is well deserved, I can't say that as a whole this was a particularly satisfying film experience for me.  

I was looking forward to the film and then felt let down by the ending.  I think I would have liked the film more if Leda had been a sympathetic character. But she wasn't.  Don't get me wrong. That in no way is a criticism of Coleman's performance. I don't think Leda was supposed to be a sympathetic character.  She is like most of us women - complicated.  But that's the problem. The film didn't really go anywhere nor explain why or how Leda came to do what she did. So she didn't like motherhood and made some errors in judgment that haunted her. She was selfish. Many mothers have complicated feelings about motherhood, at least some of the time, and most mothers have regrets, though most mothers don't do what Leda did, but if there was more to this film than that, the ending didn't make the point. I don't feel this film said anything new about motherhood. Basically - motherhood - some of us are cut out for it and some of us are not. If there was more to this than that, I didn't get it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is all about Coleman's performance which is wonderful and could garner her a second Oscar, so despite my complaints, you will want to see it. (Netflix) 

So we shall see.  Oscar nominations will be announced February 8.

NOTE: Despite poor box office, it is likely that "West Side Story" will get some nominations as will "House of Gucci" but since I am still not comfortable going to the theatre yet and neither of those films is available on DVD or for streaming, it is not likely I will review them prior to announcements but will try to do a post that includes reviews for all of the Best Picture nominees prior to the show on March 27th, so watch for that.


Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

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 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)

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!



If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 


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 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.

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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