Posts Tagged ‘Oscars’

Negative Space

Presidents Day means that the family goes to the cinema, as usual to the Spectrum Theatre, its parking lot full. We saw the five Academy Award nominees in the category of Best Animated Short, plus three others.

Dear Basketball (USA, 6 minutes), narrator/writer Kobe Bryant describes achieving his dream and then needing to walk away. I liked the pencil drawings; the guy behind me clearly LOVED them. This has no chance of winning after Kobe’s sexual assault charges some years ago.

Garden Party (France, 7 minutes) – when the humans are away, the amphibians will play all over the house. the animation here was so realistic that one could be forgiven for thinking it was live action. The ending was a surprise, though the clues were there. If the best-looking film were the sole criterion, this would be the winner.

LOU (USA, 7 minutes) – a toy-stealing bully wrecks recess until he’s thwarted by a “Lost and Found” box. This opened for the Pixar movie Cars 3 in theaters, and is of the usual quality of the studio.

Negative Space (France, 5 minutes) – a boy is able to connect with his oft-away dad because dad taught him how to pack a suitcase. I got the sense that this was a really personal story for the creator. My pick to win.

Revolting Rhymes, Part One (UK, 30 minutes), Roald Dahl’s retellings of classic fairy tales (Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Three Pigs) with lots of twists. I enjoyed it a lot. I need to somehow see Part Two. Or does it really end like that?

As is usually the case, there were bonus shorts, ones that didn’t get nominated but were considered.

Weeds (USA, 3 minutes) – on the face of it, the story of a dandelion, stuck on the wrong side of the driveway, where there’s water on the other side. On another level – and my wife really picked up on this – it’s about the “struggle and distance someone may have to travel–against all odds–to find a better life.”

Lost Property Office (Australia, 10 minutes) – no one wants the stuff they’ve lost on the train. Will the powers that be want the guy in charge of tracking those items? The sepia monochrome gives the impression of a less than ideal ending, but it finishes with whimsy.

Achoo! (France, 7 minutes) – The tiny Chinese dragon, suffering from a cold, seems outmatched by two others, who are cocky and a bit mean. Can our bumbling hero put on the best show using his incendiary powers?

Some movies are more difficult to review than others, and I, Tonya is one of them. On one hand, it is a humorous film, making good use of the of the fourth wall to tell a story, or stories – it embraces its differing points of view – about what is referred to as The Incident, the injuring of skater Nancy Kerrigan by people around Tonya Harding.

On the other hand, it’s a lot about the abuse Tonya (Oscar-nominee Margo Robbie) withstands, first at the hands of her never satisfied mother LaVona Fay Golden (probable Oscar winner Alison Janney), then by her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) in their odd love/hate relationship.

As someone who watched a LOT more figure skating in the day than he really cared about, I know it was also about how the girl from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in Portland, OR never having the right “look”. Her skating was athletic – she was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition – but she lacked the grace, the elan that the skating community wanted to show.

I asked my local expert, my wife, what she thought of Robbie’s portrayal of Harding. She thought, and I concurred, that she captured the essence of Tonya, though she wasn’t as sinewy as the skater. We agreed, though, that the folks playing Tonya’s mom and husband, and especially Gilhooey’s lunkhead friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), were spot on.

I continue to be amused by the fact that some people get up from the theater as soon as the credits begin rolling, even when those credits are paired with clips of the real people – Tonya, Jeff, LaVona, Shawn. Shawn really DID think he was a world-class international spy.

I liked the film because Tonya eventually overcame what was essentially a rigged system to become one of the best skaters in the world. She was turned into a national joke – the film Tonya points to a real David Letterman Top Ten – because of a ridiculous and ineptly executed plan not of her design. She was banned from participating in the only thing to do what she knew how to do, yet she survived.

I, Tonya speaks of the curse of celebrity, with the swarm of reporters camped outside her door for a time. A television infotainment reporter (Bobby Cannavale) admits how the medium sensationalized that narrative until the Next Big Thing came along.

And, as noted, I did love the storytelling device of the film. Tonya talks about all the specific difficult things she went through to train for the 1994 Olympics, and her coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) looks into the camera and says, “And she did!” I laughed aloud through much of the dark comedy.

My wife, who wanted to see the film more than I, enjoyed it less, because of all that Tonya went through, starting at age of four. Of course, we saw this at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

All the short films my wife and I saw at the Spectrum in February 2018 were quite good. Dekalb Elementary (USA – 20 minutes) involved a 2013 school shooting incident in Atlanta, GA. It was really intense, but the lead female’s role was remarkable.

The Silent Child (UK – 20 minutes) is about a profoundly deaf four-year-old girl, whose busy middle class family care for her. But she lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her how to communicate. The arc of this story was very touching, and a bit heartbreaking.

My Nephew Emmett (USA – 19 minutes) is set in 1955 and based on the true story of a Mississippi preacher who tries to protect his 14-year-old nephew. I knew almost immediately, though my wife did not, what this story was all about, which I suppose lessened the impact only slightly.

In The Eleven O’Clock (Australia – 13 minutes), the delusional patient of a psychiatrist believes he is actually the psychiatrist, and they end up analyzing each other. As the only comedy, and a cleverly funny one at that, it broke up the tension in the theater somewhat.

Watu Wote – All of Us (Germany/Kenya – 23 minutes). “For almost a decade Kenya has been targeted by terrorist attacks of the Al-Shabaab. An atmosphere of anxiety and mistrust between Muslims and Christians is growing. Until in December 2015, Muslim bus passengers showed that solidarity can prevail.”

The first, third, and fifth movies all were based on true stories and suggested the possibility of violence. DeKalb was probably my favorite among these, but I suspect Wote Watu will win the Oscar because it’s so timely.

As a teacher of English as a New Language, my wife really related to The Silent Child, knowing children often need advocates when they are “different.”

The one thing I hated in the presentation is that, during the closing credits, they had videos of the filmmakers hearing that they’ve been nominated for Academy Awards. It really ruined the mood, especially the stirring end music of Wote Watu. Now if they’d run the clips AFTER each the credits, it would have been better, serving as a brief respite before another heavy topic.

Nevertheless, a very good crop of films.

LEAVE IT IN 2017 and Some looks at the year just gone

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise

Americans Don’t Really Understand Gun Violence

How America is Transforming Islam

The scammers gaming India’s overcrowded job market

Proud To Be A Patriotic American Liberal

Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of GLENN SIMPSON, AUGUST 22, 2017, released by Diane Feinstein

Latrine politics

Conspiracy sites claim he was ‘FEARED DEAD’, targeted by ‘DEEP STATE’ in minor Tower fire

A tax on a free press

New mom Serena Williams had to talk her hospital staff through saving her life

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among UK men but this is a faulty conclusion

Google Thinks I’m Dead (I know otherwise)

What’s wrong with the Internet, whether it’s new, and the power (and value) of our attention

Empörungsgesellschaft – Crazy bloggers, twitterers, facebooklings, and so forth, are able to impinge upon the public consciousness in new and historically unprecedented ways?

Takeout creates a lot of trash; it doesn’t have to

Cory Doctorow’s recent novel Walkaway imagines a world where scarcity is unnecessary and generosity is a feasible way of life

This expanding house is ready in 10 minutes

Growable shoes

Chuck Miller: A few words on my son’s wedding day

A Writer’s Guide to Permissions and Fair Use

We Have A New Prime Number, And It’s 23 Million Digits Long

Darlanne in the 1971 Panorama yearbook, Binghamton, (NY) Central High School

Darlanne Fluegel, Actress in ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ and ‘Running Scared,’ Dies at 64 – I knew her a little when we were briefly in Binghamton Central High School together

Jerry Van Dyke, RIP

Ray Thomas, Moody Blues Flautist and Founding Member, Dead at 76

Keith Jackson, the folksy voice of college football has died at 89

Actress Greta Thyssen, Blonde Bombshell of the 1950s and ’60s, Dies at 90in action; see 185 Pies And Guys, esp from 13:00 in

How to pronounce Gyllenhaal

Musicals Into Movies

Op-Docs Contenders for the 2018 Academy Awards

Which Film Critics Are The Most Contrarian?

Must there be a Marvel Comics?

Babies weren’t cute until…

First new word of 2018 for me: mooted: raised (a question or topic) for discussion; suggested (an idea or possibility) – I’ve known moot, as in “the question is moot,” but not this

Now I Know: The Panhandler Who Returned a Treasure and When Breaking a Record Really Blows

What’s a Wendy’s doing there? The story of Washington’s weirdest traffic circle


The 2017 Coverville Countdown Part 1 and Part 2

Coverville 1200: This Day in Covers: January 3, 1978

Shelter from the Storm · Rodney Crowell / Emmylou Harris (HT to Jaquandor)

Echo Beach (2010) – Martha and the Muffins

Something’s Coming – Voctave

Your Song – Elle Goulding

Bagpipes/Dubstep/Star Wars

Someone to Lay Down Beside Me – Karla Bonoff

Ken – Barbie sings!

50 Best Folk Music Artists of All Time

The Beach Boys Are Better Than the Beatles

Sometimes, you just need to leave work early to see the Oscar-nominated live action short films

“Mindenki,” Hungary (25 minutes)

This was the Oscar winner, and certainly worthy. The title translates to “Sing,” but it oughtn’t to be confused with another, full-length, animated recent film of the same name.

Reportedly based on a true story, young Zsofi (Dóra Gáspárvalvi) enrolls in a new school best known for its lauded children’s choir, which is great, because Zsofi loves singing. Her mother, the principal and her new friend Liza (Dorka Hais) encourage her to join the troupe. But Zsofi runs into a snag.

I love the music, and the world of competitive choir, and it has a nifty ending. But the most engaging part of the film is the friendship between the shy Zsofi and the cool Liza.

“Silent Nights,” Denmark (30 minutes)

Aske Bang’s third short starts off strong. Malene Beltoft (Inger) is a kindhearted worker for the Salvation Army homeless shelter worker. One of her clients is a Ghanaian immigrant named Kwame (Prince Yaw Appiah). They strike up a romance.

The film’s first half addresses the difficulty many immigrants, including Kwame, have in wanting a better life. But there may be way too much story at the back end to be credible. Still, I found the couple intriguing.

“Timecode” (Spain, 15 minutes)

Juanjo Giménez Peña won the Palme d’Or for this. Luna (Lali Ayguadé) and Diego (Nicolas Ricchini) work in a parking garage in 12-hour shifts. Pretty boring, with polite but minimal interaction between the two only at the shift change.

Then Luna discovers that Diego has a hobby. Eventually, the two soon start using the expansive video surveillance system to swap videos. It was a minor piece but with some charm, especially if you appreciate the moves.

“Ennemis Interieurs,” France (28 minutes)

Sélim Azzazi’s film, translated “Enemies Within,” feels like it’s based on current events, though it was set in the 1990s. It takes almost entirely inside a dim immigration office. Hassam Ghancy is an unnamed Algerian-born Frenchman hoping to procure official citizenship. Najib Oudghiri is the likewise unnamed official who essentially plays the good cop AND the bad cop at different points.

For a movie mostly confined to one location, it was quite affecting. Ghancy’s character showed fear and indignation from the interrogator’s questions. Probably the best of the five.

“La Femme et la TGV,” Switzerland (30 minutes)

Timo von Guten’s film is the most quirky of the features. Jane Birkin, who’s been in quite a few movies you may have seen, is the femme, a melancholy baker in a tiny French town. Her only joy is to wave at the TGV train when it goes by twice a day at 185 mph.

A train conductor sends her a note, tossed off the speeding train and landing in her yard, thanking her for her daily greetings. A correspondence is struck up between the pair, but not on “the Internets,” which she actively avoids.

There is a relationship based on more tossed packages, stuffed with cheese, and carefully written letters which eventually forces her to take action unusual from her predictable life. The solution was there but she couldn’t see it before. I liked it, though it may be a tad long. It’s based on a true story.

Here are trailers for Oscar-nominated live action short films. Most of the movies are in subtitles. I did not find them out there for free, only for a fee.

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