The less-than-satisfactory Oscar post

I saw all the Best Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay noms!

EmmaYeah, it’s been a less-than-satisfactory Oscar viewing season for me. I haven’t seen many of the nominees, certainly in comparison with most years. Although, seeing THREE Best Picture nominees in the last three days, which I haven’t yet reviewed, has made the list a bit more complete.

So this is a post for this moment, and I’m hoping to see the others eventually. The ! means I saw it. I’ll link to my reviews the first time.

! The Father – I just saw this; well-acted, of course, depressing and a little stagey
! Judas and the Black Messiah – I saw this yesterday; the best in my opinion.
Mank – this played at the newly-reopened Spectrum Theatre, but I didn’t catch it.
! Minari 
! Nomadland. I’m aware of the controversy over how the movie doesn’t fully address the working conditions at Amazon, which the book apparently does.
! Promising Young Woman – I just saw, and I liked it a lot
! Sound of Metal – this is the movie I saw the earliest of the nominees, the only one before the noms were announced. It’s very good.
! The Trial of the Chicago Seven. Good film.

! Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy – she’s overdue, but this movie reviewed terribly
! Olivia Colman, The Father. She’s very strong in a demanding role.
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
! Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari – my favorite

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – all great performances
But it is absurd that the two leads of Judas are both up for best supporting. I blame the studio.
! Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
! Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
! Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
! Paul Raci, Sound of Metal – probably my #2 pick
! Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah, narrowly my #1 pick

Another Round – Denmark. A good film but this is the only one I saw in the category.
Better Days – Hong Kong
Collective – Romania
The Man Who Sold His Skin – Tunisia
Qu Vadis, Aida? – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
! Time 

! Fight For You from Judas and the Black Messiah
! Hear My Voice from The Trial of the Chicago 7
Husavik from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
lo Sì (Seen) from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)
! Speak Now from One Night in Miami – my rooting interest

Screenplays and other things

Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
! Wolfwalkers 

! Borat Subsequent MovieFilm
! The Father
! Nomadland
! One Night in Miami – my favorite of the four
The White Tiger – there’s a 2021 movie called White Tiger about a tank. That isn’t this movie.

! Judas and the Black Messiah – my #1 pick
! Minari
! Promising Young Woman – my #2 pick
! Sound of Metal
! The Trial of the Chicago 7

! Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal – excellent
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – like a lot of others, I’d be thrilled if he wins posthumously
! Anthony Hopkins, The Father – great, as usual
Gary Oldman, Mank
! Steven Yeun, Minari

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – I always root for her
! Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday – she is WAY better than the movie; review soon
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
! Frances McDormand, Nomadland
! Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman – possibly my favorite

! Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
! Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
! Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
! Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman. My pick.

The techie awards

! The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
News of the World

! Sean Bobbitt, Judas and the Black Messiah
Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Dariusz Wolski, News of the World
! Joshua James Richards, Nomadland – I can imagine this winning
! Phedon Papamichael, The Trial of the Chicago 7

! Emma – hmm. I bought this DVD for my wife and we watched it some months ago, but I never reviewed it. It was pleasant enough, not great. But the costumes WERE fabulous.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

News of the World
! Sound of Metal – the sound, and lack of, is pivotal here, and very effective

Da 5 Bloods
! Minari
News of the World

VISUAL EFFECTS – I’ve seen none
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
The One and Only Ivan

! The Father
! Nomadland – will probably win
! Promising Young Woman
! Sound of Metal – rooting interest
! The Trial of the Chicago 7 – secondary rooting interest

! Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Oscar-nominated shorts for 2020

Hong Kong, Yemen, NYC

Feeling ThroughNormally, when I want to see the Oscar-nominated shorts, I go to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, one of the Landmark Theatres. I generally view the Live-Action or Animated films. Unfortunately, that’s not an option; it just re-opened, but I’m not ready to go out. Nor is watching the documentaries at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.

Luckily, they are online and I see at least some of them. This Rotten Tomatoes link from March 16 is a good starting place.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually SEE any of the Animated Films.  Burrow, about a rabbit, is on Disney+; it doesn’t even have a trailer.  Genius Loci has a trailer on YouTube, which is lovely, but I can’t find how to access it fully.

If Anything Happens I Love You is on Netflix. “Grieving parents journey through an emotional void as they mourn the loss of a child in the aftermath of a tragic school shooting.”  Opera has bits on Instagram, but I don’t know how to access the whole thing. Vimeo has a teaser for  Yes-People.

Documentary (Short Subject)

I fared better in this category: 4 out of 5.  Colette (24:50) is on YouTube. A 90-year-old woman who was part of the French Resistance sees, for the first time, the Nazi camp where her brother died. It’s a touching character study of a woman who thought she was tougher than she was.

A Concerto Is a Conversation (13:24) is on the site. “A virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.” Warm conversation between the two men.

Do Not Split (35:38) is on Facebook. It “follows activists in Hong Kong as they endure violent stand-offs with police and grapple with the new restrictions imposed by mainland China.” Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand the particular strategies employed by the protestors at certain times.

Hunger Ward (45:00), from MTV,  is on something called PlutoTV. It’s about the bombing of Yemen, and the devastating effect it has on children. A six-year-old weighs 15 pounds. And it’s tough on their caretakers. Think of all of those news reports you’ve seen of exhausted and frustrated COVID nurses; that’ll give you a taste. Check out to get involved.

The one I didn’t see was A Love Song for Latasha (19:00) on Netflix. “The killing of Latasha Harlins became a flashpoint for the 1992 LA uprising. This documentary evocatively explores the 15-year-old’s life and dreams.”

Short Film (Live Action)

The only one of these films I saw so far was Feeling Through on YouTube (18:25). A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man at a bus stop. This is the film with which I was most familiar. “The film was inspired by a chance encounter with the first DeafBlind person director Doug Roland met late at night in New York City.” Marlee Matlin, an executive producer, and an Oscar-winning deaf actor promoted the film on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

The Letter Room (32:00) has a trailer on Vimeo. “When a kind-hearted prison officer (Oscar Isaac) is transferred to the letter room, he soon gets involved in an inmate’s personal affairs.” One CAN see the film for $6.99. Also with a trailer on Vimeo is The Present. It involves a Palestinian father and his young daughter at a border.

Two Distant Strangers has a trailer on YouTube, but I don’t know how to see the whole thing. “Cartoonist Carter James’ repeated attempts to get home to his dog are thwarted by a recurring deadly encounter that forces him to re-live the same awful day over and over again.”

Finally, White Eye likewise has a YouTube trailer, and I’d like to know how to see the film in its entirety. “A man finds his stolen bicycle and it now belongs to a stranger. In his attempts to retrieve the bicycle, he struggles to remain human.”

Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

fuzzy wool

Best-Animated-Short-Oscars-2020After the Oscars, and indeed, just before the package left town, my wife and I finally saw the Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation.

The first, and the one that Indiewire ranked the least, was Hair Love, which won. “The Sony Pictures short — which screened last year before ‘Angry Birds 2’ in theaters — started as a Kickstarter campaign.” It was later adapted into a children’s book.

I had actually already seen Hair Love on CBS Sunday Morning. It was about a young black girl and her father being overwhelmed trying to fix her hair. Been there! I thought it was quite moving, even on second viewing.

Daughter, from the Czech Republic’s Daria Kashcheeva is also between a girl and her father, but far more melancholy. The title character is “startled by a bird crashing into the window, which in turn sparks a series of somewhat-difficult-to-follow memories in which she imagines herself to be a bird.”

I was a tad confounded by the narrative. But the technique, which appear to be puppets made from papier-mâché, was impressive. The “camerawork… mirrors the shallow focus and shaky, handheld technique used to convey emotional turmoil and confusion in live-action movies.”

China girl

Sister is a China-US project. As Variety notes, its stop-motion “represents the most successful marriage of concept and technique among the nominees, but hinges on a twist that’s best not revealed here.” Yet, annoyingly, Indiewire DOES tell too much.

The “puppets have been assembled from fuzzy wool, which the director lights in such a way that they look alive. Stray squiggles of loose material complete the illusion, vibrating even as the dolls sit still… The underlying script is so strong… that [the limited facial features] merely reinforce the film’s humor. For instance, “the hungry infant swells to fill the entire nursery, then comically deflates like a balloon…” And that really IS funny.

Quite often, these shorts show people coping with Alzheimer’s. The French stop-motion entry Mémorable deals with an elderly artist. “Director Bruno Collet has designed his main character to resemble one of Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits.”

He “remains determined to paint, asking his wife to pose without realizing who she is,” and it is a marvelous portrayal. “Nicolas Martin’s string score adds resonance to the couple’s predicament.” Possibly my favorite.

Kitbull is about “a rowdy stray kitten attempting to survive a stormy night in a heap of trash. The cat “encounters a pit bull… being subjected to abusive owners.” It is a wordless story about the value of negotiation. It was “produced as part of Pixar’s SparkShorts program, which finances independent shorts by young Pixar artists.” It’s not bad.


As always, those who catch the program in cinemas will be treated to a handful of “highly commended” shorts. A stop-motion project, Henrietta Bulkowski tells a parable about overcoming differences. Variety says, “The animation’s nice, but the story feels rigged to prove a point…” This features Christina Hendricks and Chris Cooper as voice actors.

“Carol Freeman’s The Bird & the Whale represents a painstaking job of hand-painted oil-on-glass animation, though the story… doesn’t quite work.” I’d agree with that.

“Computer-animated French entry Hors Piste is hilarious in its retro-toned, well-timed slapstick humor.” It features “a number of clever gags involving a bumbling high-altitude rescue squad.” We’re talking LOL funny.

The two-minute CG Maestro from the team behind 2018 nominee Garden Party, shows them pushing their photoreal animal animation to new levels.” It is essentially one joke, but it’s visually amazing.

Movie review: Little Women (2019)

best picture nominee

Little WomenI’m not an expert on the writings of Louisa May Alcott. Thus I can only judge the new movie Little Women based on what I saw on the screen. I was most impressed. My wife, on the other hand, is seeped in the story. She enjoyed it immensely.

I understand that this is a reimagining. Writer/director Greta Gerwig drew on Louisa May Alcott’s life and letters, as well as the original source. It was not strictly chronological, which confused me early on, but it soon made sense.

We really enjoyed Gerwig’s previous film, Lady Bird, which also starred Saoirse Ronan. In Little Women, she plays a Jo March that is talented, but with doubts. The Oscar-nominated Ronan was also excellent in Brooklyn and Atonement.

It seems that Gerwig has developed a troupe, of sorts, besides Saoirse. Timothée Chalamet, best known in Call Me By Your Name, was a young musician in Lady Bird, and Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in Little Women. Tracy Letts embodied Henry Ford II in the Oscar-nominated Ford v. Ferrari; he was the father in Lady Bird and Mr. Dashwood in this film.

The former Hermione Granger

They were all fine performers, as were Emma Watson as Meg, Eliza Scanlen as Beth, and the always reliable Laura Dern as Marmee, among others. Apparently, the role of the aunt was expanded, which I suppose happens when one gets Meryl Streep for the role.

But Florence Pugh as Amy was a revelation. She was a force. The performer has been in a number of movies, none of which I’ve seen, and most of which I never heard of. Her Academy Award for best supporting actress nomination was well deserved.

I’d already put Alexandre Desplat’s original score on my wishlist. I’m glad he, Greta for adapted screenplay, and costume designer Jacqueline Durran all got Oscar nods. I’m sorry, though that Greta Gerwig got left off the ballot for best director; what remains is that burger joint, five guys.

My Oscar picks don’t include Roma

In the Best Documentary Feature category, I expectedwanted Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (re: Fred Rogers) and Three Identical Strangers

Roma_theatrical_posterWhen Roma came to the Spectrum Theatre, I said to my wife, “We need to see that film.” The weekend we were finally available, it had just left.

Yes, I suppose I could see it online, but I know I won’t. Currently, I have movies I’ve recorded weeks ago. I can’t find the block of time to watch them as they were meant to be viewed, i.e., in one sitting, without interruptions.

Roma was actually the second film in that category this year. In the summer, we both wanted to see First Reformed; alas, it didn’t happen. Links to my reviews, but only the first appearance on the list.

I saw it – *.

Best Picture

*Black Panther – my second pick
*BlacKkKlansman – my first pick, my wife’s second pick
*#Bohemian Rhapsody – at this moment, still playing here – finally saw
*The Favourite – NOT my favorite
*Green Book – my wife’s first pick; some critics want to make the contest a redo of When the Oscars Chose Driving Miss Daisy Over Do the Right Thing; meh
*A Star Is Born – the problem with this movie is that it was done thrice before
*Vice – a very divisive film

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
*Olivia Colman, The Favourite
*Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
*Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? – my pick

Best Actor – I would have bet money on Ethan Hawke in First Reformed getting nominated

*Christian Bale, Vice – he was REALLY good Dick Cheney
*Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
*#Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody – I suspect if I see this, this will win out
*Viggo Mortensen, Green Book – never felt like a starring role

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma – will win
*Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
*Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman – my clear favorite
*Adam McKay, Vice
*#Pawl Pawlikowski, Cold War – hasn’t played yet in Albany

Best Supporting Actress

*Amy Adams, Vice – she was very good
Marina de Tavira, Roma
*Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk – a tossup between her and Adams
*Emma Stone, The Favourite
*Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best Supporting Actor

*Mahershala Ali, Green Book – practically a leading role
*Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
*Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born – too small a part
*Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? – my favorite role
*Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Original Screenplay – I was hoping for a nod for Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade or Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You

*The Favourite
First Reformed
*Green Book – my choice

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – a Netflix film that I’ve never seen advertised in a theater around here
*BlacKkKlansman – since it won’t win Best Picture, this would be a nice consolation prize
*Can You Ever Forgive Me?
*If Beale Street Could Talk
*A Star Is Born

Best Original Song

*“All the Stars,” Black Panther
*“I’ll Fight,” RBG
*“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns – this DID make me a tad weepy, maybe perhaps
*“Shallow,” A Star Is Born – give Gaga SOMETHING
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

ballad of buster scruggs
A Netflix film that never played theatrically in Albany, NY

Best Original Score

*Black Panther – Ludwig Göransson evokes Africa, my #1 pick
*BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard’s eclectic-sounds, my #1A pick
*If Beale Street Could Talk
*Isle of Dogs
*Mary Poppins Returns

Best Film Editing

*BlacKkKlansman -yes
*#Bohemian Rhapsody
*The Favourite
*Green Book

Best Foreign Language Film

Capernaum (Lebanon)
*#Cold War (Poland) – opened this weekend in Albany
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
*#Shoplifters (Japan) – saw it this past weekend; worthwhile

Best Animated Feature

Incredibles 2
*Isle of Dogs – very quirky; liked it a lot, and it’s not a sequel
*Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – at this writing, still playing

Best Documentary Feature – I wanted Won’t You Be My Neighbor? re: Fred Rogers and Three Identical Strangers

Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
*RBG – this was VERY good

Best Cinematography

*#Cold War
*The Favourite – actually, the movie was technically good
Never Look Away
*A Star Is Born

Best Production Design

*Black Panther – this WOWED me
*The Favourite
First Man
*Mary Poppins Returns

Best Visual Effects – saw none

Avengers: Infinity War/Christopher Robin/First Man/Ready Player One/Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
*Black Panther -yes
*The Favourite – would be worthy
*Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots

Best Makeup and Hair Styling

Mary Queen of Scots
*Vice – this was very good makeup

Best Sound Mixing

*Black Panther – I never get the sound categories straight
*#Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
*A Star Is Born

Best Sound Editing

*Black Panther
*#Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place