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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

The Mustang


The Mustang -- a Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director Laure De Clermont-Tonnerre spent time at the Sundance Institute to develop this story about a man and a horse.  Yes, we know it's been done before but rarely like this, enough so that Robert Redford took it on as executive producer.  Using the severe canvas of the Nevada desert, beautifully captured by cinematographer Ruben Impens, De Clermont-Tonnerre tells an equally stark story forwarding the the belief that even the most broken among us can develop empathy and thus start on the path toward redemption.  The success of this film is rooted in the performance of its star, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop, Red Sparrow, The Danish Girl), as Roman, a violent convict serving hard time in a high security prison, and we believe it is one of the best you will see this year.

Roman has served 12 years for a violent crime, the specifics of which we don't know.  As we meet him he has just returned from isolation. and is meeting with a no-nonsense prison psychologist (Connie Britton).  In response to her probes, he merely stares, but as she persists, she finally asks, "How does Roman feel about reentering the prison's general population?" His response is an understatement: "I'm not good with people,"  As a result, she recommends he have a solo job outdoors mucking manure.

We learn that this prison takes part in a Bureau of Land Management initiative which saves some of  the 100,000 wild mustangs who roam the West.  They are herded by helicopter and a dozen or so are brought to the prison for an equine therapy program whereby they are tamed, then trained by inmates to be sold at auction.   The foreman of the project is Myles (the aptly cast Bruce Dern), a cranky piece of hickory who knows men as well as he knows horses.  Myles notices  Roman has a strong interest in the wildest of these mustangs, and we see at once the parallels between man and beast.  Myles assigns another inmate, Henry (Jason Mitchell--Mudbound, Detroit), the self-professed best trainer, to show him the ropes.

At the same time, Roman gets a visit from his estranged 16-year old daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon), who is pregnant and only wants him to sign papers for her emancipation so she can sell her grandmother's home, which was left to them.  For the first time, we begin to touch on the details surrounding Roman's crime, as Martha's hostility and resentment and his social maladjustment make for a brief, unpleasant meeting.  Just when Roman is at his most alienated he turns his energies to the mustang.  He gets an equestrian magazine to learn more about his charge, but from academics to corral the conflict beteen two wild and headstrong creatures rains frustration down on both--Myles even banishes Roman for a time.

Just as Roman seems like a lost cause, Henry tells him, "if you wanna control the horse, first you gotta control yourself."  Only then he begns to make progress. and that progress extends to both his psychological counseling and his relationship with Martha.  In his restorative justice anger management sessions he pries himself open as he gains insight into his own impulsive behavior.  In subsequent visits from his daughter (he still hasn't signed the papers) we also see him opening up more to her, culminating in one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the movie.  Though it is not in Roman's nature to be outgoing, as he gains insight into himself, he allows the light to shine into his soul, the greatest manifestation of this is his relationship with the mustang.

De Clermont-Tonnerre's sidling pace brings slow-burn tension and tiny revelations as the film moves toward resolution.  It should be added, though, that the film never seems slow, and at a sparse 96 minutes, it left all of us wanting more.  Although it's early, we see The Mustang as an Independent Spirit Awards player for "Film," Director," Cinematography," Supporting Actor" (Dern), and Schoenaerts should lead the way, even making a strong bid for an Oscar.
8.0 out of 10



Spring and Summer Movie Guide


Happy New Year by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Allow me to explain.  The movie year doesn't run with the calendar year.  January, for example, is still part of the previous calendar year, dominated by late arriving awards hopefuls, leading up to the Oscars, which ends the year.  Then there's a brief post-Oscars dead period, when Hollywood dumps the dregs into theaters--in truth, most of the spring used to be that way, with nary a movie worth seeing until late May, when the summer blockbusters landed.

Not any more.  Back in 2012, The Hunger Games arrived in March to record-breaking audiences, and studio bigwigs realized they were onto something.  Ever since, the new movie year has kicked off with a blockbuster, with even an Oscar contender or two sneaking in (The Grand Budpest Hotel released on March 28, 2014).   Last year, Black Panther arrived on February 16 and dominated the movie scene for months.  This year, it's Captain Marvel.

So, with the spring equinox, let me wish you a Happy New Year.

Below, we've broken down the films into two groups.  First, the BEST BETS; 19 sure fire box office hits; the last one could be be the kickoff to the awards season. You'll note that the list is dominated by sequels, series, and remakes; no matter how much critics and fans say they want original content films; they don't support them when they are released.  The animated offerings also will show up for awards, and a number of these biggies will earn technical honors.  The second list, THE REST, is a carefully selected group that might be sneaky good or appeal to niche audiences.

BEST BETS  (Note: studios sometimes change release dates)

Captain Marvel - In theaters now - Action, Sci-Fi
Follows USAF pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she makes an unplanned detour into space and returns ... changed, joining forces with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) when Earth becomes the target of an intergalactic war between two alien races.  Jude Law, Clark Gregg, 

Us 
- March 22  - Horror, Thriller
Writer/Director Jordan Peele's follow-up to his hit, Get Out: Gabe (Winston Duke), Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), and their children face an existential threat when  doppelgängers invade their lives.  Elisabeth Moss, Anna Diop, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Dumbo
 - March 28  - Fantasy, Family
Director Tim Burton's reimagination of the Disney classic about a young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly and in the process save a failing circus, but danger lurks below the sawdust.
Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito

Shazam!
 - April 5 - Sci-Fi Comedy 
We all have a superhero inside.  In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, he brings it out by shouting "Shazam!" and this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult super hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou).  Mark Strong, Meagan Good

Hellboy
 - April 12  - Action, Fantasy 
Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy (David Harbour: Stranger Things), caught between supernatural and human worlds, battles an ancient sorceress (Milla Jovovich) bent on revenge. Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim 

Avengers: Endgame
 - April 26  - Action, Sci-Fi 
After Thanos (Josh Brolin) randomly destroyed half of all life (luckily leaving the original Avengers unscathed) in Infinity War, things look bleak. Bowed but unbeaten, our heroes regroup for one last desperate attempt to undo the tragedy and restore order to the universe.  Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan

Pokémon Detective Pikachu
 - May 10  - Animated Family 
When a detective goes missing, his Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) seeks to solve the mystery.  With the help of a boy (Justice Smith), he uncovers a plot that threatens the coexistence of Pokemon and humans. Suki Waterhouse, Kathryn Newton 

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
 - May 17  Action
A $14 million open contract is on the head of super-Assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) because he killed another assassin on forbidden ground.  He's given a head start by a man named Winston (Ian McShane) before the baddest and best assassins go after him.  Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas

Aladdin
 - May 24  Adventure Comedy, Family
Guy Ritchie directs the live-action retelling of the 1992 Disney film. Recall Aladdin (Mena Massoud) finding a lamp with a genie (Will Smith) inside and turns himself into a prince to win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Enter the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari).  Alan Tudyk voices Iago

Rocketman - May 31 - Biography/Fantasy
A musical fantasy about Elton John's (Taron Egerton) transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar, including his inspiring collaboration and relationship with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden

Dark Phoenix
 - June 7 - Sci-Fi Action, Adventure
Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops powers she can't control that turn her into Dark Phoenix.  The X-Men will have to save her from herself before she destroys the world.  Simon Kinberg directs Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain

The Secret Life of Pets 2
 - June 7 - Animated Comedy
The continuing story of Max (Patton Oswalt) and his pet friends after their owners leave them each day.  Voices of Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Harrison Ford, and others

Men in Black: International - June 14 - Sci-Fi Comedy
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.  Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Liam Neeson

Toy Story 4
 - June 21 Animated Family
Woody (Tom Hanks) helps newcomer Forky (Tony Hale) embrace being a toy by leading the gang on a road trip.  Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Patricia Arquette, John Ratzenberger

Spider-Man: Far From Home
 - July 5  Sci-Fi Action, Comedy
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) leaves his Spidey-suit at home when he and his friends go on summer vacation to Europe, but then he comes up against a villain known as Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau

The Lion King
 - July 19 Animated Adventure
Director Jon Favreau presents the CGI re-imagining of the 1994 Disney classic.  Voices of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - July 26 Comedy-Drama
Amid the backdrop of the Manson family murders, a fading actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) strive to reclaim fame in a 1969-noir Los Angeles.  Quentin Tarantino directs.  Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
 - August 2  Action
Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and disgraced MI-6 operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are unhappily teamed up when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain (Idris Elba) threatens the future of humanity.  David Leitch directs.  Eiza González, Vanessa Kirby, Eddie Marsan

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
 - August 9  Comedy, Drama
Based on a runaway best-selling novel about a runaway wife and mother, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) has disappeared and her daughter Bee (Emma Nelson) and husband (Billy Crudup) set out to track her down, discovering her troubled past in the process.  Director: Richard Linklater; co-stars Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurance Fishburne, Troian Bellisario 


THE REST

MARCH
Arctic -  (in limited release)
The lone survivor of a plane crash (Mads Mikkelsen) is stranded in the Arctic and must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive.  Maria Thelma Smaradottir.

The Aftermath - March 15
In post-WWII Germany, Rachael (Keira Knightley) is reunited with her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city of Hamburg.  Unbeknownst to Rachael, Lewis has arranged to share their house with its previous owners, a German widower (Alexander Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter. 

The Hummingbird Project - March 15 Thriller
Cousins (Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård) involved in high frequency trading go up against their old boss (Salma Hayek) who is intent on beating them at their own game in a fiber-optic cable deal.   Michael Mando

The Mustang - March 15
Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts), a violent convict, is given the chance to participate in a rehabilitation therapy, training wild mustangs. Led by a tough ranch hand (Bruce Dern) and a fellow parolee (Jason Mitchell), Roman learns to control both the horses and his own savage emotions.


APRIL
Pet Sematary - April 5  Horror
Reprise of a Stephen King-based film of Louis (Jason Clarke) and Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two children who move to a rural home where they are enlightened about the eerie 'Pet Sematary' located nearby.  John Lithgow, Naomi Frenette

Little - April 12  Comedy, Fantasy
When pressures build too high, a tough tech-mogul (Regina Hall) is transformed into her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin), and the only person in on it is her personal assistant (Issa Rae).  Justin Hartley,  Tone Bell


MAY
Long Shot - May 3  Comedy
A talented, unconventional journalist (Seth Rogen) reunites with his first crush, now a powerful diplomat considering a run for President (Charlize Theron).  His self-deprecating style charms her and she hires him as her speechwriter. Romance ensues. June Diane Raphael, O'Shea Jackson Jr.

Tolkien - May 10  Biography, Drama
The formative years of the orphaned author (Nicholas Hoult) as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school, and the ourbreak of WWI, which threatens to tear the "fellowship" apart.  Lily Collins, Genevieve O'Reilly, Pam Ferris

The Souvenir - May 17  Drama, Mystery, Romance
A young film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) becomes romantically involved with a charismatic, untrustworthy man (Tom Burke), in defiance of her mother's (Tilda Swinton) warnings, and the resultant relationship threatens to destroy her dreams.  Richard Ayoade

Ad Astra - May 24  Sci-Fi Adventure, Mystery
Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels across space to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who went missing on a flight to Neptune 20 years before, and he uncovers a mystery that threatens life on earth.  Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga

Booksmart - May 24  Comedy
Two academic superstars (Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd) are best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram 4 years of fun into 1 night.  Director: Olivia Wilde, co-stars Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis

Brightburn - May 24  Horror
A nightmare version of the Superman story: a child (Jackson A. Dunn) from another world crash-lands on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, will he prove to be a nemesis?   Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - May 31  Sci-Fi Action,
In this throwback to the golden age of Japanese mega-monsters, Godzilla clashes with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.  Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford


JUNE
Late Night - June 7  Comedy, Drama
A legendary late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) fears she may soon be losing her long-running show.  John Lithgow, Mindy Kaling, Megalyn Echikunwoke

Shaft - June 14  Crime Action,
John Shaft's son ((Samuel L. Jackson), a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists dad's (Richard Roundtree) help to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death.  Regina King, Avan Jogia, Luna Lauren Velez, Alexandra Shipp

The Art of Self-Defense - June 21  Comedy
A bookkeeper (Jesse Eisenberg) who is attacked by a motorcycle gang, enlists in a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola).  An aggressive brown belt (Imogen Poots) helps in his effort to learn how to defend himself.  Steve Terada

Child's Play- June 21  Horror
A reimagining of the 1988 thriller of the same name, a mother (Aubrey Plaza) gives her son (Gabriel Bateman) a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its sinister nature. Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson


JULY
[This is the dead zone of summer, except for the three blockbusters listed at the top]


AUGUST
The New Mutants - August 2  Sci-Fi Action,
Five teenaged mutants, including Native American Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt), Scots girl Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Brazilian ladies man Sunspot (Henry Zaga), a Kentuckian code-named Cannonball (Charlie Heaton),and Russian teen Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), hone their abilities at the Xavier Institute.  Antonio Banderas, Alice Braga

Artemis Fowl - August 9  Fantasy
Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw), an adolescent millionaire, genius, and criminal mastermind, kidnaps the fairy LEPrecon officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) for ransom to fund the search for his missing father  and restore the family fortune.  Director: Kenneth Branagh; co-stars: Judi Dench, Josh Gad.

Midsommar - August 9  Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Writer-Director Ari Aster follows up his frightfest Hereditary with this confection about a group of young travelers--Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Jack Reynor--who head to a Scandinavian summer festival, evidently inspired by the Wicker Man.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 - August 16  Animation, Family
The adventure takes flight (or not) a second time.  Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Josh Gad, Dove Cameron, Awkwafina, Jason Sudeikis

The 2019 Bi-Czarries: A Final Look Back at 2018


The Bi-Czarries Awards and 2018 Postmortem -- by FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher

We wrap up each movie year a week after the Oscars with the Bi-Czarries, our reflection on what the previous year's film awards might look like if chosen by an arbitrary and capricious despot and a research wonk, with input from the Lunatic Fringe Film Group and FilmZ's family. 

The lists below reflect only the 2018 movies we saw.  Note, though, Guy S. Malone, Researcher vets the films, so there's a strong likelihood we will like them or that they will be in the running for awards.  Despite significant evidence to the contrary, GSM,R is human, so there were klunkers, and we list them at the end.  Also note, each film in our Best of 2018 made several critical Top-Ten lists, but the two of us selected the final 15, with feedback from our family and our movie group of Lunatic Fringers. 

Here are a few quotes from Lunatic Fringers:
Captain HE - "Many good movies did not receive the critical acceptance I thought they deserved. Red Sparrow leads that category, from my perspective, along with Blindspotting and American Animals."
Serfing Dude - "Among my favorites were Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, Vice, and Bohemian Rhapsody. I am sure I missed one or two others that I also thought highly of this year, but I guess I should be happy I remembered that many!"
Ambrose Wolfinger, PhD - "Seeing Green Book, Lady Gaga‘s performance & ending the season with They Shall Not Grow Old says it all for me!"

Here we go:

BEST FILMS OF 2018

The Favourite - period drama with a surreal, black comedy twist; best film of the year

Green Book - for the last time, they saved each other, a top pick of the group

Vice - McKay makes history memorable and fun, even as we watched democracy die

Black Panther - yes, it was that good

Blindspotting - a film worth rallying around (see Hidden Gems, below)

The Death of Stalin - Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev; Michael Palin as Molotov--'nuf said

BlacKkKlansman - intense, entertaining memoir Black detective's infiltration of the KKK

Red Sparrow - LeCarre'-style spy intrigue, terrific international cast, gorgeous locations

Free Solo - climb Yosemite's 3,200-foot face of El Capitan with no ropes or safety gear

They Shall Not Grow Old 
- Peter Jackson's incredible rendering of archival WWI film

Leave No Trace - Debra Granik's contemplative brilliance shines (see Hidden Gems, below)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - an animated feature with comic book flash

Mission Impossible: Fallout - the best action movie of the year

Bohemian Rhapsody - fan favorite stole the show at the end--both plot and the film itself

American Animals - part heist film, part documentary that gave us insight into the crooks

____________________________________________________________________________

PERFORMANCES

Actress: 
Toni Collette - Hereditary

Actor: 
Christian Bale - Vice

Supporting Actress: 
Amy Adams - Vice

Supporting Actor:
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?

______________________________________________________________________________

We recommend all of the films unless otherwise noted (see the last category for movies that disappointed).  In the categories below, the film titles in Bold made our list of Top Films of 2018 above.  You'll also note that some films fall in several categories and some do better in one category than another; for example, we ranked Ant-Man and the Wasp higher than Deadpool 2 in ACTION/FANTASY, but Deadpool 2 higher than Ant-Man and the Wasp in COMEDY.

Outside of this, there isn't much in the way of explanation until the last two categories: HIDDEN GEMS and DISAPPOINTMENTS because, you know, you deserve an explanation.

______________________________________________________________________________

DRAMAS

The Favourite
Green Book
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Tully
A Star is Born
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Wife

_____________________________________________________________________________

INDEPENDENT FILMS 
(under $20 million budget)

Blindspotting
Leave No Trace
American Animals
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Eighth Grade
Roma
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Wife
Hereditary
At Eternity’s Gate

_____________________________________________________________________________

POLITICAL AND CRIME DRAMA

Vice
Red Sparrow
American Animals
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Widows
Operation Finale
Sicario: Soldado

_____________________________________________________________________________

ACTION/FANTASY

Black Panther
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Avengers: Infinity War
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Deadpool 2
Solo: A Star Wars Story
A Quiet Place
Annihilation
Hereditary
Sicario: Soldado

______________________________________________________________________________

COMEDY

The Death of Stalin
Deadpool 2
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Game Night
Eighth Grade
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

_____________________________________________________________________________

DOCUMENTARY

Free Solo
They Shall Not Grow Old
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
RBG
Fahrenheit 11/9

_____________________________________________________________________________

ANIMATED

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs

_____________________________________________________________________________

HIDDEN GEMS

Blindspotting - two friends confront past and present; Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and star

Leave No Trace - Ben Foster's vet with PTSD, daughter Thomasin McKenzie live off the grid

American Animals - documentary and heist film blend seamlessly in this true story

Tully - Charlize Theron did enough to deserve an Oscar nom in this comedy-drama

Solo: A Star Wars Story - critics and fans missed out on the most underrated Star Wars film

At Eternity's Gate - a truly artisitic work Julian Schnabel; Willem Dafoe eyes tell it all

___________________________________________________________________________

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Oceans 8 - good heist films have twists and surprises, Oceans has coincidences and deus ex machina

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - dead-end subplots, sequel set-up, that's it

Bad Times at the El Royale - the trailer promised more than the film provided

The Girl in the Spider’s Web - traded intelligence for action; fans of the series will feel betrayed

The House with the Clock in its Walls - small children might like it, but it might be too scary for them




Oscar Predictions - 2019


Oscar Predictions by FilmZ and rumor in his own time, Guy S. Malone, Researcher

The 91st Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The Oscars will air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.

We have been making these predictions for seven years.  (Before this blog existed, we published in a local newspaper that went out of business--not our fault.)  Over that time, we have averaged 20 out of 24 correct--drat those short subjects--but this year could be our toughest.  The Academy has added many young, minority, and international members, resulting in some truly surprising nominations.  Those same folks who nominate also vote for the Oscar winners, so expect the unexpected.

Even the industry guilds can't agree on which is the Best Picture:
PGA (Producers Guild of America) -- Green Book,
DGA (Directors Guild of America) -- Roma,
SAG (Screen Actors Guild) -- Black Panther,
ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) -- Cold War,
WGA (Writer's Guild of America) -- Can You Ever Forgive Me and Eighth Grade,
ACE (American Cinema Editors) -- Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite.
Furthermore, SAG ignored Roma altogether, the film many see as the frontrunner for Best Picture.  So, in case you are counting, the six major guilds selected eight different films, three of which were not even nominated for Best Picture.

So, without further ado, let's get to it.  Below, we list all of the candidates in each category with our choice of who will win, who we believe should win, and then the also-rans in order of their chances to win.  There is also the rationale behind those choices, accompanied in some cases by Guy Malone, Researcher's customary whining.  Enjoy:

BEST PICTURE
Funny thing, our least liked film in this category is Roma, yet it is the critical favorite, backed up by many precursor awards in its pocket, and it tied in Academy Awards nominations with The Favourite, a movie we loved.  We also very much liked BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, Vice, and Black Panther, and, heck, even Bohemian Rhapsody was fun.

Will Win:
Roma

Should Win:
The Favourite
Green Book

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
A Star is Born
Vice
Bohemian Rhapsody

__________________________________________________________________________

DIRECTOR
Again, Alfonso Cuaron, by acclamation, is most likely to win, but Spike Lee has made the best film of his esteemed career and he ought to win.

Will Win:
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma    

Should Win:
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman   

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite 
Adam McKay - Vice
Pawel Pawlikowski - Cold War

_____________________________________________________________________________

ACTRESS
I was all in for Olivia Coleman until I saw The Wife.  I still wouldn't squawk if Coleman won, but Glenn Close gave her best performance ever.  I love Lady Gaga, but hers was a cut below these two; in fact, Melissa McCarthy gave her best performance to date, but GaGa has been getting a lot of love, even leading the pack for awhile.

Will Win and Should Win:
Glenn Close - The Wife  

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Lady Gaga - A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma

_____________________________________________________________________________

ACTOR
Had this vote taken place in early January, the Oscar would belong to Christian Bale.  Since then, both Bohemian Rhapsody and Rami Malek have come on like gangbusters.  All nominees put in excellent performances: Cooper's singing and directing, Mortensen's convincing mobster-driver with a heart, Dafoe's haunted artist struggling with insanity.

Will Win:
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody 

Should Win:
Christian Bale - Vice 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
_________________________________________________________________________________

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King is another critical favorite who stood out in Beale Street with two riveting scenes, but Amy Adams' Lynn Cheney, as compelling at a college sweetheart as she was as a Lady Macbethian matron, was tops, in our opinion.  Stone and Weisz (BAFTA winner) split votes here.

Will Win:
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk 

Should Win:
Amy Adams - Vice

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Rachel Weisz - Favourite
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Marina de Tavira - Roma

_____________________________________________________________________________

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Every performance in this category is worthy of the Oscar.  Ali is truly a co-lead in Green Book, and for that reason, he will win.  There will be sympathy for both Sam Elliott and Richard E. Grant; Adam Driver is drolly magnetic, and Rockwell quite simply was "W".

Will Win and Should Win:
Mahershala Ali - Green Book 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott - A Star is Born
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Rockwell - Vice

_____________________________________________________________________________

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - (five nominees)
Spike Lee adapted Ron Stallworth's memoir into a film that is, at times, preachy but is also hugely entertaining and memorable.  Beale Street and Can You Ever Forgive Me? are its closest threats.  The Coen's episodic Buster Scruggs vacillates between brilliant and weird.  The serial remake of A Star is Born is an adapted, adapted, adapted screenplay.

Should Win and Will Win: 
BlacKkKlansman 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
If Beale Street Could Talk 
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
A Star is Born

___________________________________________________________________________

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Favourite screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara provided a twisted historical piece that both complemented Director Yorgos Lanthimos surreal vision and leavened the excesses of his previous works, creating the most original film of those nominated.

Will Win and Should Win:
The Favourite

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Green Book 
Roma 
Vice
First Reformed
_______________________________________________________________________________

CINEMATOGRAPHY
The runaway frontrunner here is Alfonso Cuaron for his black and white labor of love.  We prefer Robbie Ryan's fish-eyed enhancement of the surreal period piece, The Favourite.  And the Cinematographer's Association awarded Lukasz Zal's work in Cold War.

Will Win:
Roma 

Should Win:
Cold War (or)
The Favourite

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
A Star is Born
Never Look Away

_____________________________________________________________________________

EDITING
In a stacked category, Adam McKay's cuts in Vice from past to present, from plot to exposition to diversion are seamless.  We give it an edge, but again, we won't complain if another film wins.  Bohemian Rhapsody has been coming on strong and could easily win.

Will Win and Should Win:
Vice 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Bohemian Rhapsody
BlacKkKlansman 
The Favourite
Green Book

___________________________________________________________________________

PRODUCTION DESIGN
The dusky corridors, the expansive grandeur of the ballroom and chambers, the 18th-century furnishings in regal shades; there's nothing like a period piece to win this one.

Will Win and Should Win:
The Favourite  

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Black Panther 
Mary Poppins Returns
Roma 
First Man

____________________________________________________________________________

ORIGINAL SCORE
Classic jazz and bluesy soul perfectly set the time, place, and atmosphere, greatly enhancing the experience of Beale Street.

Should win and Will Win:
If Beale Street Could Talk 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Black Panther 
Mary Poppins Returns
BlacKkKlansman
Isle of Dogs

______________________________________________________________________________

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Oscars might honor the esteemed Supreme Court Justice, but Free Solo's stunning high-wire act is where art and science converge.

Will Win and Should Win:
Free Solo

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
RBG
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons 
Hale County This Morning, This Evening

_____________________________________________________________________________

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The category where Roma belongs

Will Win and Should Win:
Roma

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Cold War 
Capernaum
Shoplifters 
Never Look Away

____________________________________________________________________________

ORIGINAL SONG
Does anyone really think Lady GaGa's "Shallow" might not win?

Will Win and Should Win:
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born  

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns 
"All The Stars" - Black Panther 
"I'll Fight" - RBG
"When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

____________________________________________________________________________

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Another Competitive year, but Spidey has a fresh take on what could have been a hackneyed story.  Vivid, with wild panels, like a comic book, but a story with real heart.  In another year, any of the others could win.

Will Win and Should Win:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 

Others(descending order in odds of winning):
Incredibles 2 
Isle of Dogs 
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Mirai

_____________________________________________________________________________

COSTUME DESIGN
For the ladies' attire in The Favourite, Sandy Powell chose a palette consisting of only Oxford blue and white, a bold but striking decision that probably will win the Oscar.  Mary: Queen of Scots and Mary Poppins were beautiful but not daring; in fact, the main rival here is Black Panther.

Should Win and Will Win:
The Favourite 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Black Panther 
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots 
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

______________________________________________________________________________

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Christian Bale became Dick Cheney; Sam Rockwell became George W. Bush; Amy Adams became Lynne Cheney; ...  Though make no mistake, uglying up Margot Robbie took some doing.

Will Win and Should Win:
Vice

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Mary Queen of Scots
Border

_____________________________________________________________________________

VISUAL EFFECTS
Infinity War's astounding effects will make it the first Marvel movie to win this category, and it is well deserved, though we must admit, First Man made us think we were in that rocket, and Solo is an underrated entry into the Star Wars universe.

Will Win and Should Win:
Avengers: Infinity War 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
First Man 
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Ready Player One 
Christopher Robin

_____________________________________________________________________________

SOUND EDITING
Conventional wisdom here has First Man favored, or else Black Panther, but we feel A Quiet Place upset.

Will Win and Should Win:
A Quiet Place

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
First Man
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
Roma
_________________________________________________________________________________

SOUND MIXING
Another minor upset: the last-minute rush of Bohemian Rhapsody overtakes A Star is Born and First Man for the gold.

Will Win and Should Win:
Bohemian Rhapsody 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
A Star Is Born 
First Man
Black Panther
Roma

____________________________________________________________________________

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)
Who knows?

Will Win:
Black Sheep 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Period. End of Sentence 
End Game 
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden

____________________________________________________________________________

ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Ideas, anyone?

Will Win:
Bao 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
One Small Step
Animal Behaviour 
Weekends 
Late Afternoon

____________________________________________________________________________

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Anyone?

Will Win:
Marguerite 

Others (descending order in odds of winning):
Skin 
Mother
Detainment 
Fauve

Heresy! Charlatan! -- Roma v Bohemian Rhapsody


Differing with Critics -- a brief essay by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

[Disclaimer:  What follows is not the opinion of management (FilmZ), lest any sensitive cinephiles out there get the vapors in a fit of pique.  I take full responsibility for its contents.  GSM,R]

To put things in context at the beginning:
Roma is tied with The Favourite for the most Academy Awards nominations with ten, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actress, and Actress in a Supporting Role.  It enjoys a 96 (out of 100) from Metacritic--an aggregate score of some of the best critics in the US.
Bohemian Rhapsody has five Academy Awards Nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor.  But it scored an anemic 49 on Metacritic.

I saw Roma and Bohemian Rhapsody on consecutive days, and I liked Bohemian Rhapsody more.

Reflective researcher that I am, I asked myself, what is more important in judging a film, how much  we appreciate it or how much it entertains us?  Ideally, both; at least there should be some balance.
A funny thing happened as I watched these particular movies.

Several critics urge fans to see Roma in the theater (rather than Netflix) to get the most out of the visual experience.  I can tell you another reason: if you watch it in the comfort of your home, say, in a recliner with a cup of cocoa, you are likely to doze off.  Lucky for me, FilmZ and the Czarina were there to rifle jujubes at my face whenever I faded.  Roma is auteur Alfonso Cuaron's lyrical autobiographical paean to his childhood maid and his reminiscence of a fractured family in the Roma section of Mexico City in the early-1970s.  Make no mistake, Cuaron is a brilliant, two-time Oscar winner and multiple nominee who has directed films as wildly divergent as the sci-fi Gravity, the dystopian Children of Men, the coming of age Y tu Mama Tambien, and my favorite Harry Potter entry, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  He has earned our respect.  True, I was mesmerized by Roma: the black and white photography; the slow, dreamlike camera pans, like the one that shows the protagonist hanging the family wash on the roof that reveals other maids doing the same thing on rooftops across the neighborhood; the vignettes that play out like our own nostalgia--little moments like a sunburn at the beach as well as big ones like a family tragedy; the artsy touches like the reflection in the wash water of the jet soaring overhead.  A worthy tribute to a beloved woman.  My conclusion: For a slow, quiet, drama, give me Debra Granik's pensive Leave No Trace.

I had avoided Bohemian Rhapsody as long as I could.  When it was first released, few critics had anything good to say, and even acquaintences said it was like a VH-1 production, the only selling points being Rami Malek's performance as Freddie Mercury and the fabulous music.  Further damping our desire was the director, Bryan Singer; the less said about him the better.  Then came the Golden Globes nominations, then the wins, then the Academy Awards nominations.  We could resist no longer.  FilmZ, the Czarina, and I headed out to the local third-run theater (a place reminiscent of Shelob's lair).  And then something strange happened. A good cast, including Lucy Boynton (Mary, love of Freddie's life), Gwylim Lee (lead guitarist Brian May), Ben Hardy (percussionist Roger Taylor), Joe Mazzello (bassist John Deacon), Allan Leech (sleazy manager Paul Prenter), and Tom Hollander (ethical lawyer Jim Beach) convincingly parlayed the hackneyed dialogue and Cliff Notes plot into somethng we cared about.  It didn't hurt that the music took us back decades on our own nostalgia trip, and we cared that these brilliant guys got together to form Queen, that the synergy of their talents would create a singular sound.  We wished Freddie would not hurt Mary or his family or his bandmates; that he would pursue happiness instead of self-destruction.  We truly were moved and thrilled, and in the end, we mourned the loss of Freddie, but, damn, that last performance.  Sometimes, I think the big-time critics get together at a bar and agree whether or not a movie is good.


How We Did With Oscar 2019 Nominations



Dearest Serfers,

Back on November 19, we posted our "Too Early Academy Award Nomination Predictions" and now that the results are in, it's time to face a reckoning.  Making predictions like this before many of the most prestigious pictures have been released is a fool's errand; in that case we were the right "Guy" for the job.

The films First Man and Widows are perfect examples. Two months ago, they looked like contenders; however, the former was forgotten, and the latter was not as good as expected.  As a result, our predictions across categories were hammered--those two films provided our only misses in the Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay.  They also provided one of only two misses with Director, Cinematography, and Original Score.

*  We've reprinted our November 19 predictions below.
*  Don't be confused by the terms FRONTRUNNERS and CONTENDERS; FRONTRUNNERS were our picks, and CONTENDERS were individuals and films that had a chance to pull an upset nomination.
*  All new commentary is in bold.  Also, all actual nominees are in bold, with our "misses" in regular print.

Enjoy,  FilmZ
_________________________________________________________________________________

BEST PICTURE - (maximum of ten nominees)
Potential surprises:  First Man and A Star is Born could face backlash; Roma might be confined to the Foreign Film category; the yet-unseen Mary Poppins Returns could blow everyone away; much beloved Black Panther could overcome the blockbuster stigma and make waves.
Roma exceeded even its own high expectations, tying The Favourite with 10 nominations.  Black Panther did indeed make waves.  And we completely missed out on Bohemian Rhapsody, which defied critics and impressed the Academy.

FRONTRUNNERS:
The Favourite     [we predicted 7-9 Oscar nominations; it received 10]
First Man     [we predicted 5-7 nominations; it received 4]
Green Book     [we predicted 4-6; it received 5]
Roma       [we predicted 6-7 nominations; it received 10]
A Star is Born     [we predicted 8-10 nominations; it received 8]
Vice     [we predicted 6-7 nominations; it received 8]
Widows     [we predicted 5-6 nominations; it received 0]

CONTENDERS:
BlacKkKlansman     [We predicted 4-6 nominations; it received 6]
Black Panther    [We predicted 3-5 nominations; it received 7]
If Beale Street Could Talk     [We predicted 4-6 nominations; it received 3]
Mary Poppins Returns     [We predicted 2-4 nominations; it received 4]

Where we missed big: Bohemian Rhapsody  [We did not predict its nominations; it received 5]
_________________________________________________________________________________

DIRECTOR - (five nominees)
This is a crowded field that bears watching over the upcoming weeks as some films push to the forefront and others fall off.  Right now, critics anticipate great things from many films, but audience reaction to these directors' movies will have something to say about it.  Regrettably, so will industry politics and the dreaded backlash.  It looks like there are eleven contenders, and frankly, we wouldn't be surprised if any of them receive nominations.
Cuaron and Lanthimos were safe picks, and they are probably still the frontrunners. Selectors must have thought Best Director and Best Actor were too much for Cooper.
An important note: the expanded Academy membership that includes a big influx of international members has thrown a monkey wrench into predictions. Seeing Pawel Pawlikowski join the group is a shot across the bow at traditional Oscar selectors.


FRONTRUNNERS:
Damien Chazelle - First Man
Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
Alfonse Cuaron - Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman

CONTENDERS:
Ryan Coogler - Black Panther
Peter Farrelly - Green Book
Marielle Heller - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Barry Jenkins - If Beale Street Could Talk
Adam McKay - Vice
Steve McQueen - Widows

Where we missed big:  Pawel Pawlikowski - Cold War
_________________________________________________________________________________

ACTRESS - (five nominees)
The big questions here: how much love will Roma get and thus carry Aparicio upward; can the Academy voters overlook genre and acknowledge Collette's incredible performance; will Nicole Kidman be recognized for several dynamic 2018 roles; will Blunt's as yet unseen Mary Poppins catapult her into frontrunner status?
The answers above are Yes, No, No, and No.

FRONTRUNNERS:
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
Glenn Close - The Wife
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Viola Davis - Widows
Lady Gaga - A Star is Born

CONTENDERS:
Emily Blunt - Mary Poppins Returns
Toni Collette - Hereditary
Nicole Kidman - Destroyer
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Julia Roberts - Ben is Back
_________________________________________________________________________________

ACTOR - (five nominees)
Bradley Cooper is the only lock here, and Ethan Hawke or Lucas Hedges could slip in and replace one of the frontrunners.  Dafoe won the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival, but few have seen his film here, and no one has seen Eastwood yet.  Mediocre reviews from TIFF could hurt Jackman.
Our big win here is the pick of Dafoe, who received little love back in November, and our disrespect for Ethan Hawke, who most critics loved.

FRONTRUNNERS:
Christian Bale - Vice
Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
Ryan Gosling - First Man
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book

CONTENDERS:
Clint Eastwood - The Mule
Ethan Hawke - First Reformed
Lucas Hedges - Boy Erased
Hugh Jackman - The Front Runner
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Robert Redford - The Old Man and a Gun
_________________________________________________________________________________

SUPPORTING ACTRESS - (five nominees)
Some of these choices are speculation.  That may be because we haven't seen most of the contenders yet.  Adams, Stone, and Weisz are usual suspects here and King is getting a lot of positive buzz, but only Foy is a known quantity.  At this point, any of the contenders could move up.
The shocker here, is Marina de Tavira, whom no one predicted for a spot.

FRONTRUNNERS
Amy Adams - Vice
Claire Foy - First Man
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

CONTENDERS
Elizabeth Debicki - Widows
Nicole Kidman - Boy Erased
Natalie Portman - Vox Lux
Michelle Yeoh - Crazy Rich Asians

Where we missed big: Marina de Tavira - Roma
_________________________________________________________________________________

SUPPORTING ACTOR - (five nominees)
The general consensus has Chalamet among the favorites, but our gut sees other favorites.  The only shoo-in is Ali, but industry love of Elliott is strong, and word of mouth for Grant is exuberant.  We thought BlacKkKlansman was Driver's best performance to date.  Jordan is always terrific, and we hear that Kaluuya is chilling in Widows.
We rest our case.

FRONTRUNNERS
Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott - A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell - Vice

CONTENDERS
Timothee Chalamet - Beautiful Boy
Michael B. Jordan - Black Panther
Daniel Kaluuya - Widows
_________________________________________________________________________________

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - (five nominees)
Conventional wisdom predicts A Star is Born to be a nominee, if not a favorite, in this category.  Considering that this is the fourth go-round for this film, we don't really follow the wisdom here.  We're feeling pretty good about our frontrunners as the final group of nominees, but hey, we've been wrong before.
We liked Buster Scruggs, so no quibbles here for missing out on that.

FRONTRUNNERS
BlacKkKlansman
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Widows

CONTENDERS
Beautiful Boy
Crazy Rich Asians
The Front Runner
A Star is Born

Where we missed big: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
_________________________________________________________________________________

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - (five nominees)
The Favourite and Green Book seem like certainties, and Eighth Grade is a festival and critical darling that could get a nomination here as a nod to the fondness with which it is held.  Again, Paul Schrader's First Reformed is believed by many to be headed for a nomination, but we're thinking Adam McKay (Vice) better hits the zeitgeist.  A Quiet Place is a very cool movie and it deserves recognition, but it seems like the experts touting it are being ironic.
What we said above pretty much summarized this category.  

FRONTRUNNERS
Eighth Grade
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
Vice

CONTENDERS
First Reformed
A Quiet Place
_________________________________________________________________________________

CINEMATOGRAPHY - (five nominees)
The favorite is, of course, The Favourite; period pieces always have a leg up in this category.  First Man makes us feel as if we were in the '60s, in space, on the Moon.  A Star is Born is immersive.
Cold War and Never Look Away took us by surprise and are evidence that this year's Oscars will provide some shockers like we haven't seen in years.

FRONTRUNNERS
The Favourite
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Roma
A Star is Born

CONTENDERS
At Eternity's Gate
Black Panther
Cold War
Green Book
Widows

Where we missed big:  Never Look Away
_________________________________________________________________________________

EDITING - (five nominees)
I provided no text for this category in a weak attempt to be ironic.  It's probably good no one noticed because this was my worst predictive category.

FRONTRUNNERS
The Favourite
First Man
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

CONTENDERS
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
If Beale Street Could Talk
Mission Impossible: Fallout
Widows

Where we missed big: Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book
_________________________________________________________________________________

PRODUCTION DESIGN - (five nominees)
Again, the well-done period piece has an advantage here, thus The Favourite.  But we also give props to the world building in the other films.  This will be an interesting race.
Roma again exerted its muscle.

FRONTRUNNERS
Black Panther
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns

CONTENDERS
Crazy Rich Asians
If Beale Street Could Talk
Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Mary Queen of Scots
Roma
A Star is Born
_________________________________________________________________________________

ORIGINAL SCORE - (five nominees)
Whether it's stirring us, mesmerizing us, or setting the atmosphere of the film, we have some clear-cut delineations among the competing films.
We loved BlacKkKlansman, so any recognition it gets is fine with us.

FRONTRUNNERS
Black Panther
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns

CONTENDERS
BlacKkKlansman
TheNutcracker and the Four Realms 
_________________________________________________________________________________

Below are the categories we were too lazy and/or too ignorant of to address in November.  We provide them for your interest and information.  At Oscar time we will predict all categories.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Capernaum
Cold War
Never Look Away
Roma
Shoplifters

ORIGINAL SONG
"All The Stars" - Black Panther
"I'll Fight" - RBG
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns
"When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

COSTUME DESIGN
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

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

SOUND EDITING
A Quiet Place
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma

SOUND MIXING
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)
Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence

ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

Quick hits: If Beale Street Could Talk, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


We're at the point in the year that the movies are coming fast and furious (no not that movie).  We don't have time to do full reviews, and you don't have time to read them.  Many of the films we'll be discussing deserve more time, but you will be able to get the gist of them from our one-paragraph summaries.


If Beale Street Could Talk

Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) is 19 and pregnant.  She breaks the news to Fonny (Stephan James), a 22-year-old wrongly imprisoned by a racist cop on a rape charge.  Barry Jenkins' (Moonlight) latest is based on James Baldwin's novel about a young couple's struggle against racial injustice in 1970s Harlem.  The performances ranged from good to excellent, with Regina King as Tish's mother the standout.  We liked the non-linear structure, flashing back to Tish and Fonny as childhood friends, and the evolution of their relationsip against the backdrop of prejudice and suspicion.  The jazz and soul soundtrack complemented the lush period photography.  The most sparkling moments were when the families were onscreen, which leads us to the flip side: as interesting as the families were, they only had a couple scenes--most of the story was the young couple, and a lot of their screen time was them staring at each other with mooneyes.  This resulted in glacial pacing (Captain HE said the story could've been told in an hour);  The shift in tone, at times, was jarring--one moment, the couple is walking along in what looks like a scene out of La La Land; the next scene, they are talking about how horrible the ghetto is. In sum, we recommend Beale Street, but not with the enthusiasm an 87 score on Metacritic would indicate we should.
7.5 out of 10


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

At the entrance to this movie is a sign warning off epileptics before they enter.  We were leery enough about taking the family to what seems like the zillionth Spider-Man entry since 2000, and now we see them marginalizing a niche minority.  As the Czarina pointed out, it is the flashing lights in this most animated of animated action-comedies that might trigger seizures.  In this entry, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a gifted Brooklyn teen, is sent by his cop-dad (Brian Tyree Henry) to an academic prep school when he really wants to be a graffiti artist like his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali).  Of course, that radioactive spider bite derails all plans; newly "Spidey"-sensed, Miles is drawn into the battle against the villain Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) who wants to shred the time-space continuum, revealing other planes of existence, each of which has its own version of Spiderman: Earth's Peter Parker (Chris Pine) of course, Bizarro-World-type Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), gritty Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage); there's even a porcine Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mullaney) and a very cool resurrected and superpowered Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld).  It's fun and funny, but with heart and empathy coursing throughout.  And everything is splashed across a backdrop of terrific sounds and an even brighter canvas that looks like actual comic book pages--the singular comics page-print and font design, written "Biffs" and "Pows" inside explosive bursts, the weird angles, the coloration technique, and occasional panes.  It sold us completely.
9.0 out of 10

Vice


Vice -- Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Although our reviews are typically tardy, submitting a review on a film we had seen weeks ago is ridiculous. Sometimes our excuses are lame, but this one is genuinely lame: The Czarina's best friend smuggled in a vat of real absinthe for the holidays, and we just woke up an hour or so ago.

We loved Adam McKay's last film, The Big Short, so as we accompanied FilmZ and his youngest, it was with high expectations, and they were fulfilled for the most part. McKay's background is as a comedy writer, so no one should be surprised by the humor in this film about Dick Cheney, the most powerful Vice President in US history; in fact, we can't imagine how depressing and ponderous a story about Cheney would be if it weren't leavened by humor.  Our fellow-traveler, Don Swedanya, actually beat us to the box office on this one and related that he was "impressed and depressed by the film." We agree, and both emotions hung with us long after we left the theater.  And we were angry, too, as we could imagine viewers on both left and right could be.

McKay states up front that it is difficult to garner facts from one of the most secretive politicians in history, but he claims that what is portrayed is factual, and while McKay draws on historical fact to show Cheney the politician as Machiavellian, he portrays Cheney the husband and father as loving and compassionate, prompting one Conservative pudit to label W's Veep, "America's Dad."  How factual is it?  The basic outline of Cheney's career, his political alliances, and his policies are matters of record, starting in 1963, as we see the young Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) as a wild-child who flunked out of Yale.  His then-girlfriend Lynne (Amy Adams) reads him the Riot Act, and the next thing we see, Cheney is a Congressional intern who opportunistically latches onto a crass young US Representative Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell).  "Rummie" is impressed by Dick's quiet, fierce loyalty.  McKay skims through the Reagan years and skips past the '90s quickly, highlighting Cheney's career in and out of politics, emphasizing his stint as CEO of energy industry giant Halliburton.  We slow to close scrutiny with the run-up to the George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) campaign and administration emphasizing Cheney's Vice Presidency.

It is here, the years 2000 through 2008, where we view the most inflammatory scenes, as McKay charts the Florida vote recount, 9/11, the Patriot Act, Afghanistan and Iraq, Halliburton's no-bid contracts, the torture issue, and the vindictive outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.  Condoleeza Rice (LisaGay Hamiton) and Colin Powell (Tyler Perry) are introduced as ethical pros.  The associates that join Rumsfeld in Cheney's inner circle receive more caustic treatment: Paul Wolfowitz (Eddie Marsan), David Addington (Don McManus), Scooter Libby (Justin Kirk).  At home, we see Cheney's love and support of his daughters, Liz (Lily Rabe), who is following her own political aspirations, and Mary (Alison Pill), who comes out as being gay.  It is here where Cheney is most humanized.  FilmZ's son said, "I bet you didn't learn anything from the movie because you told me most of this stuff already." We agreed, of course, because, much is a matter of historical record.  What isn't are the inner workings, the private discussions that lurked behind to facts.  Just between us, we did learn some things: We didn't know Lynne Cheney was such an ideologue and so powerful, we didn't know that the Right came up with the term "Climate Change" (we thought it was the Left).

As he did in The Big Short, McKay offers his trademark asides to explain concepts that might not be common knowledge, such as the "Unitary Executive Theory."  Look for a Shakesperean bedroom exchange between Dick and Lynne, a dinner menu conversation with Alfred Molina as the waiter, offering Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Addington menu specials of heinous wartime acts, and the lewd "Cheney could sell any idea, no matter how crazy" riff.  As always, Bale's transformation is incredible, and Sam Rockwell is perfection as "W."  We had trouble jiving Carell with Rumsfeld, though as the film rolled, the actor became the character.  Amy Adams, as always, is impressive as the strong, ambitious Lynne Cheney (In another article, Adams joked that this was the third movie where she got to scream at Christian Bale: The Fighter, American Hustle, and Vice).  Jesse Plemons grounds the film as its narrator and surprise contributor to the Cheney story.  Vice may meet some revisionist criticism that hurts it at awards time, and, in truth, it's a sliver below The Big Short, but the core actors deserve recognition, and the film itself is a contender.
8.5 out of 10

 
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