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

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.


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