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

Quick Hits on Some Awards-Contending Films

Quick Hits on Some Awards-Contending Films -- by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Late-December and early-January are crunch times for keeping up with films.  Too many awards contenders released in a rush, compete with our desire to spend time with family and our latent but ever-present procrastination.  If I were one given to making apologies, one would be inserted here; the above explanation will have to suffice.  Anyway, here are the movies we saw in the past few weeks, rank-ordered from best to not the best:

Little Women
Greta Gerwig adapted and directed.  At first, we were a bit leery about yet another adaptation of this story, but we should have learned from Lady Bird.  Gerwig is brilliant; her adaptation brings new life with the subtle twists she gives to the characters: her take on Jo, interpreted with Saoirse Ronan in mind is fresh and vibrant, but equally impressive was Amy, the youngest sister, whom Gerwig recreates as a complex young woman whose ambition isn't seen as odious but rather as a strength.  Casting Florence Pugh in the role was inspired.  She also draws Emma Watson's best as Meg, the oldest, and Eliza Scanlen as sweet Beth.  A stellar supporting cast includes Laura Dern as the little women's mother, Timothée Chalamet as their charming and rebellious neighbor, "Laurie;" James Norton as Meg's tutor husband John; Chris Cooper as Mr. Laurence, Lois Garrel as Friedrich; Meryl Streep as Aunt March; Bob Odenkirk as Mr. March; and Tracy Letts as Mr. Dashwood.
9.0 out of 10

Sam Mendes' film is garnering a lot of awards and even more nominations.  Like 2015's The Revenant, it is a triumph of cinematography (Roger Deakins should win another Oscar), depicting a simple tale of man's odyssey through the harshest of conditions. In World War I, two young British soldiers (Dean Charles Chapman and George MacKay) are tasked with a seemingly impossible mission: cross no-man's-land to deliver a message that will prevent 1,600 men (including one of the soldiers' brothers) from walking into a deadly trap.  Along the way, they meet a variety of British stars in cameos: Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch.  One of the year's best.  See it on the biggest screen you can find.
9.0 out of 10

The Farewell
A comedy-drama, starring Awkwafina as Billi, a New Yorker who learns that her grandmother, Nei Nei (Shuzhen Zhao) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and according to Chinese custom, the family decides to keep her in the dark. As a cover story to get the family together, they schedule a wedding.  The film is not getting the recognition it deserves, in part because of its late summer release date; it is a gross injustice, though, that this funny, touching film has received recognition neither in the Best Picture nor the Best International Film categories.
8.5 out of 10

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Based on the true-life friendship between Fred Rogers and Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod, it tells of writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) assigned to write a profile of American hero, Mr. Rogers (Tom Hank).  Lloyd considers the story a puff piece and originally sets out to Pittsburgh to expose the myth, his cynicism stoked by his own deep resentment of his own father (Chris Cooper).  His wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) cautions, "Lloyd, please don't ruin my childhood."  When he meets Mr. Rogers, he finds his cynicism met with unrelenting kindness and acceptance, his hostility with empathy.  And slowly, friendship--and healing--come. Christine Lahti, Enrico Colantonio
8.0 out of 10

The Two Popes
A look at the transition of Roman Catholic authority from conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) to progressive Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce).  It delves into the life of Francis, flashing back to his life as young priest Jorge Bergoglio (Juan Minujin) in Argentina and how it forged his beliefs.  Moving forward he is called to the Vatican where Benedict is about to abdicate--almost unheard of in the Church.  The two men, coming from conflicting worldviews, seek common ground, or at least understanding.  While the story skims over recent serious problems in the Church, it does provide insightful dialogues into the personal character of each man, performed beautifully by Pryce and Hopkins.
7.5 out of 10

The Lighthouse
Grizzled old lighthouse keeper Thomas (Willem Dafoe) takes on a young apprentice Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) must share a four-week stint on a remote rock off the New England coast in the 1890s.  Thomas acts the martinet, giving Ephraim the worst tasks as their relationship flows from hatred and fear to drunken camaraderie on the way to insanity.  Robert Eggers tints his dark fantasy with the blackest of humor and various bodily excretions.  We recommend The Lighthouse with caution, largely for the expected excellent performances and for Jarin Blaschke's cinematography, which is presented in almost a square aspect ratio on-screen and in stark black and white, almost reminiscent of classic horror films, like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
7.0 out of 10


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