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Best picture 2021

 If you haven't read the news the Academy has come up with a new list of requirements for any picture that hopes to be considered for best pic. Believe it or not they have installed quotas for people who work in on or with a motion picture. We’re talking about lead actors, secondary roles, storylines, situations themselves, technical staff probably even the commissary crew.  A list of minorities, every racial and ethnic minority every cultural minority every sexual minority every religious minority one can imagine must be represented in varying percentages to be considered for the Oscar. Well, except for you know who. At first, I thought that was a joke article from the Babylon Bee but apparently not.

 Of course, all that being said there's absolutely no reason you can't make a good movie even if you restrict yourselves to a tiny fraction of individuals but it does eliminate an awful lot of excellent work. I have had to hustle to make sure I could cover all 8 of the nominees for best picture and here's my synopsis so far.  The only two I had previously seen before the nominations were NOMADLAND starring Frances McDormand and MANK with Gary Oldman.  Both of which are outstanding films and I would have no complaint with either one winning the Oscar. On the other hand, neither those nor any of the others nominated have that kind of pizazz I think a best picture should possess. Oh well.   As for the other 6 nominees I will dispense with MENARI right now. I didn’t see it and don’t care about it; not that I don’t think it’s good or because it’ Korean, I just wont bother with subtitles. As for now there is a category for best foreign language picture which I am guessing will be eliminated sooner or later by the liberal Academy but I personally can’t read the subtitles well enough for fairness. Just for the record it didn't qualify for best picture in the Golden Globes because more than half of the film was subtitled. That's a good rule Globes.   On the other hand, they gave an award to the new BORAT movie, one of the biggest pieces of garbage I've seen in years.  As they say in Cannes c’est la vie.

 THE FATHER Sony pictures classics PG13 97 min   Even though I never saw a trailer I knew exactly what this one would be. Well almost exactly, but that it would be a framework which will allow one of the world's greatest actors to once again show us why he’s considered in that category. Oh, I didn't realize that it was going to be about dementia and how it affects the individual the family etcetera but…  Hopkins plays Anthony an old man in the final stages of dementia who is a burden on not only his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) but her husband and his nurses as he becomes less and less able to take care of himself and live in his own flat.  THE FATHER jumps around erratically in time and if events confuse the audience they’re meant to.  Besides Hopkins performance that's the most brilliant part of the film.  Just like the main character Anthony we are never aware of which stories are real and which are figments of his imagination or simple confusion. The audience is forced to feel the same frustration as the afflicted old man.  Certainly not a date night or feel-good flick but absolutely gripping and worthy of the nomination. A

 Next up is PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN Focus R 114 min Sometimes jarring often intriguing this film stars Carey Mulligan as an imbalanced female vigilante committed to eventually finding justice for her friend who died some seven years ago due to events at a party gone wrong.   Since then Cassie has dropped out of medical school and spends her evenings feigning drunkenness and luring men back to their apartments where they plan to take advantage of her and reveals her sobriety, confronting them for that behavior.   Even though she is obsessed neurotic and somewhat unpleasant Cassie will rekindle a relationship with an old college buddy Ryan (Bo Burnham) a classic chick flick nerd, and it appears her life may be getting back on track until…  At this point the film picks up speed and delivers a violent and shocking climax. I haven't included any spoilers here because there are twists and turns which elevate this one from a mediocre indie to a truly striking film.  B     Next up JUDAS AND THE e BLACK MESSIAH Warner Brothers R 121 min (at this writing it was only being shown in a couple local theatres and I travelled to the Cinemark Movies 10 in Wooster, shout out to the fine people there) Let’s face it politics is the only reason this film was made and the only reason it's been nominated. I have no idea how many people actually supported, then or now, the idea of a violent revolution to take over the United States and frankly that has nothing to do with whether or not this is a good film.   Neither do I have any idea whether or not the story or the depictions of the historic characters are accurate. I am not here to talk politics. This is basically a story of friendship respect betrayal and regret. In late 1960s Chicago a lot of people hated the police, the government and white people in general, who they felt were at the root of the injustice In the pore communities. This unrest led to the creation of the Black Panther Party which like most groups of its kind succeed or fail on the basis of a charismatic leader. That leader was Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), dedicated to that cause and to perfecting his ability to spread the message.   His ability to lead his own people and bring in other unlikely groups such as the street gangs of Chicago and the Ku-Klux Klan to form an alliance is what makes him and the black panther party, a threat to J. Edgar Hoover and the United States government.   When Bill O’Neill, (Lakeith Stanfield) a common criminal, is apprehended he’s given a choice by the FBI to spend nearly 7 years in prison or to go undercover and spy on Hampton and the panthers.  For the purposes of the film the characters are pretty well laid out, the black people the Klan and the street gangs are noble community organizers while the other white people the police and the government are brutal racist dictators.  Kaluuya exhibits a forceful presence but the rest of the cast  seems to be bogged down by the weight of their own self importance, as does the script. O’Neill will come to that revelation near the end of the film and like Judas before him will, shall we say, repay the 30 pieces of silver.  I'm just grading on the basis of the film; the message is up to you. C      In case you needed more evidence the Academy Is now more about politics than it is about movie making this year there are 2, count ‘em , films about the same time period and basically the same situation. This one is THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Netflix R 130 min written and directed by the ultra-liberal yet talented Aaron Sorkin.  You may remember Sorkin who wrote the ‘America sucks’ soliloquy in NEWSROOM.  Still the guy can tell a story and this one might be the biggest surprise of the bunch. If we accept the situations happened according to history, meaning not tweaked for artistic or socical impact, this is an excellent courtroom drama and fills in a lot of the missing pieces even for those of us old enough to remember the era.  Remember also that in those days Vietnam war was something actually worth protesting. Not only was it a conflict that most people couldn't begin to understand and took place in a corner of the world they couldn't find on a map, we still had a military draft in which teenagers were being set to die by the thousands in some 3rd world hellhole.   No wonder young people were freaking out. Again, if perspective is correct there's a lot we didn't understand, even those of us old enough to remember. 1st of all the unbelievable absurdity of the kangaroo court that these 8 men were hauled in front of on charges of crossing state lines to incite a riot. Defendant number 8 was Bobby Seale, we've heard his name but I didn't remember that he had to sit through the entire trial without a lawyer.   Defense attorney William Kunstler was shot down by the judge at each and every moment and slapped with multiple charges of contempt.  While Tom Hayden seemed to be the most level headed member of the group actually hoping to come to a peaceful end to the Vietnam war other members including Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were more interested in shocking and offending which didn't make the defense teams job any easier.  All of this exacerbated by the hostility between the outgoing Johnson administration in the incoming Nixon administration. These guys hated each other and to some extent the entire trial and media blitz boiled over for just that reason.  It's hard to imagine but these days the cheapest ambulance chaser with a law license could have gotten this entire thing thrown out the 1st day. And yet… Let may repeat; the politics has nothing to do with the fact that I thought this is an excellent film. A-

 Finally, a film that not only hits on just about all of the requirements is SOUND OF METAL Amazon R 130 min.   I have to say that beyond the inclusiveness rules this is certainly a unique story if nothing else.  I imagine that everyone who has an activity they love be it music art writing athletics etc. have considered what life might be like if the physical capability to perform that task no longer existed. I don't doubt that most of us who spend our lives performing rock music haven't experienced least some amount of hearing loss.  That's what's happened to Reuben Stone (Riz Ahmed) drummer for a harsh metal group called Blackgammon whose hearing goes south drastically and rapidly.   Even though the actual diagnosis is unclear the doctors inform Reuben that the one thing for sure is that he can never again experience the sound levels of his profession.  There is, however, a fork in the path, both choices holding a different kind of promise and danger.  One is his association with an organization dedicated to helping addicts with hearing loss. He becomes involved learning to live with his situation and even helping children with the same problems.  The one caveat is that this organization believes that deafness is not a disability, merely a different reality. The 2nd possibility is the use of new technology called a Cochlear implant that could bring back a semblance of the hearing and allow in more normal life among the hearing.   Unfortunately, Blackgammon were not megastars and the high cost of this treatment is not covered by insurance.  His love interest /vocalist Lou (Olivia Cooke) moves back home to her wealthy father and Ruben sells his RV and drums to pay for the treatment. Unfortunately, this puts him at odds with the deaf community he’s become a part of.  The harsh and distorted sound of the implants is a bitter reward for the loss of his profession his new home and his love.  Be careful what you wish for. SOUND OF METAL is long and a little bit slow offers an intriguing message and lesson to be learned, kind of an after school special on steroids. B –

 Because of the restrictions and other requirements that have nothing to do with the quality of a film I have no idea which of the 8 will win besides checking the Las Vegas odds. I did not great any of these films at an A+ plus level but my early winner bet would be my actual favorite of the bunch, NOMADLAND.   Sorry I won't have time before deadline to pick best actors supporting etc. but I’ll put them in the next issue and we will see how I did.

 See you at Sardis

WSS

 

 

 

 

 

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The only one l’d seen from the OP was Judas and the Black Messiah. I generally like historically based period films, but l had a tough time staying engaged with that one. It was just ok for me.

I just finished watching Nomadland. Kind of a slow moving where’s this going feel throughout much of it for me, but l was glad l watched it by the end. Thanks for the rec.

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On 4/4/2021 at 9:51 PM, Ibleedbrown said:

The only one l’d seen from the OP was Judas and the Black Messiah. I generally like historically based period films, but l had a tough time staying engaged with that one. It was just ok for me.

I just finished watching Nomadland. Kind of a slow moving where’s this going feel throughout much of it for me, but l was glad l watched it by the end. Thanks for the rec.

 Yes that's what I thought about Judas. I thought it was a cheap and clumsy production  too self important to be enjoyable. Trying too hard to white wash the motives of Fred Hampton, But that aspect didn't really bother me. I just don't think they told the story for a while even with artistic license available to them. 

 And I agree that even though nomadland wasn't much fun I have a lot of respect for a lot of the different aspects.

 Same with the father.

WSS

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3 hours ago, Westside Steve said:

And I agree that even though nomadland wasn't much fun I have a lot of respect for a lot of the different aspects.

It was definitely a deep film that artfully portrayed certain juxtapositions about aging, the concept of a home and how memories are kept in an environment where people are forced to adapt to wholesale changes on what’s important. 

There were at least 2 scenes where the main character was around people explaining the significance of their tattoos which contrasts to a couple scenes of her looking at old photographs. Old way vs new way of keeping memories.

And the roads she would travel. I know there were scenes of Rt 66, Hwy 1, and Wall Drug as well as modern freeways. Another contrast to old and new.

And her cyclical way of life where she starts the year as a seasonal employee at Amazon and then basically drives in a big circle throughout the year based on work or social functions, which contrasts to the traditional linear birth-work-retire-die concept of life.

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Really wished that the show could separate entertainment from politics. Not just the Oscars, but Tonys, Emmy's, Grammy's, etc. Where was entertainment when you needed it?! I have not watched shows like that for a very long time.

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