Movie Mondays ~ Monday, February 18, 2019

Movie Mondays ~ Monday, February 18, 2019

After I took a closer look at my Oscar Run success so far (or lack of it), which I blogged about and shared with you Saturday, I realized that I needed to kick my Oscar nom viewing into third gear, so I’m happy to say that I’m set to finally catch more of the films with plenty of Oscar Run noms in the next few days to come, as well. More on those films next week but as for this week…here are my thoughts! And as always, thanks for reading. ~ Chris K.

 

FILMS VIEWED WEEK OF 02/11/2019 – 02/17/2019

 

24. Bohemian Rhapsody

Drama, Music (2018)
Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers

I knew the music would be phenomenal in this bio-pic about Freddie Mercury but what I didn’t expect was to feel the filmmakers walking on eggshells in telling the tale about a performer whose sexuality played a key role in developing his onstage persona and who set out to carve out a path in the music industry as someone who didn’t look or sound like anyone before him. For the purpose of my Oscar Run this year, seeing this film took care of noms in both the best actor and best picture categories. The best way I can describe BOHEMIAN is that it had all of the depth of a TV biopic from the 1970s — shallow, predictable in its delivery and boring. A really good biopic should have you leave the film feeling like you have a sense of who this famous person is deep down, and I didn’t feel any more versed on Freddie than if I had watched one of those stellar one-hour “Behind the Music” episodes on VH-1 — probably less so than one of those music specials. How such a charismatic performer could have his story told in such a movie-of-the-week fashion that barely dove below the surface blows me away. Most of us could read one or two bios about the performer and write a screenplay more insightful than this. Can you tell I was disappointed?

 

 

Rami Malek does his best with the script he is given and captures the essence of Freddie but there is a fine line between a dead-on impersonation and becoming the icon. I would place Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in WALK THE LINE  and Leonardo DeCaprio as Howard Hughes in THE AVIATOR in the latter category, where you no longer see these movie actors and only the legends they portrayed. Jamie Foxx goes back and forth between a superb impression and becoming Ray Charles in his Oscar-winning performance in RAY, but it’s no doubt a commendable portrayal. For me, Malek is good, and by far, the best thing other than the music in this sub-par biopic, but I won’t be rooting for him come Oscar time. I’m still viewing contenders but if it were between Malek and Bale, I’d probably choose Bale still despite not loving that film either. I’ve still got Cooper, Mortensen and Dafoe to see, so I’ll wait before I pick favorites. For now, I’ll be off listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits CD.

 

Score: 78

 

 

25. The Pixar Story

Documentary (2007)
John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Stacy Keach (narrator)
Whatever would prompt me to decide to watch a documentary from 12 years ago about a company and technology that has advanced and had their share of ups and downs during that time? Well, that’s why actually. I was curious to see this film in the hindsight of 2019 and watch people talk when I knew their fate 12 years later. For example, director John Lasseter features prominently, someone I had once respected for his innovation with the beloved TOY STORY film series (a real favorite of mine) and who is now facing scandal and legal battles as it has since surfaced that his onset practices allegedly include demeaning and sexually predatory actions toward the women working on his productions. Also since this documentary, Apple founder and once Pixar champion Steve Jobs has passed and many of the smaller names at the time of the film have gone on to eclipse Lasseter and his earlier success with their own productions,  including Andrew Stanton, Pete Procter and Brad Bird with massive hits at the box office that have also scored high with critics such as Stanton’s WALL-E, Bird’s INCREDIBLES 2 and Docter’s UP and INSIDE OUT.

 

 

The documentary was interesting and shed light on a company that I wasn’t familiar with and one viewers cannot help noticing is high in the testosterone and short on women roaming the hallways (hmm, sounds like much of Silicon Valley, doesn’t it?) Like BOHEMIAN above, the film doesn’t dig deep, that’s for sure, and it isn’t about to show audiences any of its warts. It’s surface documentary, nothing deep and complex. For that, it warrants a middle-of-the-road score. But see it if you’re a big fan of Pixar’s films. You will probably glean enough info about the making of your favorite films to appreciate it.

 

Score: 80

 

 

26. Blackkklansman

Drama (2018)
John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier, Michael Buscemi
At the time of completing this viewing, it was the first Oscar nom for Best Picture to actually capture my interest and deliver a worthy film, far superior to most of the Oscar nominees I’ve seen so far. But with this film, I realize that I still haven’t found among any of the nominees across categories that film to truly wow me as THE SHAPE OF WATER or GET OUT of the 2017 nominees, and since my actual favorite films for 2018 that I’ve seen so far MARY POPPINS RETURNS and RBG were not nominated for best film, I’m happy to throw some of my support toward this film. It rated the same as BLACK PANTHER and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP in my own personal movie rating book (88), with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR just shy with an 87. In my opinion, all of these other films from 2018 are far more interesting and satisfying to watch as a movie fan than most of the Oscar noms I’ve seen of the 2018 lot. But in this latest Spike Lee storytelling, we get a real treat mined apparently by the creative mind of the talented Jordan Peele who brought the idea to Lee originally. A Black man who infiltrates the KKK, even going so far as becoming a member. Surely that’s fiction,  right? Maybe falls under fantasy even? And then you learn that this film is based on a book by the man who actually made this happen. It is a true story about Ron Stallworth brought to the big screen, and that makes every minute of the tale that much sweeter as you watch local members of a KKK chapter and even national “spokes-racist” David Dukes get tangled within Stallworth’s web.

 

 

Jonathan David Washington plays Stallworth (that’s Denzel’s son, if you couldn’t already figure it out from those eyes and his voice so reminiscent of his dad). He’s perfectly cast as the lead and Adam Driver earns every bit of his supporting actor Oscar nod as his fellow cop who goes undercover in place of Stallworth who leads the operation behinds the scenes and over the phone. (Oh, and yes, that one actor who looks and sounds like Steve Buscemi a little but not entirely like him, that’s Steve’s brother Michael!) I enjoyed following along and did not know how the true story played out, so I found myself intrigued and wondering just how far this masquerade would go.

 

 

Kudos to Lee for a powerful ending montage that reminds us that we still have much to learn about tolerance and understanding of each other in this new century. I’m glad that Lee earned directing and co-writing Oscar noms for this one. I’ve been a fan of Lee films before, and DO THE RIGHT THING is definitely an achievement in filmmaking, but this may be more appealing across a wider range of ages and demographics. I like it. A lot. I’m happy to have something to root for in this race. But I won’t lie — I am still waiting for that film that really sweeps me off my feet in this year’s Oscar bunch.

 

Score: 88

 

Blackkklansman

 

 

 

27. Green Book

Comedy-Drama (2018)
Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali

And then…this film came along and swept me off my feet. Sigh. For my Oscar Run, seeing GREEN BOOK knocks off 4 Oscar nods – best actor, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay and best picture. But when the film ended, and the directorial credit flashed on the screen, it dawned on me: I had completely forgotten this film was directed by one of the Farrelly brothers – Peter Farrelly. Known for their often lewd, crude and hilarious comedies like THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, KINGPIN and SHALLOW HAL, they are not known for creating a warm, inviting film that lures you in from the first few scenes, hooks your heart and never lets you go. I was a fan of this film from just minutes into the film.

 

 

Mortensen’s Tony Lip is by no means endearing – he’s loud, brash and definitely shows signs of prejudices running through his language and belief system, one mirrored by the friends and family he spends his time with, though his wife is a beacon of awareness and forward-thinking amid the pack. It is clear from the start, these stereotypes and slurs are the only truths Tony Lip has ever known because of his limited exposure to the world around him. But even though he’s a flawed human being, we see pockets of light beaming from him – his love for his wife and family, his willingness to do whatever is necessary to provide for them and his grit and determination. When he applies for an open driving position to transport a successful but straight-laced  Dr. Don Shirley, a talented Black musician, through the deep south for his record label, it seems like a strange and unlikely partnership and one that is bound to hit road bumps along the way. Like Tony, we learn about the existence of the Green Book, a directory used by Black travelers to help them navigate to restaurants and motels that would welcome them in otherwise often hostile communities during this time.

 

 

I will not divulge where this film takes audiences nor whether or not the two complete their mission to get the musician through the South safely and the maverick driver home in time for the holidays. What I will tell you is that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a film that I’ve fallen in love with as much as this one. There are moments of pure joy and others of heartbreak, one scene of Ali’s in particular that won him the supporting actor award in my book. I love watching the evolution of all of the characters, including Tony’s devoted wife Dolores, played so beautifully by Linda Cardellini, such an underrated but stellar actress.

 

 

GREEN BOOK is a gem. I later learned that like BLACKKKLANSMAN, it too is based on a true story, which only makes it more powerful. I loved it from beginning to end and am so happy to finally have something to truly root for wholeheartedly during this year’s Oscars. There are so many beautiful lessons told through this piece of art. GREEN BOOK is a movie that reminds me why I love movies. The acting, the screenplay, the music, the set design (so authentically reproducing the era), the cinematography, the directing… all would be deserving in my book to win big even though some of those weren’t nominated at all (namely, Peter Farrelly) and that’s just wrong. See this one. Trust me on it.

 

Score: 94

 

Green Book

 

 

 

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