Review: Cold War

Love has no borders.

Spanning over several years and four countries, a composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) falls in love with one of his singers at a music school he works for, Zula. (Joanna Kulig) They are both perfect for, and the worst thing for each other. A constant push and pull, and Wiktor wanting them to escape communist Poland doesn't make things easier on them.

Cold War kind of came out of nowhere on Oscar morning, didn't it? While a Best Foreign Film nomination was expected landing in the Director and Cinematography categories was not and after watching the film I can see why it was given those honors. 

Music plays a ubiquitous part in Cold War. Joanna Kulig has an amazing voice and I'm glad we got to hear so much of it. I also enjoyed watching the dance numbers the students were learning. It's smart to include these upbeat moments because the plot itself is very depressing. After watching Wiktor and Zula go through so much, you know there's no way this is is going to have a happy ending.

Surprisingly, I liked the black and white. I think that was a good choice here based on the tone, and the actors were wonderful in their parts. There was one thing in the final 15 minutes or so in the film that rubbed me the wrong way, and without spoilers I'm wondering if it's because I'm too sensitive of a parent? That took me out of the film slightly, but not enough to where I can't marvel at what I just saw. This is extremely well made. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Such a man is not born yet." - Zula (Joanna Kulig)

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Starring Real Life Couples

This week's theme at Wandering Through The Shelves is movies that star real life couples at the time. Some of these couples are still going, others have been done for quite some time, but these are three of my favorite films that fit that bill.

1) A Quiet Place

John Krasinski and Emily Blunt play a couple here when they're together in real life as well. They have a lot of chemistry together, even though Blunt out acts him at every turn.

2) Ruby Sparks

Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan are another couple that are still going strong. She wrote this film, and they've since written other things together, including one of my recent favorites, Wildlife. I love this couple. 

3) Edward Scissorhands 

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were together while making this beautifully bizarre film. Now she's got her gig on Stranger Things and he's probably off on a bender somewhere. 

Quick Reviews: Oscar Nominated Short Films

So my dumb ass released her Oscar predictions on Sunday and like I always do, I ball parked the short nominees because I never get to see them. Turns out, nearly all of these are available to watch online, so here are my quick reviews. The film summaries are copied from IMDb. 

Documentary Shorts

Period. End of Sentence - "In a rural village outside Delhi, India, women lead a quiet revolution. They fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation."
Can you believe this was funded through a bake sale? I thought that was pretty extraordinary. This is available to watch on Netflix and I thought it was a very amusing and inspiring. Inspiring because these women are doing great things and amusing to see so many dudes be uncomfortable talking about periods. At one point someone compares a pad to an unattractive but competent man. A-

Black Sheep - "After the high-profile killing of Damilola Taylor, Cornelius' family move out of London. But when they discover their new town is run by racists, Cornelius takes a drastic step to survive."
You can watch this on The Guardian's website here. This is told with a single interview and reenactments which makes it feel a bit like something you'd find on cable, but it didn't make the story any less depressing. I just wasn't crazy about the execution, though I feel a lot for Cornelius. B-

End Game - "Filmed and edited in intimate vérité style, this movie follows visionary medical practitioners who are working on the cutting edge of life and death and are dedicated to changing our thinking about both."
This is also available to stream on Netflix. This is another one that is sad. It's hard to say goodbye to love ones and seeing them deteriorate. I just went through this recently with my Grandmother, so this was not an easy watch for me. It felt familiar, but I didn't feel like I learned anything new, which is what I always look for in documentaries. C+

A Night At the Garden -"In 1939, New York’s Madison Square Garden was host to an enormous––and shocking––gathering of 20,000 Americans that has largely been forgotten from our history."
This you can watch on PBS's website and it's only 7 minutes long. While I didn't know of this event before watching, I'm not shocked that 20,000 disgusting Nazis supporters all railed together. But...why is this Oscar nominated? It's archived footage with no commentary at all. We already know there's Nazis in America. Our president is currently empowering them. Why not expand on this with some thoughtful dialogue? This just felt unfinished. F

Lifeboat -"Volunteers from a German non-profit risk the waves of the Mediterranean to pluck refugees from sinking rafts pushing off from Libya in the middle of the night."
This is on youtube. It's also who I predicted to win in my Oscar pool. I still standby it winning, it's a great doc. What these men do is nothing short of amazing. Watching these good human beings took the bad taste of Night of the Garden out of my mouth. A

Animated Shorts
(The other nominee, Bao, I had already seen as it was attached to Incredibles 2)

Animal Behaviour - "Five animals meet regularly to discuss their inner angst in a group therapy session led by Dr. Clement, a canine psychotherapist."
This one is also on Youtube. This was pretty funny. If you've seen an episode of Bojack Horseman, you've essentially seen this type of humor too. B-

Late Afternoon - "An elderly woman drifts back through her memories. She exists between two states, the past and the present"
Another Youtube find! I cried. What a gem this was. I really like this style of animation, it reminds me of Song of the Sea, which I adored. I preferred this to Bao. A

One Small Step - "Luna is a vibrant young Chinese-American girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. From the day she witnesses a rocket launching into space on TV"
Hello, Youtube. Ahh this one made me cry too. The animation is lovely, but the story is just a teensy bit fucked up in a way. B+

Weekends - "'Weekends' is the story of a young boy shuffling between the homes of his recently divorced parents"
Also on youtube. The animation in this is awesome but I felt like the story dragged a bit. B-

Live Action Short

Fauve - "Set in a surface mine, two boys sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer..."
Youtube. I found this kind of frustrating. You know going in something awful is going to happen as these two kids keep fucking around. It ends exactly the way you think it will. It is very well acted, however. C+

Marguerite - "An aging woman and her nurse develop a friendship that inspires her to unearth unacknowledged longing and thus help her make peace with her past."
I found this on Youtube as well, however you have to use Google's closed captions as there are no subtitles so I don't know how accurate the dialogue is. There are so few movies about older LGBTQ folks that this was a welcomed addition. It's still sad, considering it's about a woman at the end of her life, but it makes me feel something different other than the other sad shorts I watched. A

Madre - "While at home in her apartment with her own mother in Spain, a woman gets a phone call from her six-year-old son, who's on holiday in France with his father. Every parent's nightmare ensues."
After some confusion with another short film called Madre on HBO Go, I found this on youtube.   The English closed captions on this are definitely way off but the plot isn't lost on you because of that. From the little Spanish I do know I was able to follow along well enough, but I wish I had a bit more clarity in the dialogue itself. This is a very tense 15 minutes. B-

I couldn't find the other two nominees - Detainment or Skin online. Detainment has a few clips on Youtube and the child actors seem to be really good in it, but it's still kind of fucked up that this movie got sprung on James Bulger's parents like this. Skin, I could only find a trailer for. I know a full length film with Jamie Bell is coming out this year, so I didn't have as much to go off of as I did Detainment. I still stand by Marguerite winning the Live Action category.

2019 Oscar Predictions - Who Will Win/Who Should Win

It's time to try to predict the Oscar winners ahead of next week's ceremony. The good news is the Academy caved and now will present all 24 categories on air. Below are my guesses on who I think will win, and in some cases, who should. 

Best Picture
Black Panther
A Star Is Born 
The Favourite
Bohemian Rhapsody
Green Book
Who will win: Roma
Who should win: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman or The Favorite
I would be happy with either of those three winning Best Picture as they are far more deserving films than Roma and Green Book, the two apparent front runners. 

Best Actress
Glenn Close: The Wife
Lady Gaga: A Star Is Born
Yalitza Aparicio: Roma
Olivia Colman: The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Who will win: Glenn Close
Who should win: Olivia Colman
Colman is still in the running but I fear the Academy will give Glenn a career Oscar over Colman even though she gave the better performance by a long shot. Sound familiar? *cough* Gary Oldman

Best Actor
Christian Bale: Vice
Bradley Cooper: A Star Is Born
Viggo Mortensen: Green Book”
Willem Dafoe: At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek: Bohemian Rhapsody
Who will win: Rami Malek
Who should win: Christian Bale.
I'm not sure how Malek became the front runner here when Bale and Cooper came out so strong in their films. But apparently there's no stopping this. 

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams: Vice
Marina de Tavira: Roma
Regina King: If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone: The Favourite
Rachel Weisz: The Favourite
Who will win: Regina King
Who should win:?
I haven't seen If Beale Street Could Talk so the front running performance is the only one I'm missing. King is an excellent actress so I hope she wins on that, but having not seen her performance it's hard to judge. I'd be happy with Stone, Weisz or Adams winning too. I still don't know why de Tavira is even there.  

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali: The Green Book
Adam Driver: BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott: A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell: Vice
Who will win: Mahershala Ali
Who should win: Adam Driver
I like Ali's performance in Green Book a lot, I just prefer Driver and BlacKkKlansman. Even though I was luke warm on Green Book, this is the only win I'd be okay with for that film.

Best Director
Spike Lee: BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski: Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimo: The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón: Roma
Adam McKay: Vice
Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron
Who should win: Spike Lee
Cuaron is going to win for his very singular memory of his childhood instead of Lee winning for a film that is still relevant in this day and age. *sigh*

 Best Original Screenplay
"First Reformed”
“Green Book”
“The Favourite”
Who will and should win: The Favourite
While I tihnk Roma will be quite unstoppable I don't see it actually winning for its screenplay. Not when The Favourite is in the same category. 

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” 
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” 
“If Beale Street Could Talk” 

“A Star Is Born” 
Who will and should win: BlacKkKlansman
I don't see anyone else winning this and rightfully so.

Best Animated Film
“Incredibles 2” 
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Isle Of Dogs”
Who will and should win: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
No contest. 

Best Cinematography
“Cold War”
“The Favourite”
“Never Look Away”
“A Star Is Born” 
Who will win: Roma
Who should win: The Favourite
Roma's cinematography is the best part about it, but I just prefer The Favourite and I haven't seen Cold War or Never Look Away. 

Best Visual Effects
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Who will and should win: Avengers: Infinity War
For some reason Black Panther kept winning over Infinity War elsewhere but since it's not nominated here I think Infinity War will finally win the visual effects Oscar which will be far overdue for a Marvel film, if I'm honest. 

Best Foreign Language Film
“Cold War” 
“Never Look Away”
Who will win: Roma
Who should win:?
I haven't seen any of these aside from Roma. Since it's a Best Picture frontrunner, part of me thinks they may give this to something else, but voters are so obsessed with it, it will likely win both. 

Best Documentary Feature
“Free Solo” 
“Minding The Gap” 
“Of Fathers and Sons” 
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
Who will win: Free Solo
Who should win: RBG
I've actually only seen RBG so that's what I'm rooting for, but Free Solo seems to be winning more than that is, so I think it likely does the same here. 

Best Documentary Short Subject
“Black Sheep”
“End Game”
“A Night at the Garden”
“Period. End of Sentence.”
Who will win: Lifeboat
Who should win:Life Boat or Period. End of Sentence
UPDATE In my original post I said I hadn't seen any of these, well turns out they're all available online so now I have. I still think Lifeboat is going to win, though I'd be happy with Period. End of Sentence winning too. I have no idea how A Night at the Garden got Oscar nominated at all. That's kind of a joke when you look at other docs that were snubbed for various reasons. 

Best Costume Design
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
“Black Panther”
“The Favourite”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“Mary Queen of Scots”
Who will and should win: Black Panther
Period pieces always win here so I'm hoping they finally go out of the norm and give it to Black Panther. 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Mary Queen of Scots”
Who will and should win: Vice

 Best Film Editing
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“Green Book”
“The Favourite”
Who will and should win: Vice
Green Book as a Best Pic front runner could take this even though...why, but I think Vice is the clear winner since editing was so apparent. 

Best Sound Mixing
“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“First Man”
“A Star Is Born”
Who will: Bohemian Rhapsody
Who should win: First Man

Best Production Design:
“Black Panther”
“First Man” 
“The Favourite” 
“Mary Poppins Returns” 

Who will win: The Favourite
Who should win: Black Panther
This one I'm torn, I think The Favourite is the likely choice but Black Panther's is so good. 

Best Sound Editing
“A Quiet Place”
“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“First Man”
Who will win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Who should win: First Man
Unfortunate gut feeling. 

Best Animated Short Film
“Animal Behaviour”
“Late Afternoon”
“One Small Step”
Who will win: Bao
Who should win: Late Afternoon
UPDATE Found all four of these (I had seen Bao) online as well. While I think Bao will win for being a Pixar darling, Late Afternoon is an absolute gem. That's my favorite of the bunch.

Best Live Action Short Film
Who will and should win: Marguerite 
UPDATE: I watched all of these aside from Detainment and Skin, and I still stand by Maruerite as the winner. It's shockingly the least depressing of the bunch. 

Best Original Score
“Black Panther”
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
“Isle of Dogs”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
Who will win: If Beale Street Could Talk
Who should win: That or Black Panther
I love Black Panther's score, but even though I haven't sen Beale Street the score is on youtube and it's lovely. I'm sure it goes well with the film. 

Best 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
Who will win: Shallow
Who should win: All The Stars
I'd love it if All The Stars won because I think it's the best song here, but Shallow is an excellent song as well and they made brilliant use of it in the film's trailer. I just think All The Stars has better lyrics. 

Indie Gems: The Endless

They don't age.

When brothers Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) and Justin (Justin Benson) were younger, they escaped a UFO death cult. Now into adulthood and just drifting by, they receive a video tape from said cult. Aaron, the younger of the two begs Justin to take him back for closure. He doesn't have many memories of his time there, and none of the bad ones Justin does. His older brother reluctantly agrees to take him back.

Aside from starring, Moorhead and Benson also direct. I watched one of their earlier flims, Spring a few years ago and this is along the same line as that. Very low budget, pretty weird, intriguing. Unlike Spring they don't have the powerhouse Lou Taylor Pucci to anchor their film, they were forced to cast themselves to keep the budget down. 

The cult in this film isn't played up as sinister, even when you get to the big reason of why they are doing what they're doing. That's a nice change if you're used to seeing films about damaging religious ones. I liked that they took it a different route. 

There is one thing that really distracted me throughout that no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, I could not shake it. Moorhead and Benson are fine in these roles, and they have great chemistry together. But they never state how old their characters are supposed to be, and they look the same age (in reality there's about 4 years age difference between them) But where this is problematic is they speak as if there's supposed to be a massive age gap between the two. Justin was clearly a young adult when they fled, and Aaron was supposed to be young enough to not have fully formed memories of his time there. He only remembers "campfires," but never anything in more detail. I suppose that *could* happen for a teenager but I felt like had they been able to cast others, a much younger actor should've been playing Aaron. 

That aside, I really enjoyed this and if you like a little sci fi, you probably will too.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix

Memorable Quote: "Can you have power over yourself if you give up any amount of authority to something else?" - Tate Ellington

Thursday Movie Picks: Romantic Comedies

Happy Valentine's Day, all! It's getting romantic over at Wandering Through The Shelves and this week it's all about romantic comedies. Those films are never my cup of tea, but the one rule I gave myself was that I couldn't use any of the films I chose back in 2015 when we last had this topic. Here are three more rom coms I love.

1) Crazy Rich Asians

This is probably my second favorite rom com of all time. I loved this movie so much more than I expected too. It was just so wonderfully made.

2) Just Friends

This film isn't the greatest but it's one I always enjoyed. Amy Smart is an actress I wish got more work. 

3) Never Been Kissed

Along with 10 Things I Hate About You, this is one of those rom coms that has always stuck with me. It's such a ridiculous premise but I liked it a lot when I was a teen. 

Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Everything's not awesome.

Five years ago, things were awesome and Emmett, (Chris Pratt) Lucy, (Elizabeth Banks) Batman (Will Arnett) and the gang had just saved Bricksburg from total destruction. Now they face a foe from the Sis-star system that destroys everything they've worked so hard for. When all of Emmett's friends get kidnapped, he goes off to try to save them and runs into All The generic action heroes Chris Pratt has played Rex along the way.

Ahh, the original Lego Movie. Back in 2014 when Chris Pratt didn't annoy me, they had a hilariously stupid song, and the film was funny and surpassed everyone's expectations. Now we're in 2019. Chris Pratt is annoying, their theme song is stupid without the funny, and the only thing that remains great is the animation. This is a sequel that's not worth the theater view.

I realize I had some bias going into this because ever since Jurassic World came out I have not been able to stomach Pratt and unfortunately a big chunk of this movie is Pratt talking to himself since he voices two characters. Unlike the original, Lego Movie 2 resorts to several musical numbers that don't benefit the story telling, but are there simply because it feels like the writers couldn't think of anything else. They make the film feel longer than necessary and by the time we got to the 3rd act, I was practically begging for this to be over. Even though this film is only 90 minutes long, It felt like it was over two hours.

The animation is still very good, but that isn't enough to carry the tired plot. The ultimate lesson they teach is cute and I felt like it shouldn't have been this hard to tell a story around it. The laughs were so few and far between. 

Recommended: No

Grade: C-

Memorable Quote: "It was just fine without the raisins!" - UniKitty (Alison Brie)