Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead


Hannah (Angelina Jolie) is a fire jumper in Montana who has been regulated to tower duty after a tragic turn on the job. Then there's Connor (Finn Little) a young boy whose father is a forensic accountant who discovered something big done by some very bad people. (Adian Gilen and Nicholas Hoult) He and Hannah cross paths and must find their way out of the wilderness safely. 

Taylor Sheridan is a writer/director who always has my attention so when I saw this film was coming to HBO Max, I knew I'd be watching. I'm glad that's the platform it was available to me on, because while I wouldn't rush out to see this in theaters, it was a perfectly fine at home watch.

I feel like it's been ages since I've seen Angelina Jolie in anything, and it was nice watching her again. Hannah carries a lot of baggage and Jolie portrays her well. Finn Little also holds his own. Connor is traumatized and Little plays him in a way that's always believable and never over the top. I think he has a bright future. My favorite character was Allison (Medina Senghore) a pregnant woman who runs a survival school and instead of just being a one off victim, she gets shit done. I would watch an entire film on her.

There is a lot of vagueness in the script, but I was never bored while watching this. It was perfectly paced, and I can accept that this doesn't have the same fine tuning that some of Sheridan's other films haven't. For a movie to watch at home, this was fine.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "We're leaving right now." - Hannah (Angelina Jolie)

The Weirdest Movies Blogathon


Ronyell over at The Surreal Movies and TV Blog is hosting a blogathon on their specialty - weird movies! Here are the rules.

1)  List up to 5 or 10 of the weirdest movies that you have ever seen.  If you want to list over 10 movies or below 5 movies, then you are free to do so.

2)  You don't necessarily have to list your favorite movies or movies you even like.  Just movies that you think are weird.

3)  Use the banner at the top of this page in put into your post.

4)  This blogathon runs from April 23rd - May 20th, so you need to send your submissions in by May 20th.  After that, I will make a special post where I will list all the bloggers who had participated in this blogathon!

5)  If you are interested in joining this blogathon, then please feel free to leave your link to your post here or tweet me (@rabbitearsblog)

6)  If you are participating in this blogathon through Twitter or you want to let your followers know about this blogathon, then please use the hashtag #weirdestmoviesblogathon so that way, I will know who's participating in this blogathon


And with that, let's get on to my list.


1) Troll
- Everyone talks about Troll 2 being the worst movie ever but they sleep on just how campy and hilarious the original is. WORKS BURGER forever.


2) The Rocky Horror Picture Show -
While you're dancing along to this movie at midnight showings on Halloween, do you ever stop and think just how strange the concept of this movie is? I love it.


3) Swiss Army Man -
A man marooned on an island with only a farting corpse to keep him company? You wouldn't think it works, but it absolutely does thanks to the magnificent Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. 


4) Rubber -
This movie is about a tire that kills people with its mind. Yes, you read the right. It's dumb, but worth the watch.


5) Eraserhead -
I knew this was going to be weird going in, but I still wasn't prepared for that mutant baby. 


6) Enter The Void
- This movie is a neon acid trip.


7) The Lure -
A Polish mermaid horror musical. What more could you ask for?


8) Dogtooth -
This film was my intro into Yorgos Lanthimos and I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't....this. I think this is a fantastic movie, but it is very weird indead.


9) Deathgasm -
This is a heavy metal horror comedy from New Zealand that features a fight scene full of dildos. 


10) The Last Unicorn
- I loved watching this cartoon as a kid, but when I revisted it as an adult...honestly what the fuck is this?

Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is another re-occurring theme: Period dramas! I've grown to love these quite a bit as my movie tastes have changed. My only rule of course is to not repeat anything I've used in the previous years, so here's what I came up with.


1) The Crucible (1996) -
I've been wanting to re-watch this lately. I always enjoyed reading this in school and the 1996 version was really good. Plus, screaming "I saw Goody Proctor with the Devil!" is always a great thing to interject into a conversation.


2) Portrait of a Lady on Fire -
SNL recently did a skit on "lesbian period dramas" which was spot on for Ammonite, but not so much for Portrait of a Lady on Fire. This film is wonderful, and I will go to bat for it anyone someone tries to say it's tropey. You're wrong. This movie is just amazing. Yes, I make the rules.


3) Jane Eyre (2011) -
I love this version of Jane Eyre. I keep meaning to read the book, which I haven't gotten to at the time of this posting, but one day I will. Hopefully I enjoy it as much as I did this film.

2021 Blind Spot Series: A Hard Day's Night

 


What I knew going in: The music.

A hectic day in the life of the Beatles is made worse on top of everything else, they can't keep Paul McCartney's grandfather (Wilfred Brambill) in check.

Despite being a big fan of The Beatles' music for my entire adulthood, I've been dragging my feet at seeing their 5 movies. I assumed they were just extended videos and that really didn't entice me when I could just listen to their albums. But I knew I wanted to remedy that, so I chose this one to be my first foray into the Beatles movies.

And that's exactly what they are...extended music videos with a bit of plot. I'm quite surprised this was nominated for its screenplay to be honest. Was this very experimental at the time? I feel like I'm in a bit of an awkward place with this because movie wise, it's not great...but it's The Beatles! I love their music, and I'm happy to spend an hour with them running around aimlessly and just listening. 

Frankly, I needed this short time with the Beatles to unwind. Life has been very busy and stressful lately. I haven't had a lot of time to sit and watch movies, much less write reviews on them. I've been feeling a little discouraged, so I don't have a ton to say, but it did the trick. It's currently available to stream on HBO Max.

Recommended: Yes, if you're a Beatles fan.

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Well, everyone's entitled to two, aren't they?" - Paul McCartney

Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Winners - Best Director

 

It's another Oscar theme over at Wandering Through The Shelves and this week we're focusing on the directors. As usual, I feel a stronger connection to the more recent Oscar winners just because I've seen more of their bodies of work. Here are three directors I love to talk about.


1) Bong Joon-Ho: Parasite -
This is probably one of the most invested Best Director races I've ever been in. While Bong was somewhat of a front runner, there was still a very real chance Sam Mendes would win this and I'm just happy Bong prevailed with such a wonderful film.


2) Ang Lee: Brokeback Mountain -
I think about this movie a lot, and how perfectly Lee captured everything. Of course the actors are great, but Lee was tasked with making this sad, melancholy story look beautiful and move it along without ever making it boring. I love what he did here.


3) Chloe Zhao: Nomadland -
Of course I have to mention Zhao's historic win. I'm so happy for her. The best part of Nomadland for me was the way she directed it. She crafted a beautiful picture and she deserved to close out the night with her Best Picture win. I hate that was robbed from her. 

What I watched on TV in April

April flew by and because of that, this post is going up a bit later than usual. Here's what I was watching on the small screen last month.


Falcon and the Winter Solider -
I really enjoyed this over all. I thought the ending felt rushed, much like the Wandavision finale, but that's the reality of COVID happening on the tail end of finishing a TV show. Mostly, I like the possibilities this created. Sam looks amazing in his Captain America suit. (minus the head piece, they need to re-work that) He and Bucky have moved forward, there's much to be explored with Sharon, and I know we'll see Julia Louis Dreyfus again. 


Attack on Titan -
They're now on a break before they finish up the final season, but the manga ended and it was so terrible that I feel like I owe the Game of Thrones showrunners an apology. I'm not even sure I want to watch it when it comes back.


Mare of East Town -
We're only a few episodes in, but I'm already invested. I just hope this doesn't go the way of The Outsider and have an awful finale.


Frank of Ireland -
I was looking for something dumb to laugh at, and this is certainly dumb, but I'm not sure if it's funny. It has its moments, but it's very weird.

Indie Gems: Rent-A-Pal


In 1990, David (Brian Landis Folkins) is a 40 something living with his mother, Lucille (Kathleen Brady) who suffers from dementia. She needs constant care, so he can't work. He stays with her all day and subscribes to a VHS dating service where he watches tapes, and calls in to try to get matched. One day when he re-records his own tape, he stumbles upon a VHS called "Rent-A-Pal." A pre-recorded chat with Andy (Wil Wheaton) then David slowly begins to obsess over.

On paper, I probably wouldn't have bothered with this but I saw a trailer on another movie I had rented and I immediately took notice of how unsettling it looked. And it succeeds at that. I feel like the market for 80's nostalgia is very oversaturated at this point so I liked that this film leaned heavily into the 90's. 

David does lean into incel territory but his position over all is very unfortunate so it makes sense that he's exactly the type of person the Rent-A-Pal video is marketed towards. I expected the film to go a little further with this concept, and that's the biggest flaw. There's a lot of build, and then the climax is over very quickly. 

Folkins is very convincing in the lead role but it's Brady who I thought was wonderful. I thought she played someone suffering from dementia very convincingly and she has a lot of rough scenes she's required to do. I was the most impressed with her.

While this might not be a perfect film, if you liked semi-horror films such as Creep or May, this one might be for you too.

Watched on: DVD Netflix

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I need Andy!" - David (Brian Landis Folkins)


Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: TV Score/Theme Song

 

This week's TV theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is focusing on score/theme song. I already touched on a lot of songs I loved in the opening credits post last month, because music plays such a big part of it. So today I'm breaking a rule I normally set to myself not to talk about the same show more than once a year, and I'm focusing on the music in Game of Thrones because I love it so much. Composer Ramin Djawadi wrote so many beautiful pieces of music. But these stick out as my favorite.


1) House Stark Theme
- The Starks were my favorites and just hearing this theme song makes me think of so many significant moments for each of the characters.



2) The Rains of Castamere - Is there any other song that fills you with dread like this one does? The Rains of Castamere's lyrics were in the books, and the song played at a very important and heartbreaking moment in A Storm of Swords and the episode devoted to it in season 3. Even though we had heard the theme before this, hearing it in this moment was almost scary knowing what was about to happen.



3) Light of the Seven - This is one of my favorite pieces written for the show. It plays during the final episode of season 6 and perfectly accompanies Cersei's mad plan to regain control. It's a beautiful piece of music. 

Bonus - Jenny of Oldstones - From the only good episode of season 8, I love that Podrick got to sing this song. It perfectly summed up this episode. Click the link, I made sure it started at the song.

Review: Concrete Cowboy


Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) has fucked up at school for the last time. His mother ships him off to Philly to spend the summer with his estranged father, Harp (Idris Elba) who is part of a community of black cowboys. 

You all know my love for Idris Elba, and McLaughlin is my favorite kid on Stranger Things so I've been excited to see this for a while. Even with the somewhat lukewarm reception it was getting, I still held out hope.

And it's fine! I actually enjoyed quite a bit about this movie. The first being that for the majority of the story, it feels so different. "Black pain" is a subject that's been talked about a lot recently. Everyone's tired of it, so watching a film where poverty seemed to be a central theme gave me pause, but while it falls into a few annoying tropes, the story is different enough to keep you engaged.

Truthfully, Elba is not in this very much, but McLaughlin holds his own well and supporting players like Lourraine Toussant and EMMY WINNER Jharrel Jerome are great in their parts. I also knew nothing about cowboys being in Philly. Over the credits they briefly interview real Fletcher Street riders who have smaller parts in the film and I liked hearing from them. I wish we could've heard more.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "Hard things come before good things." - Nessie (Lourraine Toussant)

Review: Mortal Kombat


Cole (Lewis Tan) is an MMA fighter blissfully unaware that he is the descendent of one of the world's greatest fighters. When other warriors began to hunt he and his family down, he seeks out Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) to learn more about what fate has in store for him.

Objectively, this is a bad movie but I had so much fun watching it. I didn't play a ton of Mortal Kombat as a kid, but I played it enough to recognize the property and welcome a bloody, campy fight fest. Thankfully this was streaming on HBO Max, so I didn't have to pay extra either. If you go in expecting those things, you'll have a good time. It makes for a nice evening at home. 

The fights are choreographed very well. At times it feels like the editor is deliberately trying to ruin a lot of these sequences, but the martial artists and stuntmen power through and deliver something very entertaining.

The script and the actors, not so much. Nearly all of the actors are terrible and the story doesn't do a very good job of explaining itself for people who aren't versed in the Mortal Kombat lore already. They also make some pretty questionable choices for a supposed franchise starter.

This is far from a "good" movie, but it's certainly fun.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "Oh yeah, these motherfuckers work." - Jax (Nathan Jones)

2021 Academy Award Winners


We made it! The much smaller Oscars are finally upon us. The new set up was a bit hard to get used to, but I thought it looked lovely....and then the ~choices~ started.

~choice 1~ The Best Song nominees played during the pre-show..and they were all staged beautifully! I didn't even see all of them because I didn't realize that's what they were doing. Who saw Husavik's set up and thought that needed to be on during the preshow?
~choice 2~ No time limits on acceptance speeches. Fine, I hate when people get played off, but this got seriously rambly, and probably contributed to..
~choice 3~ NO clips other than Animated, International, and Best feature. I hate it. SHOW the clips. At one point Halle Berry mentioned that people didn't know what cinematography was (lol) and they follow it up with not showing any of the clips??
~choice 4~ We don't have time for clips, but we have time for yet another dumb comedy sketch that all the loyal watchers hate.
~choice 5~ We're going to put the In Memoriam segment on 2.0x speed because reasons. If you blinked you missed 5 names
and finally, ~choice 6~ Let's not end the Oscars with the Best Picture winner, burying Chloe Zhao's historic night, and let's end it on Best Actor when the posthumous win everyone was expecting doesn't even happen.  

Over all, I went 14/23 in my picks. Here's a list of the chaos winners + my thoughts. 

Best Picture
“The Father”
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Mank”
“Minari”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7″
I cannot believe they didn't let Zhao close out the night with this. Flabbergasted. 


Best Director
Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)
David Fincher (“Mank”)
Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)
This was like the 3rd or 4th thing presented which was really weird placing and honestly should've prepared me for the BS they pulled later. I'm happy for Chloe and I'm happy that Bong Joon-ho presented this category mostly in Korean.


Best Actor
Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)
Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
Steven Yeun (“Minari”)
Look, Anthony Hopkins was excellent in The Father. But the fact that they put this category last, banking on Chadwick winning, making his widow attend the ceremony, then NOT awarding him? This is atrocious.


Best Actress
Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”)
Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)
Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)
Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
I love Frances but did she really deserve a 3rd Oscar for this? Imagine if we had the winning combo of Chadwick/Viola/Daniel/Yuh-jung. I really thought Viola was going to prevail here. 

Best Supporting Actor
Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)
Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”)
LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Daniel Kaluuya's speech was something else. He said his mom gave him her "factory settings" which was so cute, then he ended the speech with "man, my mom and dad had sex" and she looked mortified. Basically, I loved it and I'm glad he's an Academy Award winner.

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)
Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”)
She fangirled over Brad Pitt presenting the award to her, and honestly...I feel seen.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Sacha Baron Cohen and Co-Writers (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (“The Father”)
Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”)
Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger”)
This was a surprise. I know it wasn't a *huge* one because they won the BAFTA too but I thought Nomadland was going to take it. Florian Zeller already had his Oscar in Paris during his speech. I wonder if they just whipped that out or if he knew it was coming?


Best Original Screenplay
Will Berson, Shaka King, Keith Lucas, and Kenny Lucas (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)
Derek Cianfrance, Abraham Marder, Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”)
Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
This was expected but I still had so many problems with PYM's screenplay. But it's been 13 years since a woman won in this category so we're long overdue.


Best Animated Feature
“Onward”
“Over the Moon”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”
“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”
#JusticeForWolfwalkers. My Twitter feed was blowing up with love for Wolfwalkers, so that made me happy at least.


Best International Feature Film
“Another Round” (Denmark)
“Better Days” (Hong Kong)
“Collective” (Romania)
“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! And the clip they used was Mads dancing and that was perfection. Thomas Vinterberg's speech was so touching. One of the decisions they made was to not play anyone off during their speeches, and his was the one I am most thankful didn't get interrupted. 


Best Documentary
“Collective”
“Crip Camp”
“The Mole Agent”
“My Octopus Teacher”
“Time”
I tried watching this but I fell asleep. It was no match for Pfizer shot #2.


Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”)
Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”)
Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”)
Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Mank was actively ugly in my opinion. Just because something is in nostalgic black and white doesn't make it better. 


Best Costume Design
“Emma”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“Mulan”
“Pinocchio”
I'm really happy that I guessed both Ma Rainey wins in costume/makeup/hair correctly. 


Best Film Editing
“The Father”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
I'm very happy Sound of Metal won here. I had picked it, but I wasn't 100% sure I had this one right.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Emma”
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“Pinocchio"
I loved the speech they gave.


Best Original Score
“Da 5 Bloods”
“Mank”
“Minari”
“News of the World”
“Soul”
I think this was the shortest intro to an award of the night. Soul had an excellent score so I'm happy for them here.
 

Best Original Song
“Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
“lo Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
“Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami”
Still mad about the preshow performances. I was rooting for Husavik but I thought Speak Now would win. H.E.R looked stunning in her dress and this song is very good, so I can't be made about guessing wrong.

Best Production Design
“The Father”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“News of the World”
“Tenet”
Eww over The Father? What they did with that flat in the film was amazing.

Best Sound
“Greyhound”
“Mank”
“News of the World”
“Soul”
“Sound of Metal”
I'm so happy Riz got to announce this category. I saw a lot of people on Twitter hated that for some reason, but I think it's nice.
 

Best Visual Effects
“Love and Monsters”
“The Midnight Sky”
“Mulan”
“The One and Only Ivan”
“Tenet”
I mean...Tenet's visuals were great. I still don't fully understand that movie.


Best Documentary Short Subject
“Colette”
“A Concerto Is a Conversation”
“Do Not Split”
“Hunger Ward”
“A Love Song for Latasha”
I'm torn on this. I wanted A Love Song for Latasha to win. I think it was the strongest of the 5, but on the other hand, I'm glad Hunger Ward didn't win like I thought it would. Colette was fine. I think I'd rank it 4th in these 5, so I'm not too enthusiastic about it, but I did enjoy the short overall.

Best Animated Short Film
“Burrow”
“Genius Loci”
“If Anything Happens I Love You”
“Opera”
“Yes-People”
I'm so happy this won! It was my favorite of this category and so deserved it.


Best Live Action Short Film 
“Feeling Through”
“The Letter Room”
“The Present”
“Two Distant Strangers”
“White Eye”
I'm sorry, but this is gross. Two Distant Strangers didn't add anything to the conversation about black men being murdered by police other than just showing it over and over again. Teasing something would change, then watching the lead die yet again. This was easily my least favorite of all 15 short films. Bummed it won when Feeling Through, The Present, and the Letter Room were so much stronger.

Review: Blow The Man Down


After the death of their mother, Mary Beth (Morgan Sayler) and Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) are just trying to move on with their lives when a deadly run in results in them trying to cover up a serious crime. In doing so, they mix themselves up in their quiet Maine town's underground criminal activity. 

I first heard of this when the Independent Spirit Award Nominations were announced and writer/directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy received a Best First Screenplay nomination. Luckily, it was available on Amazon Prime, so I gave it a watch. And I have....thoughts.

I really wanted to like this movie. I enjoyed the atmosphere and how cold and unforgiving everything felt, but the script was just trying to do too much. What I described in my brief synopsis is the main story, but it's not all of it. There's a few other side stories that attempt to weave together with the main one but they never quite click. At times, I wish I was watching an expansion of one of those stories vs the main one.

The best part of this film is the wonderful Margo Martindale who always gives solid performances. Everyone else (minus June Scquibb in a small part) feels very, very green, and while that works with the tone, Margo is clearly the star here. The best scenes always have her in them.

While I'm disappointed I didn't love this more, I think everyone involved has a bright future and I'm curious to see what comes next.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "I lost control." -  Mary Beth (Morgan Sayler) 

Thursday Movie Picks: Psychological Thrillers

 

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is psychological thrillers. This is such a broad theme. I decided to stick with films that sort of blend into the horror side of things. 


1) Donnie Darko -
This is one of those cult movies I really enjoyed but don't talk about very much. Donnie is an interesting character and this movie is beyond weird.


2) 10 Cloverfield Lane -
I feel like I'm one of the few people out there that have actually enjoyed all the Cloverfield movies but this one was a huge surprise. I never thought it would be as good as it was. 


3) The Perfection -
This little gem on Netflix is batshit crazy and I'm glad I listened to so many fellow bloggers and checked it out.

Indie Gems: Disclosure


Not to be confused with the documentary on trans representation in media of the same name, Australia's disclosure centers around two couples. We have Danny and Emily Bowman, (Mark Leonard Winter and Matilda Ridgway) a normally care free couple who are dealing with with a confession from their four year old daughter that their friend's son assaulted her. Those friends are Bek and Joel Chalmers. (Geradline Hakewell and Tom Wren) Joel is in politics and while they took what the Bowmans told them seriously initially, they're now doubling down and defending their son. They want them to remove their son's name from the report they plan to file so that Joel's reputation isn't ruined.

We never see what happened between the children. In fact, we barely see them at all. The majority of this film takes place around the Bowman's pool as the couples argue about who's right and who's wrong. While the film attempts to make you question both sides, I was always firmly on the Bowman's. But even that, the concerns brought up felt very real. The script is the strongest point of this film. 

All the actors were wonderful but Matilda Ridgway steals the show for me. I loved how she defended her daughter. That made me love her even more, because child victims of abuse often aren't believed. 

The one thing that brings this film down is the way it's shot. The cinematography is atrocious. They attempt to do these slow motion shots that don't fit with the rest of the film and the lighting is very awkward. You can tell this was made on a budget, so I feel bad for pointing this out, but it was very distracting at times.

Thankfully, the actors really bring everything they've got to the table. It's been so long I've written an Indie Gem post. It feels like the right time to bring it back.

Watched on: Amazon Prime

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I wasn't talking about you." - Emily (Matilda Ridgway)

The 2021 Oscar Nominated Short Films

Like I did in 2019 and 2020, I tried my best to locate all the Oscar nominated Short films to give them quick reviews. This year I was fortunate enough to find all 15! Much thanks to the random users of R/OscarsDeathRace who helped me with two films that took me *forever* to find online to stream. If you saw my predictions posts, you already know who I think is going to win, but check out my quick thoughts below.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Colette - About a 90 year old former French Resistance fighter who makes the decision to go to Germany after all this time to visit the concentration camp her brother was murdered in. I liked how frank Colette was, and how she talked about morbid tourism with these camps. The first time I went to Germany, it was for school and we toured a camp. I've never felt so awful in my life being in a place where so many innocent lives were taken. It was like a dark cloud hanging over me. Colette talks about a fair amount of people being braver than her, but I think she's pretty brave herself. B-

A Concerto Is a Conversation - This is a lovely conversation between a composer, Kris Bowers and his grandfather as he walks him through his family history. It's a nice story, and Kris seems like a lovely guy. My only issue with this was I didn't care for the way they chose to shoot this conversation. They switched back and forth in close ups instead of just having a wide frame of the two of them sitting and talking. I think that would've looked better. I loved the ending shot of Kris playing the piano and his grandfather singing though. That was gorgeous. B+

Do Not Split - At about 34 minutes, this is a condensed look at the 2019 Hong Kong protests. If you're very familiar with the protests, it may feel like a long news reel, but as someone who only knew the basics I really enjoyed the on the ground footage and interviews it provided. I found it very informative. B+

Hunger Ward - Shot in two hospitals in Yemen, this is about malnourished children in the war torn country. This film is upsetting. Of course starving and dead children are upsetting but this doc would rather just stare at their pain rather than provide any context whatsoever to the crisis in Yemen. Why are they at war? Why does aid have trouble getting in? Why are all these children developing gluten allergies? They don't even tell us anything about the medical professionals this film is following aside from their names. They barely provide insight. This was so lazy. C-

A Love Song for Latasha - When I saw the list of nominees, I didn't realize this documentary was about Latasha Harlins. I was familiar with her story and the joke of a sentence her murderer received, but even knowing that information beforehand, I thought this was an absolutely beautiful tribute by her friends and family. I loved how it was shot and I'm glad it's on Netflix for so many to see. A


Best Animated Short Film

Burrow - My son and I had previously watched this on Disney+. Sometimes these Disney shorts can really pull at the heart strings, and other times they're just a cute way to spend a few minutes. This is the latter. B

Genius Loci - The animation in this is STUNNING. I expect nothing less from the director who has also worked with Cartoon Saloon.....but wtf did I just watch? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed myself during this. It felt like a chaotic poem, but it was really out there. B-

If Anything Happens I Love You - I watched this back in December and per my letterboxd, I made it 5:20 into this 12 minute short before crying. It's devastating. Beautiful, but devastating. A

Opera - This asked Genius Loci to hold its beer. I have no idea what this is about. There is so much going on. It's very intricate but even after watching it twice I'm struggling to find the point. C-

Yes-People - This was pretty dumb, but I got a good laugh out of it and learned how to say "yes" and "no" in Icelandic. B-


Best Live Action Short Film 

Feeling Through - About a homeless teen's encounter with a blind and deaf man, this was very moving and the actors were wonderful. Robert Tarango is actually blind and deaf, so I'm glad the filmmakers gave him this opportunity. I hope both he and Steven Prescod have bright futures ahead. I loved watching them here. A

The Letter Room - This was a different role for Oscar Isaac as a lonely corrections officer. Even though it was a commentary on death row, it didn't feel as relentless as some of the other live action shorts that have been nominated in the past. I enjoyed it. B

The Present - This film made me so nervous, especially at the end. It's brief life of day to day Palestine for Arabs crossing into Israel is already frustrating enough. I thought the father and daughter had wonderful chemistry together. B

Two Distant Strangers - This is a deja vu film about a man who relives being murdered by police over and over. It stars Joey Bada$$, who I really like, but nope. Absolutely not. This didn't offer anything. Not even a bit of hope that the system could change. D

White Eye - This was one of the last ones I watched and it was just not worth the effort it took to track this down. It's shot very well, but over all I was bored with it. C-

2021 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win; Who Should Win


The never ending Oscar season is almost to an end...until Cannes rolls around this summer and we start talking about it again. Ahead of the ceremony next week, here are my predictions. Let's see how I do!

Best Picture
“The Father”
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Mank”
“Minari”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7″
Who will win: Nomadland
Who should win: Sound of Metal or Minari
I like Nomandland, but it's #4 on my Best Picture list. Sound of Metal, Minari and Trial come in above it for me. I just enjoyed them more, but I appreciate what Nomadland did and would be proud of all involved. 

Best Director
Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)
David Fincher (“Mank”)
Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)
Who will and should win: Chloe Zhao
While I prefer Minari and Another Round film wise, I think what Zhao did here is wonderful and she's on fire this season.

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)
Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
Steven Yeun (“Minari”)
Who will and should win: Chadwick Boseman
This one is all but guaranteed and will make us all cry. 

Best Actress
Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”)
Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)
Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)
Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
Who will win: Viola Davis
Who should win: Davis, Kirby or Mulligan
Wow, this is the most competitive acting category I think I've seen since I started following the Oscars. I think Davis is going to win as she has the SAG support. 

Best Supporting Actor
Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)
Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”)
LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Who will and should win: Daniel Kaluuya
Paul Raci is someone I'd also be very happy with winning but this is Daniel's. He was excellent. 

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)
Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”)
Who will win: Youn Yuh-jung
Who should win: Youn or Maria
I've been on Team Maria since seeing her in Borat but she hasn't won any of the big awards she's been up for. I think Youn is taking this one home, which makes me happy as well because I loved her work in Minari.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Sacha Baron Cohen and Co-Writers (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton (“The Father”)
Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”)
Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger”)
Who will win: Nomadland
Who should win: That or One Night in Miami
One Night in Miami has a solid script, but it's not taking down Nomadland.

Best Original Screenplay
Will Berson, Shaka King, Keith Lucas, and Kenny Lucas (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)
Derek Cianfrance, Abraham Marder, Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”)
Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Who will win: Emerald Fennell
Who should win: Literally anyone else
I feel bad saying that because I'm always for women winning all the Oscars but when it comes to the other movies here..I just liked them all so much more than Promising Young Woman, which I'm still mad about. I wanted to love that movie.  

Best Animated Feature
“Onward”
“Over the Moon”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon”
“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”
Who will win: Soul
Who should win: Wolfwalkers
Imagine if Wolfwalkers actually won...just imagine it. 

Best International Feature Film
“Another Round” (Denmark)
“Better Days” (Hong Kong)
“Collective” (Romania)
“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Tunisia)
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Bosnia and Herzegovina) 
Who will and should win: Another Round
Quo Vadis, Aida? might put up a fight but I really hope Another Round prevails. This movie is so good I wish it was competing for Best Picture. This one is severely under nominated. 

Best Documentary
“Collective”
“Crip Camp”
“The Mole Agent”
“My Octopus Teacher”
“Time”
Who will win: Crip Camp
Who should win:?
I'm so behind with these this year. I saw Crip Camp, which was fine. I started Octopus Teacher and immediately fell asleep (though my second covid vax was likely more to blame for that) I'm still annoyed two great docs in Disclosure and Class Action Park are just nowhere here. (yes, I know they might be going for TV noms but still)

Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”)
Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”)
Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”)
Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Who will and should win: Nomadland
I really love the cinematography in News of the World and Chicago 7 but I think for the tone of the film, Nomadland's was perfect.

Best Costume Design
“Emma”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“Mulan”
“Pinocchio”
Who will and should win: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
At the beginning of the season, I expected this to go to Mank but I'm liking Ma Rainey's chances more.

Best Film Editing
“The Father”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Who will and should win: Sound of Metal
I know I should predict Nomadland here but I'm going for Sound of Metal. I think they've got this. 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Emma”
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“Pinocchio”
Who will and should win: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Just look at Viola Davis in this movie and give someone the Oscar. 

Best Original Score
“Da 5 Bloods”
“Mank”
“Minari”
“News of the World”
“Soul”
Who will win: Soul
Who should win: Minari
I really liked Soul's score and I'll be happy with it winning, but I prefer Minari. News of the World also had a wonderful score that I wouldn't mind winning either. 

Best Original Song
“Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
“lo Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
“Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami”
Who will win: Speak Now
Who should win: Husavik
This one is tough, but I lean towards Speak Now. I wish Husavik would win because it just makes me laugh so much.

Best Production Design
“The Father”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“News of the World”
“Tenet”
Who will and should win: The Father
After seeing The Father this week, it really should win this one. I suppose Mank could win here, but I'm sticking with this one.

Best Sound
“Greyhound”
“Mank”
“News of the World”
“Soul”
“Sound of Metal”
Who will and should win: Sound of Metal
Anything else will be a travesty. 

Best Visual Effects
“Love and Monsters”
“The Midnight Sky”
“Mulan”
“The One and Only Ivan”
“Tenet”
Who will and should win: Tenet
This category feels so empty without our usual blockbusters. I don't even know where to go here. Tenet did have great effects. Midnight Sky did too. Mulan's were...fine I guess and I haven't seen the others. 

Best Documentary Short Subject
“Colette”
“A Concerto Is a Conversation”
“Do Not Split”
“Hunger Ward”
“A Love Song for Latasha”
Who will win: Hunger Ward
Who should win: A Love Song for Latasha
I hated Hunger Ward but it's totally something the Academy will go for. A Love Song for Latasha was the strongest of these for me.

Best Animated Short Film
“Burrow”
“Genius Loci”
“If Anything Happens I Love You”
“Opera”
“Yes-People”
Who will and should win: If Anything Happens I Love You
Opera was the only one of these I haven't seen as of this posting, but If Anything Happens I Love you easily packs the biggest punch.  

Best Live Action Short Film 
“Feeling Through”
“The Letter Room”
“The Present”
“Two Distant Strangers”
“White Eye”
Who will win: The Present
Who should win: That or Feeling Through
I saw all of these as well and I think The Present has the best shot of winning. It's very well made. I think I preferred Feeling Through over all.

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Cinematographers

 

This week's them from Wandering Through The Shelves is a suggestion from me. Female Cinematographers! The Academy needs to do better at nominating these extraordinary women. Last year when Cinematography was a theme, I chose only female cinematographers there. So this year my rule was to not reuse anyone I did there.


1) Charlotte Bruus Christensen, A Quiet Place -
I loved how this movie was shot. For a film that doesn't have a lot of spoken dialogue, the cinematography has to stand out and this very much does.


2) Ellen Kuras, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -
How she was not nominated for an Oscar for her work here is beyond me. Eternal Sunshine is a very unique film and the whimsical way Kuras shot this enhances that.


3) Rain Li, Paranoid Park -
This is a Gus Van Sandt film that doesn't get talked about a lot. While Li was technically a Co-DP on this film, I chose it because it's one I still think about often. It's just shot in such a melancholy way. I really enjoyed it. 

Review: News of the World


Civil War vet Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) travels from town to town bringing anyone who pays 10 cents news of the world. He reads various newspapers and tells stories, and is perfectly content with this way of life. Then he meets Johanna (Helena Zengel) a German girl raised by the Kiowa tribe. She speaks no English, and her tribe was slaughtered. She's hostile to the world around her, but has papers showing her last living relatives are alive in Texas. When no one else will take her, Kidd takes it upon himself to escort her.

When the trailer for this first dropped, I could not have been less interested. Westerns just aren't my thing. Then I saw Helena Zengel's wonderful performance in System Crasher and see alone is the reason I decided to press play on this one. And turns out....it was a lot better than I expected.

Having rock bottom expectations helps, but compared to the last few Westerns I've watched this film was an absolute breeze. Not having any sexual violence against women to further a man's plot helped. (looking at you The Kid) Kidd has a troubled past, like Johanna does. While details are scarce, it reads on their faces and interactions with others. Despite not speaking the same language, they understand each other.  Thankfully, the actors have wonderful chemistry considering the majority of the film is just those two on screen.

It is rather predictable, but in a way I appreciated that it didn't try to turn this on its head and just offered a straightforward movie with a happy ending. Sometimes that's needed.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "To go forward, we must remember." - Johanna (Helena Zengel)