MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
2021 Academy Awards – A Few Comments about Other Films
This year’s Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, April 25. I have been able to review most of this year’s contenders along the way, but have necessarily left out some along the way. In place of a major review this week, here are some quick quips about a number of additional Oscar nominees:
A biopic about 1930 Hollywood and screenwriter Herman J. Mankowitz who is credited as the co-writer of Orson Welle’s Citizen Kane. This film is a black and white exercise in style that suffers from a weak screenplay by the late Jack Fincher (the father of director David Fincher). Amanda Seyfried is great as actress Marion Davies, and the second hour is better than the first.
Another Round (aka Drunk)
A comedy-drama from Denmark about a group of teachers who decide to test a thesis that maintaining a constant blood alcohol level will improve their lives. Things do not go well. It’s quirky but engaging, with a standout performance from Mads Mikkelsen and a great final scene.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
A sequel to 2006’s Borat featuring Sacha Baron Cohen as the title character, an enterprising journalist from Kazakhstan, who travels across America to explore democracy. In this film, Borat recruits a partner to help him prank unsuspecting subjects. Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova does exceptional work in a silly and often intentionally crude comedy. The film is unapologetically anti-Trump, so it is already past its freshness date.
The White Tiger
This satirical film based on an award-winning book by Aravind Adiga tells the story of a poor villager from India and his struggles to improve his lot in life through upward mobility. It’s fast moving and quite funny, but like 2019’s The Goldfinch crams too much plot into its running time.
The United States v. Billie Holiday
Singer Andra Day impresses as jazz singer Billie Holiday but writer-director Lee Daniels leans hard on every tragic aspect of her life, with a simplistic and questionable central thesis about Holliday’s persecution by the FBI. It’s a mess and not worth two hours of your time.
Pieces of a Woman
Vanessa Kirby is nominated for best actress playing a woman who is wracked with grief after her home birth leads to a stillborn child. The first 22 minutes of the movie depicts this tragedy, filmed as a single long take. While this scene is harrowing and impressive, unfortunately there’s another 105 minutes to go, filled with heavy-handed seriousness and obvious metaphors.
Over the Moon, Farmageddon, and Wolfwalkers
Three films running against Soul and Onward for animated feature. Over the Moon is a sweet musical fantasy featuring Chinese-Americans; Farmageddon with Shaun the Sheep is a forgettable trifle from Aardman Animation; Wolfwalkers is the standout in the trio, a 17th century tale based on Irish folklore. If Soul doesn’t grab the Oscar, Wolfwalkers should win.
Collective and Time
Collective is an investigative reporting documentary from Romania about health care that is suspenseful and inspiring as it shows good people engaged in battling corruption. Time tells the story of Fox Rich, a devoted wife and mother, and her 20-year campaign to release her husband Rob from prison, where he is serving a 60-year sentence for robbery. All five documentaries are great this year; I’m thinking that one of these two may take home the gold.
Yes, I’ve seen a lot of movies. You’re welcome. I do it all for you.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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