Oscars 2023, Thoughts

The Oscars 2023: Post-Show Reaction

That video above is why I like award shows. It’s why even when I hear every take that makes the argument that awards don’t matter, I come back to the same answer, they can. Look, I’m a person that believes in hope and that dreams are worth living for, so these speeches are speaking directly to my bias but damn it, it’s what makes life worth living!

Alright alright, the watery eyes have dried, back to the awards. This year’s Academy Awards were mostly devoid of any surprises. Going into the show after having watched most of the best picture winners (sorry Women Talking) and following a few of the critic circles I had a good idea of where things would go even with the many shorts that I didn’t get an opportunity to watch. Personally, the movie I fell in love with early last year by this point was still my favorite to want to win. It did. Everything Everywhere All at Once is such a special movie not just because of its unique ideas but just because it nails human moments so well. The importance of moms, the different ways one can show strength, acceptance of who we are, ah! This movie, I swear it gets me revved up every time I start to really dig into it. In the end, Everything Everywhere took home the following awards:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director(s)
  • Best Editing
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Supporting Actress

It deserved every one of those awards and it put a smile on my face to see it. The other big winner of the night was All Quiet on the Western Front. It came away with four awards, three that felt like locks (Best International Film, Best Cinematography, Best Score) and one win that felt like a surprise (Best Production Design). I can’t disagree with any of those wins, well deserved, even if in the realm of recent WWI movies, I still think 1917 is superior. As the night progressed the Best Makeup and Hairstyling win for the Whale made it clear to me that there would be no dark horse for Best Actor. Sure enough, Brendan Fraser took home the statue, and like so many of the winners of the night it felt right. So many first-time wins and it was beautiful to see them all processing the moment of such recognition.

Production-wise for the show at large, this year did a great job of not having overly long bits that no one wants to see, and every award was presented at the show. I know that’s a low bar but for years the Academy has made one baffling decision after another that defeated the point of an awards ceremony. Still, there was still some banter between award presenters that I really don’t think is necessary. Give a little anecdote and get to the award. Let the winners speak. Find as many ways as possible to let them have their moment. There were many times people got cut off by music, but it sure did happen when a group won an award. Jimmy Kimmel did a solid job hosting too, most of the bits worked, and yeah that includes the jabs at the insanity that is the politics of the United States. While all of this worked, I still can’t wait for the day that some streaming option is available. I don’t miss old broadcast TV and its endless barrage of commercials. It is draining and feels like a relic of the past that does drag down shows like these.

All in all, the 95th Academy Awards was a fun watch as far as this movie fan is concerned. Here’s hoping for another fun year of movies!

Oscars 2023, Reviews

Oscars Watch 2023: All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet ironically has the best score my ears listened to from all 2022 releases.

Score: 4/5

Netflix is back in awards contention for Best Picture with All Quiet on the Western Front, an adaptation of a powerful novel depicting the horrors of World War I through the perspective of a young German soldier. I remember reading the book in high school, it was a tragic story that grew bleaker as I experienced the transformation of main character Paul (played by Felix Kammerer) from a patriotic youth looking to prove something to a broken man who has no choice but to keep fighting a war he no longer agrees with. It’s a rough read, this film adaptation carries much of that throughout the film, but maybe not as successfully.

In an age where prestige television can rival and even surpass that of a film in terms of production quality some stories make more sense for a two-to-three-hour runtime, some deserve more. This is one of those stories that feels like it needs more time. Director Edward Berger succeeds in showing the senselessness, and the unraveling of Paul as the war continues, yet I felt like even for a movie that is paced on the slower side, I wanted more time to experience the transition of patriotic hopeful to empty disillusioned soldier. The movie pulls away from Paul every so often to give the perspective of two ends of the German leadership, one that wants the war to end and the other that wants to fight to the end. This is necessary yet pulls away from spending more time with Paul and his friends.

Stepping away from that, there were several things that I really liked with this movie. The first being the score by Volker Bertelmann. The theme of this movie stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. It’s one of those scores that after watching the movie I can listen to and instantly get pulled back into scenes from the movie. I can’t speak enough about it. Pairing with the score, is the beautifully shot cinematography by James Friend. There were numerous moments that I could pause the screen and that would be a perfect poster or painting that captures the movie in all its essence. The last major achievement that wowed me was the makeup. Poor Paul was covered in blood and dirt so often in the movie. That was a monumental task the crew did a really great job. It wouldn’t shock me if this movie won in all these categories because they are that good.

While I feel this could have been an even better mini-series, this movie is still an excellent adaptation that doesn’t shy away from the realities of war. The score, cinematography, and makeup elevate this movie to more than just another war movie in a long line of them. It will be very interesting to see what awards this nominee will pick up on Oscar night.

Oscars 2023, Reviews

Oscars Watch 2023: Triangle of Sadness

The Triangle of Sadness is a brilliant confident White Lotus of a movie.

Score: 4.5/5

The Triangle of Sadness is a fun dark movie. It’s structured in three acts, goes to all sorts of wacky places, and touches on several big subjects. The film starts by following two influencer models who have very different ideas on relationship dynamics. This focus on just this pair shifts as they get on a cruise ship where the discussions of capitalism and socialism begin. It’s on the ship where the story goes off in wild directions that will either leave you laughing or sick to your stomach. By the third act, these conversations about society and gender roles get challenged by a life-and-death scenario for the guests and staff from the cruise.

This movie goes places, all kinds of places, both location-wise and what it explores in each act. It kept me on my toes, and for the duration, I had a feeling of watching something fresh. This isn’t your typical movie, and it really does feel like a movie version of the HBO series The White Lotus. It explores relationships and is structured in a way that gives a snapshot of a vacation gone horribly wrong. Unlike that show, this movie does not leave most of the cast going home more or less the same as they were. It takes no prisoners and leaves no one unscathed.

This movie is absurd, and for the first two-thirds, it can feel like there is no point in anything going on. By act three though everything falls into place, and while it gets a tad predictable, I was very much invested in seeing who would make it out of this situation if anyone at all. The Triangle of Sadness was so much fun to watch. It had an air of confidence in how it was structured and how far it would take each off-the-wall predicament. This is easily one of my favorites of the best picture winners and well worth any fan of film’s time.

Oscars 2023, Reviews

Oscars Watch 2023: Tár

Cate Blanchett delivers a masterful performance that carries this nearly three-hour film.

Score: 4/5

Having almost zero background in the world of conductors, Tár started off a little slow for me. This movie doesn’t hold anyone’s hand as scene after scene gives a glimpse into the inner politics of what it means to conduct a symphony Yet as the story played out, I began to see why Cate Blanchett was getting such acclaim for her performance of the title character Lydia Tár. This film discusses the idea of power, and what abusing that power inevitably leads to. For nearly two hours and forty minutes, Tár does everything she can to fight the reality that talented or not, one can’t escape the consequences of dark deeds.

Writer-director Todd Field’s goes to great lengths to show that even before things are crumbling around her, that mentally she was already falling apart from the weight of her actions. There are many scenes that show the anguish of someone unable to handle the trauma that Tár hides from as much as she can. It’s a credit to Blanchett that this is apparent even before the first nightmare comes to the screen. I could see it in her eyes, I could hear it in her voice, this was an unstable person. Unstable and powerful, the worst combination for those working around her.

The film’s length did tug at me at points towards the middle, but as the film pushed towards the end, I was one hundred percent invested in seeing how far could Tár go before everything came crashing down. That said, while things began to wind down the film made some jumps that made things a tad more challenging to follow. I could make assumptions, but it did get a bit ambiguous where I wish it was a tad smoothed over. The other thing that I really want to mention before closing this out is the sound. I’m shocked that this movie didn’t get nominated for sound as it felt like just as much a character as any actual actor on screen. The film used sound as a spectral force haunting Tár at every turn. It was effective in a way I haven’t heard in a while.

Like Elvis, Tár deserves to be seen merely to witness an actor performing at their highest level. Thankfully unlike Elvis, this film doesn’t have a major flaw to bog it down. Sure, it’s a tad on the long side, and the ending does a bit of jumping, but overall this is an excellent character-driven film worth the watch.


Cocaine Bear Review

“Bears can’t climb trees. Of course they can!” Will never not be a hilrarious exchange.

Score: 4/5

Let’s not dance around this, the idea of a movie where a wild bear eats cocaine and goes on a rampage in a forest preserve is silly. Well, everyone in the production of this movie got the assignment because Cocaine Bear is easily the most fun I have had in a theater for several months. The writer, Jimmy Warden, wrote a hilarious script that’s jokes landed a good nine out of ten times for me. The cast also nails it playing into the humor and horror of the bonkers situation. There were so many great pairings of odd characters, I could spend way too long listing out every name of the cast because everyone is having a ball in their roles. Everyone I do have to give a special shout-out to Christian Convery who plays Henry. That kid is hilarious in every single scene. He’s the sidekick you’d want in a movie with a drugged-up bear.

Speaking of the bear, yes, the CGI of the bear itself is a little wonky, but it doesn’t matter when everything else is firing at all cylinders. Director Elizabeth Banks knocked this one out of the park, capturing the funny moments, the absolutely horrifying ones, and keeping this cheesy over the top 80’s flavor throughout. Now an important note for those watching this movie, it’s gory as hell. In a more standard horror fare, it would probably be too much for even me at points. It’s flat-out gross at moments, yet somehow, I couldn’t stop laughing at just how dumb fun the situation was. If that isn’t an issue, I can’t imagine someone going into this movie understanding the goofy premise that isn’t going to have a fun time.

I could gush about this movie for a while, so many moments stood out that I could come back to do and revel in, but I really don’t want to ruin the surprises in store for those who go off to see it. So yeah, I really liked Cocaine Bear, it put a smile on my face that didn’t go away for the 90ish minutes runtime. If you are of age, go check out Cocaine Bear, it’ll be worth your time, I promise.


Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania Review

Hey Marvel… are you okay?

Score: 2.5/5

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is continuing a trend that has plagued many of the Phase 4 releases, with too much going on, little to no focus, and main character journeys feeling secondary to the plot. Like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Quantumania is filled to the brim with a bunch of ideas, a lot of different characters, and seemingly no central focus whatsoever. The movie is billed as an Ant-Man and the Wasp movie, but you sure don’t see much of the Wasp, and Ant-Man doesn’t have much going on in it either. It most closely reminds me of Multiverse of Madness. There are some great scenes and fun moments, but Ant-Man sure doesn’t seem to be the one running the show, or having much go on beyond playing the second fiddle to what should be his movie? It’s not even necessarily an Avengers: Infinity War situation where you really get to feel for the new villain Kang. It’s kind of just a lot of things that happened. It wasn’t remarkable, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world either. It just was. That is a problem that has been consistent for over a year of MCU releases and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

This isn’t a great movie in the sense of being a cohesive story, but there were things that I did enjoy about it. The Quantum Realm world was very interesting, so interesting that I am more annoyed that we didn’t spend more time living and breathing in this place versus running from one scene to the next. There were some hilarious new characters and a rich world worth exploring. They just don’t do that. While Ant-Man doesn’t get to really do much or have a real journey of his own, it’s still the goofy as ever Paul Rudd. That Ant-Man franchise humor is still here, and it still makes things fun when so much plot-wise feels so rushed and empty. The Ant-Man family cast is still great, they just don’t have much to say or much of anything going on beyond Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne and Jonathan Majors’ Kang.

This is more a movie about the prior Wasp and Kang than anything else. That said, it doesn’t really work. Marvel has been hyping up the arrival of Kang for a while now, desperate to say they have their Thanos 2.0. Well maybe make him seem either more imposing or more interesting? As it stands Kang felt underwhelming as a threat? They even snuck in MODOK, which fits in so much better than Kang does in this story. MODOK is goofy, unhinged, and has a standing relationship with the majority of the main characters. Instead, he is a punchline more than anything which was a waste. This movie would have worked so much better if this was MODOK as the main villain, with Kang as more of a hidden-in-the-shadows-until-the-end type of character. Kang is supposed to represent a major threat, well he sure doesn’t feel like it by the end of this movie.

All of this is to say, the more I think about this movie the more I get annoyed with what could have been because what is here is such a hollow movie with moments that may be fun or cool but don’t mesh together into a cohesive experience. Lower your standards with this one folks, it’ll help you enjoy it more.

Trailer to Movie Rant:

Alright, sorry I have a bit more to say that doesn’t reflect the movie itself but Marvel’s deceptive marketing. Marvel, you positioned your trailers to make it seem like this movie had a FAR more interesting plot playing to Ant-Man’s very real loss of time with his daughter. That is a great idea, that is an idea that makes for a compelling movie, and that is not the movie you made. It’s one thing editing out a character or changing their look (for example the Hulk in the Infinity War trailer actually being Bruce Banner in the Hulk Buster Iron Man Armor). This was a completely different tactic that kind of gets me a bit fired up and disappointed that some trailer editor found a more interesting story to tell than the production team could with likely a whole lot more time to figure it out. Alright, rant over. Seriously Marvel, get your act together, you are heading down The Walking Dead’s irrelevant path and it’s sad.


Knock at the Cabin Review

A strong performance from Dave Bautista can’t save this dull suspense horror movie.

Score: 2 / 5

M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin has an exciting premise. Four strangers break into a cabin and take a family of three hostage. Their demand? That the family must decide which one of them must be sacrificed in order to avoid the apocalypse. To add tension, every time the family says no to this decision, a plague is unleashed on the planet killing thousands to millions. It sounds like a great idea, one that will have a build of tension until it all comes crashing down by the end. Except for a thriller, it’s pretty dull. For a horror movie, it’s not very horror-like. It’s an odd movie that just happens without making a powerful statement.

The problem with this story falls into two things. First, the family taken hostage, for the most part, doesn’t believe anything terrible is happening. At least to the degree that the family itself doesn’t have much conflict of what to do other than trying to get away from their captors. So right there, the more interesting part of this premise is kind of ignored by the protagonists for most of the runtime. It cuts any kind of tension for why this is happening down several notches.

The second issue, the story tries to make it appear that the heroes of this story may in fact be the strangers that kidnapped the family. That they are just as much the victims and are given an impossible task. Except, it’s glossed over because to make the idea of this hostage situation scary, we the viewer aren’t given enough background to really root for them. They are following visions and we are told of the horrors of what they have gone through, but we don’t really get to connect with it. I just felt bad for everyone involved. In the end, the story goes exactly where I was expecting it to go after only the first ten or so minutes of watching. No surprises, no twists, it just ends plainly. That was it? That was my thought by the end.

It’s a shame too because the things around the story are actually pretty great. Dave Bautista continues to show he is an actor actor giving an excellent performance as Leonard, the de facto leader of the strangers. His character has a lot of heart that Bautista is able to convey in looks and gentle deliveries. Everyone in the cast does a great job, elevating this dull script into something with a little more weight. The movie is beautifully shot and edited to give the story what little tension it can build. Everything around the story is great. It’s all the more frustrating now thinking about it after the fact.

Shyamalan has made a career of making movies with twists. Well, this movie reaaaaallllly could have used one. A good or bad twist, at least it would have made for something to talk about. Instead, this movie felt shockingly boring. That is the one kind of twist I never would have imagined.

Oscars 2023

Oscars Watch 2023

Last week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominations for the 95th Academy Awards (aka The Oscars). This isn’t going to be a post about who I think will win or what I would pick, and that’s because I haven’t seen all the movies up for awards. So, from now until March 12th, I’m going to make it a mission of mine to see as many of these movies as possible between new releases that catch my eye. I’ll tag these movies with “Oscars Watch 2023.” What do I have on my list you ask? Well, here it is:

That is a long list. At the top of my list are the best picture nominations and then from there are nominations for specific big categories that I’d like to have a little more knowledge of more of the nominees. I’m not sure if I’ll get to them all, and I have a snubbed movie that many have called out as a must-watch (Decision to Leave) that will likely take up some time too, but hey, this is going to be a fun ride! Look forward to more reviews and to my thoughts on what I’d like to win on the big night and what is likely going to win.

Oscars 2023, Reviews

Oscars Watch 2023: Elvis Review

Tom Hanks’s Colonel turns a great movie into a good one, which is a real shame.

Score: 3/5

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis has the director’s unique style plastered all over the retelling of Elvis Presley’s life, for better and worse. The King of Rock and Roll’s career is a powerful and sad story all at once, but Luhrmann’s tendencies don’t necessarily make for the best film. For every interesting shot, there is a bizarre choice like adding modern music spliced with Elvis’s music as an example. Hearing a song from Doja Cat in a movie about Elvis is just odd and pulls me out of the experience every time. A bigger issue though that really hampers this movie is the story decision to frame this story around the narration and takes of Elvis’s business manager, Colonel Tom Parker played by Tom Hanks.

You see, on top of Hanks’ over-the-top performance feeling out of place with everyone else in the movie, Colonel Tom Parker is the villain of the film. Not an oh-you-like-this-guy type of villain. No, this is guy you just don’t want to be around. Except the writer’s decided that the best way to move through the events of Mr. Presley’s life was through the guise of a scummy con man that would fit more in the SNL sketch of this movie than the actual film itself. Like the music choices I mentioned earlier, it’s perplexing. The movie makes no secrets that this character isn’t one to root for, which is fine, but why have him be the glue of the story of Elvis? Why gloss over moments and other aspects of the central character for someone that is very one note? He wants money, he wants to use people to get money, and that is all there is to it. These questions only become more glaring as you watch the movie since Austin Butler delivers an award worthy performance of Elvis.

This movie would not be in contention for best picture without Butler’s performance. He’s excellent as Elvis and adds additional depth to the character where the script decided to focus more on the Colonel. Butler is electric and commands the screen in every scene. You can see that addiction to both the love of the crowd and the drugs in his eyes. There’s that pain that the movie doesn’t spend nearly enough time exploring that he makes clear in just looks. It’s always key to getting the casting right, and everyone else outside of Hank’s Colonel meshes well with Butler’s Elvis. They feed off each other and make for compelling moments, and fun concert scenes. Why it was decided to not let Elvis be the teller of his own story will always confuse me.

There is a better movie within the parts of Elvis, a movie that could have been close to a no brainer for winning the Best Picture. Instead, odd choices in the plot, production, and a wacky performance from Tom Hanks keeps this movie from being a great one.

Feature, Preview, Thoughts

Winter & Spring 2023 Movies I’m Excited For

Wow, it’s almost February? How quickly time passes by will never not shock me. While the month has been lite on big movies to go see, (Plane, I will check you out soon) HBO adapting one of my favorite video games The Last of Us as a show has been pretty exciting. Fans of compelling characters and a brutal examination of love will really enjoy this. Don’t get scared off by the zombie setting, it’s not that kind of story, show, or game.

Anyways, movies! While the award season is in full swing for last year’s movies, this year is getting ready to pop off in a really fun way as more and more movies that pre-MCU domination would have been saved for the summer release in the last winter and spring. Below are the movies I’m most excited to see in these movie-going seasons.

Knock at the Cabin – February 3rd

I know, I know. M. Night Shyamalan movies are a real dice roll. Sometimes you get some interesting fun mystery movies, and other times the twist is just so bad that you feel duped for watching it. That said this movie seems to put the concept up front and center. A family of three is forced to make a terrible choice. Either save their family or choose one of them as a sacrifice to save the rest of the world. Oh, and they must make a choice because four strangers broke into their cabin and won’t let them leave until they make their decision. The cast looks great, and the premise sounds like a recipe for a pretty tense movie, yeah… I’m willing to be duped for this one.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – February 17th

MCU’s post-Avengers Endgame movies have been a bit all over the place. Save for Spider-Man: No Way Home most have not lived up to expectations. That also includes the Disney+ shows which have been a bit of required viewing to get the full scope of this never-ending franchise. All that said, this third Ant-Man movie which kicks off Phase 5 of this wild entertainment experiment looks like it could be the one to bring back some focus and deliver on what fans have loved about the MCU. I have always liked the Paul Rudd starring movies with their unique side story humor approach, and while this movie looks to be of a more serious tone it invites an interesting question. Was Tony Stark/Iron Man right to steal away five years of many loved ones’ lives for what he wanted to preserve? This feels like the other side of the Endgame coin that was never really discussed. I am super intrigued and can’t wait to see the next large-scope villain (Kang played by Johnathan Majors) take center stage in the MCU.

Cocaine Bear – February 24th

This movie is either going to be a ridiculously fun time or so awful you can’t look away bad. I don’t know yet, but a movie about a bear that is on cocaine terrorizing everything around it is a premise I never thought I’d see in a movie releasing in theaters. A buried-in-the-back-of-the-queue Netflix movie? Yeah, that sounds right, but a movie people will see in a theater? That’s bold Universal and like Knock at the Cabin I’m willing to take the plunge.

Creed III – March 3rd

The Creed franchise has been a pleasant surprise from the start and for me, it’s been better than Rocky so far. Will Creed III continue that trend? With Johnathan Majors has Michael B. Jordan’s opponent? It just might. By the way, what a start to the year Major is having right? Bring on the next tense boxing drama!

Inside – March 17th

Speaking of tense, Willem Dafoe’s Inside (not Pixar’s Inside) looks like the tensest movie in a while. An art thief gets trapped in an overly secure penthouse, and no one is coming to save him. Will he survive physically? Mentally? Dafoe always does a great job playing bonkers off-the-wall characters and this looks to be no exception. Get ready to clinch your teeth with this one, folks.

John Wick: Chapter IV – March 24th

It’s been a long four-year wait since chapter three, but John Wick is back baby! This sneakily made franchise has been a blast as far as action movies go and I can’t wait to see what new and wild way Keanu Reeves’ Wick finds a way to murder an enemy assassin. How do you top a pencil or a book? I don’t know but it will be fun to find out!

The Super Mario Bros. Movie – April 7th

Nintendo and Mario have been a part of my life since I was born. Nostalgia alone would make me want to see this movie, but the fact that it has a stacked cast of voice talent and the trailers have actually been really fun? Child me is ready to come out for this one! It’s been a long wait for a great Mario movie, and it might finally be over.

And that’s it! Not a bad list of movies for this first chunk of the year, right? The summer movie season starts in May and as we get closer to that date, I’ll put up another post like this for all the wild movies to come. Till next week, have fun at the movies!