Oscar Nominations were announced last week. I have bolded the films that received one or more nominations.
Black KKKlansman - Spike Lee's film about Ron Stalwarth (John David Washington) is about the first African American police officer and detective in Colorado Springs. In the late 1970s, he, by chance, becomes an undercover officer in the Klu Klux Klan after calling their offices one slow day and pretending to be a white man. He forms a phone relationship with a few high level members of the KKK including David Duke. When the need arose for Stalwarth to meet the members in person, they devised a plan to send white detectives in his place. Based on a true story, this movie is fascinating and really well done. The filming is great as it looks like a 70's movie it takes place in the 70s. It is called a biographical comedy-drama. While the circumstances are serious, the events are so outrageous it is quite funny as well. It is one of my favorites of the year.
Operation Finale - In 1960, Israeli Intelligence finds out that Adolph Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) escaped from Germany and is living in Argentina. This film tells the true story about the Mossad agents (Oscar Isaac) who are tasked with finding him and bringing him back to Israel to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. The film received mixed reviews. I found it very interesting, but very intense. Even though I had some knowledge of how it all ended up, it was sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. It wasn't an enjoyable movie, but I'm glad that I saw it.
Life Itself - Lives of several individuals are connected over three generations in tragedy and in love. It is an interesting movie conceptually, but it is emotionally exhausting. The tragedies were like punches to the gut you didn't see coming. It has a huge cast - Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Antonio Banderas, Annette Benning, and many international actors who I was unfamiliar with but were very good. The reviews for it are terrible. I didn't find it terrible, but I was tired after seeing it.
A Star is Born - Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper star in the 4th or 5th version of this film. Jack, an alcoholic rock star (Cooper), "discovers" Ally (Gaga) who is a songwriter working in a drag bar. He falls in love with her talent, makes her famous, and then falls in love her. After some time she becomes ultra-famous and he slips further into the bottle. It is an emotional roller coaster of a movie, but Lady Gaga is WONDERFUL in it, and I was surprised in Bradley Cooper's singing talents. The music is great. Gaga lost out to Glenn Close at the Golden Globes. I did not see Close's film, and I'm sure it is very good, but I was hoping Gaga would win the Best Actress award. She had an incredible performance and that voice is something. She is nominated again for an Oscar. There's been a lot of buzz about how Bradley Cooper was snubbed for a Best Picture nomination. He did get one for Best Actor though.
Bohemian Rhapsody - Rami Malek stars as the band Queen's frontman, Freddy Mercury. BR told the story of Queen with the focus on Mercury's over-the-top personality. It was a very interesting and entertaining story of his life (Hollywood's version anyhow), and the music was so much fun. Malek embodies what I remember of Freddy Mercury, and the casting of the other band members is brilliant. When the band was at their most well known, I was a bit young to be a fan however over all this time there wasn't a song in the movie that I wasn't familiar with. Mike Myers (star of Wayne's World) plays the record producer who refused to release Bohemian Rhapsody as the lead song on the A Night at the Opera album because it was too long. What great casting that was! It is a fun movie. We left smiling.
Widows - Viola Davis and Liam Neeson open this film as husband and wife. Neeson is part of a group of bank robbers who rob a local politician/gangster. When they are killed in an explosion after the robbery, the thieves' wives are held accountable for the money by the politician/gangster. The women come up with their own plan for getting a hold of the money to pay back. There are SO MANY twists and turns in this movie. I'm not really a Viola Davis fan, but I liked the movie a lot. Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jacki Weaver, and Michelle Rodriguez also star.
The Girl in the Spiderweb - Claire Foy (The Crown) is the most recent 'Lisbeth Salander' from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame. This book was the fourth book in the Stieg Larsson "Millennium" series, but was written by David Lagercrantz after Steig's death. There is a lot of technical, over the top content in this story, but the actual story was in line with the others. Lisbeth Salander continues saving the world as a computer hacker when her sister, who she thought had killed herself, returns for revenge. It is intense and exciting like the other books/movies are. I think Foy made a good Salander. I liked it.
Green Book - Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star in the true story of Tony "Lip" Vallelonga and Don Shirley. Shirley was a famous pianist who hired Vallelonga to be his driver when he traveled to the Deep South in the 1960s to perform. Shirley, an African American from NYC, faced racism on this tour. Vallelonga had some prejudices of his own at the start of the trip, but they soon became friends and often lent a hand when Shirley found himself in danger. The move was entertaining and heartwarming. It also is a reminder of of how far we've come and how far we still have to go. Both actors were nominated for Golden Globes and Oscars, however I'm not sure why Moretensen got the Best Actor nom and Ali got the Best Supporting Actor nod. They were both equally in the film.
The Mule - Clint Eastwood stars as an old man (because he is) who becomes a drug mule driving to and from various locations because he is desperate for cash. The DEA (Bradley Cooper) get wind of him and begin to track him in order to catch the dealers. It is based on a true story. The movie was ok, but kind of slow.
Vice - This film was written and directed by Adam McKay who also did The Big Short. The writing and pacing is quite similar to that film. It is quick and jumps around to different perspectives so you have to to pay very close attention. It is a biographical comedy-drama about Dick Cheney. After seeing the movie, I spent a little time trying to fact check it because it is definitely over the top in demonstrating Cheney's power as Vice President. As with anything political these days, if the review/reviewer leans left it's wonderful and all true, and if right leaning, the movie was awful and all false. However, according to the fact checkers, the events are mostly accurate. All can agree that liberties were taken with dialogue, even the writer/director admits at the beginning of the film that some of the actual conversation between characters was made up due to not knowing the exact words. It is a polarizing film. I personally enjoyed it while being a little sick to my stomach at the same time. Cheney's unprecedented power has always been unsettling to me, and that power was the main topic of the movie.
The Favourite - Hmmmm, I just saw it this afternoon. I wouldn't say I didn't like, but I wouldn't say I liked it either. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone star in this period piece about Queen Anne (Colman) and the women, Sarah Churchill (Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Stone), who vie for the queen's attention. The women, also cousins, wish to capitalize on their friendship with the ailing and tragic queen to rise in her court and become influential in her decisions. The costumes, wigs, and palace are incredible in the movie - opulent is an understatement and it's been rewarded with several artistic nominations. All three actresses have also been nominated. They were all very good. I can't put my finger on what I liked and didn't like about it. It is an odd film - not a comedy but not a serious period piece either. It's quite dark.
As usual, the Oscar nominations leave me perplexed. There are several films in the main categories that I've never even heard of let alone seen. It's not like I live in the "boonies", but several of them didn't even come to our local theaters which always makes me wonder how in the heck they get nominated. The nominations often seem pretentious. The Globes are much more relatable as far as nominations go. A few of the big films that I didn't see but still wish to are Black Panther, The Wife, and If Beale Street Could Talk.