Recent Movie Reviews + Oscar Reflections

I caught a few movies recently:

 Here was my immediate reaction:

Now that I've had a couple of weeks to think about this movie, I really appreciate it. It's been compared to an all-female Alien movie, but the best comparison I've seen is to Arrival, my pick for the best movie of 2016. Arrival is more cerebral and plausible; it's almost a documentary in how the military/government would respond to extra-terrestrial visitation. Annihilation, on the other hand, is all emotion. It's a metaphor about transformation-- in the case of Natalie Portman's character, she is changed as much by her grief over her missing/lost husband by any encounter with the supernatural. As I said in the above tweet, this movie needs to be seen in a cinema with a great screen and sound. Unfortunately, no one is seeing it. Annihilation has only grossed around $20 million after two weeks. And then it's moving to Netflix. In an unusual deal, Paramount sold the international rights to the streaming service-- so folk in the UK and Europe can watch it online starting this weekend (don't know when it'll be on Netflix in the US). Hurry up and see an original, exhilarating, thought-provoking movie before it's lost in a logarithm somewhere. It doesn't fit neatly into a "Because you like Star Trek" recommendations list.

Red Sparrow
I'm not a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan, but I like her, so I thought this would be a fun, James Bond-y kind of movie, sort of like Salt. Nope. It's not fun or silly. It's not a good popcorn movie. It takes itself way too seriously, has over-the-top, unnecessary violence, and just doesn't make sense. Wait, she's a Russian ballerina turned secret agent (what??), but she's a double agent, or not, trained in sexual manipulation but now she's in love, or not... I almost walked out of the auditorium twice, but I stuck around until the end. The surprise twist wasn't that surprising, but really I didn't care who was the double agent, who lived or died, whatever. Joel Edgerton is unconvincing as an incompetent American CIA agent-- I don't know this actor's work very well, but he's not very good here. Disappointing movie.

Darkest Hour
Here's a hot movie opinion for you: Gary Oldman won a Best Actor Oscar for this boring performance in a boring movie. HOW can a movie about changing the Prime Minister of the UK while the British army was nearly destroyed at Dunkirk, both hugely important events, be so boring?? Oldman's Churchill is good, but there has to more to acting than makeup and mumbling. No way this is Best Actor worthy. Should have been Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out. I'm curious what my British friends thought of this movie and performance.

Now I have a few Oscar comments:
1. This was the first year in memory that my pick for the best movie of the year actually won for Best Picture.
2. Frances McDormand won Best Actress. This was a tremendous performance.
3. I was disappointed Get Out, The Big Sick and Ladybird didn't win more, though I was very happy for Jordan Peele.
4. There's been a lot of talk about the TV ratings being significantly down, but I do not believe it has much to do with actors' political persuasions:

  • It's boring
  • It's long-- four hours!!
  • More people are streaming their TV content, so ratings for just about every major TV event are down
  • There is a disconnect between what the Academy and the moviegoers value. Of the nine Best Picture nominees, none of them were in the Top 10 grossing movies of 2017. Dunkirk and Get Out were numbers 14 & 15 but after that none of them broke the top 40, and two didn't even make the top 100. Box office receipts do not equate to quality: Lady Bird (#55) is infinitely better than Dark Tower (#54) for goodness' sake. That being said, at a time when folk are leaving the cinemas to stay at home and watch movies, those movies that are being watched on screen should be recognized. Yes, I am a Star Wars geek, but sheesh.. The Last Jedi made more than a billion dollars worldwide, and received only three nominations in technical categories (no wins). Logan and Coco, on the other hand, combined for $435 million domestically. Logan earned a couple of noms and Coco won for Best Animated, but cmon, those are both great movies. Why wasn't Hugh Jackman nominated? Why wasn't Coco nominated for Best Picture?
So, to the prestigious members of the Academy: shorten the show. Change the host. Nominate and award excellent movies folk actually see. Changing the formula doesn't help. I'll probably never forgive you for not even nominating The Dark Knight. But a year later to solve the problem you increased the number of films to be nominated. NO. Put away your old way of thinking: best costuming/physical transformation = best acting performance. NO. Super hero/sci fi films are "popcorn movies," not serious performances. NO. Actually, looking at the numbers for the last decade, if it weren't for those "tent pole" movies, Hollywood would be out of the movie business.

All of this is to say: Black Panther better not only receive multiple nominations, but win. After three weeks in release, it's already at half a billion dollars domestically-- #9 all time. Internationally, it's near a billion, and it hasn't opened in China yet. Best Picture. Best Director.  Best Cinematographer. It's eleven months before nominations are released, so write that down and stick on your refrigerator so you won't forget. Or we'll forget you, Oscar.