By: Henry J. Fromage –
A work trip to Toronto gave me the opportunity to catch some of those hard to find Oscar flicks and a few interesting screeners crossed my path as well.
38. The Insult
This Foreign Language Film nominee from Lebanon is well put together and certainly quite well acted, especially by its two leads, but as the initially gripping confrontation between the Christian Lebanese Tony Hanna and the Muslim Palestinian Yasser Abdallah Salameh turns into a hopefully nowhere near accurate courtroom drama the film loses a great deal of its steam. Three Beers.
39. The Breadwinner
Move over Coco, as much as I loved you. The Breadwinner is your deserving Animated Oscar winner. It’s hard to describe how much emotion the studio that brought you Song of the Sea wrings out of the simple animation of this story of an Afghani girl who disguises herself as a boy when her father is taken to prison, but it’s immense. Just a gorgeously designed film with a gorgeously humane story- a home run. A Toast.
40. All the Money in the World
Agreed that this is Ridley Scott’s best in some time, not that that means as much as it used to. I can’t imagine Kevin Spacey in it, either- Christopher Plummer is the oily MVP, but Michelle Williams and Romain Duris are excellent as well, and the skin-crawling story speeds along despite its 130 minute length. A solid Two Beers.
41. The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated
The slate this year is strong, with the buzziest, Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball probably the weakest, followed by the one most likely you’ve seen, Lou, which played in front of Cars 3 and was probably the best part of that experience. Negative Space ends on a hell of a dark punchline, but for my money the star-studded fairy tale noir courtesy of Roald Dahl Revolting Rhymes and the exquisitely animated and grotesquely punctuated Garden Party are my favorites.
42. The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action
This is probably the weakest crop of the bunch, with The Silent Child a bit overwrought and obligatory humorous entry The Eleven O’Clock a bit predictable. My Nephew Emmett is respectable and well done, although likewise predictable if you have any knowledge of Civil Rights history. I preferred the based on a true story Watu Wote (All of Us) in which a busload of Kenyan Muslims demonstrate amazing courage and selflessness, and the utterly gripping and humane from start to finish DeKalb Elementary, which should be your winner.
43. The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Unlike most years, there’s a real undercurrent of hope in the entries here. Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 is a moving portrait of a stunning artist who has overcome some great difficulties and the appreciation she has for those who have helped her over the years, and Knife Skills is a unvarnished examination of Edwin’s Restaurant in Cleveland, which teaches a class of ex-inmates haute French cuisine and service and aims to be the best French restaurant in the country despite the fact it’s a culinary school for folks with a wide range of issues and setbacks. Heroin(e), which documents the efforts of three superwomen trying to combat the heroine epidemic at its epicenter, Huntington, West Virginia, may be the best of the bunch. As for Edith + Eddie, it’s a heart-breaker, but marred by a POV that might be too focused on one side of a familial dispute.
Still waiting to get my hands on a screener for Traffic Stop, but the fact it’s called that and in the documentary category is terrifying enough.
Ted Geoghegan’s latest is a departure from the scares of We Are Still Here, but its War of 1812-set revenge flick plot allows for plenty of gore and haunting imagery nonetheless. He goes for the gusto with a synth score and shooting in all natural light a la Emmanuel Lubezki with The Revenant, but is betrayed a bit by budget and likely budget-related casting. Somebody give this guy 7-8 digits to play with and I’m sure we’ll deliver something worth the price. Jason Blum, are you listening? Three Beers.