MINI MOVIE REVIEWS OF 2021 CONTENDERS–PART I
There is only one movie I’ve adored this entire season! Of course, I haven’t seen all of the releases, but, because of being a Screen Actor Guild Awards voter, I’ve had the privilege to see more than my fair share of them.
In all honesty, there is such a difference between seeing films in theatres, on giant screens, the way they’re made to be seen, and watching them anywhere else. Even my very big screen TV, with a “theatre” sound system, doesn’t exactly cut it. Even when Mr. X and I eat popcorn while screening the films. But, of course, I have adored many, many movies I’ve seen on TV, even on my much smaller previous sets. So, I judged this year’s crop of stories and performances the same way I have my whole life. And that is—did it get to me in any way whatsoever.
But most of these did not. I have to stop believing the hype on films every season! This season was the worst, though–it turned-out to be especially bleak.
However, that bleakness did do one service for me–watching all these movies has made me really grateful that none of those stories are my life. In one, a musician loses his hearing; in another, a pregnant woman never meets her father who is about to die; and yet another loses her home; etc. The season sort-of felt like whenever I’m about to have an MRI, and I have to check a list of the conditions in my body; that little exercise makes me forget the painful reason I’m there to begin with because I’m so grateful that none of those sadnesses apply to me! (Yes, I did knock on wood as I wrote that last sentence!)
Okay, so here are some of my impressions of the nominated-for-something films this year, (with some personal pix, which I hope you’ll consider more interesting than the official studio ones,) in not much of a particular order, other than the first one, (and please be award there are some slight spoilers in here):
The Prom—I don’t want to keep you in suspense—this is the one I loved! I could watch it again and again. And I should, to counteract the depression that the rest of the movies put me into! It’s seriously the best one all season! And to the idiots who say that James Corden was miscast—he was not! At all. People say he was playing it too “gay.” Well, his portrayal was much less “gay” than also-straight-in-real-life Eric Stonestreet was on Modern Family! He was perfect, as was just about everyone. Mr. X and I laughed all the way through.
Promising Young Woman—How is this considered special in any way? While I disagree with the critic who said that Carey Mulligan isn’t hot enough for the role, (because not only is she, but it didn’t even require that,) I have to say how weak the entire film is. The story is ridiculous and the execution is worse. And how did her uber-smart character not know her new boyfriend was in on what happened to her best friend all those years ago, when he told her right up front that this group of people is his crowd, from med school all the way up to today? It’s like they were trying to make some stylized art film, but got tired a quarter of the way through. How the woman who wrote and directed it is up for any awards, much less Oscars, is a complete mystery to me.
Judas and the Black Messiah–Even though it was hard to watch because of knowing that real-life Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was going to be killed, the performances were so perfect that I was riveted to it. I can never believe that Daniel Kaluuya is actually British! (But how did he and LaKeith Stanfield get nominated for supporting Oscars??? They were the two absolute stars, even playing the title characters! At least one of them, if not both together, was on screen for at least 95% of the time!!!) The subject matter of this film is one of which we should all be aware. I never knew anything about this turbulent time in history, other than knowing the name Black Panthers. And Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin on the white side of good. I did not love the title, though, perhaps because it was too long.
The Trial of the Chicago 7—I saw this one before the one above, which is about that exact period of time. And I was shocked! Even with everything going on in this country today, I was sick over what happened to the men in this trial. Of course, none of us have any idea how much of the dialogue is really true, but all the main gists have proven to be. I was very interested in the film while being repulsed by how these defendants, and lawyers, were treated. I guess it’s just one more shameful period of our history. And we should all be aware of it.
Minari–I really expected to love this one. I really did. But I think my expectations were just waaaay too high. The foreign language film is definitely okay. And I adored the little boy, Alan Kim, who was so perfect that I was shocked to later discover that this is his first film!!! He seemed like he’s been acting for years! But I really couldn’t figure-out what the focus of the story is. I had to research it afterwards to find out what I had just seen! And minari itself, (which is a type of Japanese vegetable,) didn’t even come into it until about halfway through, and didn’t feature prominently. As it went alone, I started assuming the minari would wind-up saving the day, but if it did, it was a bit too subtle for my 147IQ. At least no one died, unless you count male chickens, (so vegans beware.)
The Sound of Metal—This one about a musician who goes deaf is so sad. And I’m sure happens in the real world. (I had a beautiful friend who had been married to a rock music producer. And she went deaf because of being exposed to so much loud live music over the years.) Riz Ahmed is excellent in it, but I do wish we had gotten more of an ending.
Palm Springs–This is truly the worst film I’ve seen all year! It’s actually one of the worst movies of all time! [Note: How this wasn’t a Razzie Award nominee, in every category, I can’t figure-out.] I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but you can’t prove that classification by me. It’s a cheap, classless, unfunny rip-off of Groundhog Day, and devoid of any charm whatsoever. I want my two hours back, or, more accurately, the thirty-six hours the viewing felt like!
Nomadland—At the very end, I realized that perhaps this story of true-life nomads is supposed to uplifting, but I was depressed and a tad nauseated the entire way through. Mr. X kept begging to let us stop watching it. (Or was that me?) The best thing about it is the real people who played themselves. But the problem with that is that you could tell that everyone else, even the great Frances McDormand, was acting, and it took us out of the experience quite a bit. (But I’ve got to give Frances tons of credit—that woman does not mind looking not good, on film and awards shows!)
Soul–Boy, did I have high hopes for this one! For so many months, ever since I first heard about it, Mr. X and I looked forward to this animated feature from Disney. But, though I loved the music and animation, the story was beyond disappointing. It’s hard enough for grown-ups to understand the action of the story, but kids will not know what is going on at all! And the last thing young people need, ever, but especially these days, is to worry about what happens when people die, especially prematurely.
Hillbilly Elegy–For the first time ever while watching a painful film, I told myself to calm down and not feel so awful about the scenario because, as my father used to always point-out, it’s just fiction. And then at the end, I found it this one is entirely real! But at least they let us know that the real lives got better from where the tale left off. The best thing about it was the casting–the two actors playing main character as a kid and a twenty-something looked exactly alike. (But since then, I found out the real-life dude, J. D. Vance, is a Republican who’s planning on running for Congress next year, and I lost the respect for him that the movie brought me.)
One Night In Miami–I had such high hopes for this one! But even though I did not know it’s based on a play, (because I avoid learning anything a movie before I see it,) I could tell pretty quickly that it was. I actually got claustrophobic from 99% of the action taking place in one hotel room. I have always been a fan of both Sam Cooke and Muhammad Ali, (the latter of whom I was soooo lucky to have interviewed once, even though he couldn’t talk at that point–it will be in my book,) this film didn’t get to me even one little bit. Eli Goree, the actor who played Ali, was perfect, though!
The Little Things—This one is stupid and unnecessary. The big deal about it is that all three main actors—Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, and Rami Malek–have won Oscars in the past. That should make this film a pretty big deal, but they were all pretty ordinary in this one. And the nothing-special story itself was not worth two hours of my life. I watch old crime drama films all the time, and just about all of them are of higher quality than this one, which perhaps would have been better served as a TV mini-series.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm–I refused Mr. X’s entreaties to see the original Borat because I usually eschew stupidity like this. But, once this “sequel” got nominated for a SAG Award, I forced myself to see it because I’m always fair to not vote until I’ve seen them all. And guess what? Watching it with Mr. X was probably the most fun screening experience I’ve had this season! Even though it made us constantly cringe, we were clinging onto each other like we were watching a horror film! And you’re not going to believe this, but…we’re both voting for Maria Bakalova for Best Supporting Actress! She deserves it for that dance scene alone! She’s the bravest actress ever!!!
I Care a Lot–While I did not consider this one a comedy, at all, at least I wasn’t in much pain from it after the first twenty minutes or so. But I did keep asking Mr. X if the scenario could ever really happen in real life. In this new world we’re in, I can’t rule it out. (I joke that I had to put my future healthcare in the hands of a non-relative because my siblings would tell the docs to pull the plug even if I wasn’t in bad condition!)
Emma–How is this a comedy? I was worried the entire time! I kept reminding myself that it’s a Jane Austen novel, so that it would stop being painful for me. I know that proclaiming one’s love for the star, Anya Taylor-Joy, has become mandatory in polite circles, but I never really know what her face is trying to tell us. And none of the other casting seemed to be what Ms. Austen had in mind, either, so I was confused as to the narrative the entire time. But…this movie had the most stunning sets ever! So I loved it. Visually.
On the Rocks–I feel like I should have liked this one more than I did. But Bill Murray’s character, (the father I wish had been mine!,) was a low-key riot, which I appreciated. What I appreciated even more is that, for once in these modern times when if you don’t have a diverse cast, you’re ostracized, race was portrayed perfectly. Rashida Jones, who in real life is bi-racial, (her parents are Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones, if you didn’t know,) has Bill Murray as her father and a black actress as her mother in the film. It made me relax and just watch the tale, rather than wondering what the screenwriter was trying to portray.
Midnight Sky–This is the one I referred to in my article opener–the pregnant girl who never met her father. It was somewhat interesting, but mainly just too bleak and slow. And dreary.
I’ve actually seen many more new movies than these during this awards cycle, (and plan to watch several more in the next few nights, before I have to vote for the SAGs,) but I’m saving them for my next set of mini reviews, coming up right before next month’s Oscars; I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with too many at once.
And if you want to ask me a question about any of them, or share your own opinions, please do so in the Comments section below.