Posts Tagged ‘2020 best picture’


January 2020 Movie Reviews

January 28, 2020

1917 (2019, theaters) – This movie is a technical marvel. It’s a war picture presented to look like everything was filmed in one shot (it wasn’t). I think it’s a cool concept and while I could spot certain times where they probably made a cut (e.g., the actors disappear behind a solid object so there are no moving parts on screen), I think they sold it really well. I would imagine some of these sequences still had to be extraordinarily long and that’s pretty damn impressive, both from a filming aspect and the ability of the actors to carry out the scenes convincingly.

The story follows two British soldiers during World War I. The duo is sent to the front lines to deliver a message to stop Britain’s 2nd Battalion from attacking the Germans, who are planning to ambush the 2nd Battalion. The character development in this isn’t a strength and I found myself not caring about what happened to them as a result. I may not have been emotionally invested in the story, but I was definitely blown away by how it was presented. The set designs in this film are unreal and I can’t help but think 1917 has a really good shot at the Production Design Oscar.

I could see people who don’t appreciate the technical aspects of films thinking 1917 is pretty meh, but I loved it and I think it firmly lands in my top 5 movies of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

21 (2008, Netflix) – I really liked the Ben Mezrich book this movie was adapted from and thought the movie did a poor job of bringing the story to screen, either because they left plot details out or changed too much. I just know I didn’t like the movie because I didn’t think it did the book justice. I’m judging this viewing based on the merits of the movie alone.

The plot is cool: a group of MIT students and their professor develop a blackjack card-counting system designed to avoid detection and take Las Vegas for heaps of dollars. I think they played up the allure of Vegas as some glamorous mecca a bit too much. Spacey delivers as the cold and calculated professor and leader of the MIT blackjack team, but I found the rest of the cast basically forgettable.

I guess it’s a good sign that my friends started the movie and I didn’t leave the room or turn it off after they went to bed. That’s something, but it’s also small praise for a mediocre movie overall.

5/10 (Decent)

I Lost My Body (2019, Netflix) – After witnessing a detached hand (similar to Thing from The Adams Family) fend for its life using a lighter against a pack of literal street rats, I knew I was in for something a little different. This was definitely an enjoyable movie with some pretty awesome animation and a quirky story.

The aforementioned hand escapes from a laboratory to reconnect with its body. The owner of the hand is a boy whose story is told through flashbacks, which ultimately reveal what caused his hand to be severed. This movie has a melancholic feel sprinkled with brief moments of hope as you can’t help but get sucked in by the hand’s unwavering determination to find its owner. This lends to some of the film’s most memorable scenes, including one where the hand has to cross a busy highway as shown from the hand’s perspective.

This weird, but cool little film was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar. After Missing Link won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, I have no clue what to expect from the Oscars in this category, but I’d be pretty surprised to see I Lost My Body edge out Toy Story 4.

Although somewhat depressing, I Lost My Body was a breath of fresh air. Note: I accidentally watched the English dubbed version and the subtitles often didn’t match up with what was being said and that was kind of aggravating. I didn’t realize this is actually a French film, so if you choose to watch this on Netflix, I would recommend setting the audio to French and using English subtitles – the way it is meant to be watched.

6/10 (Recommended)

Judy (2019, rental) – I’ve enjoyed plenty of depressing films, but I did not enjoy Judy. This biopic was a bit shallow and unwilling to explore the roots of its protagonist’s issues.

The film is about Judy Garland (best known for playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz) during her final year of life as a struggling stage performer. I give credit to Renee Zellweger for her great performance as Garland, which is the highlight of the movie, but I just didn’t get into this film. Zellweger is wonderfully unrecognizable and dives deep into character, convincingly selling herself as an old-time celebrity trying to recapture the limelight while battling addiction and alcoholism and struggling to hold her family together. She also belts out some impressive songs.

I loved Zellweger’s performance. I did not love the movie.

5/10 (Decent)

Little Women (2019, theaters) – I’ve never read the classic novel or seen any of the previous film versions of this story, so I have nothing to compare it to and that might be a good thing. Judged on its own, Little Women impressed me due in large part to its compelling storytelling and ensemble cast. The film-is-a-coming of age story about four sisters during the Civil War. The timeline bounces back and forth between childhood and adulthood, so viewers are able to observe each character’s perspective at different points in their lives.

I was excited to see Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her excellent Lady Bird and the cast looked exceptional. Unsurprisingly, the cast absolutely delivers. Saoirse Ronan is arguably the best actress under thirty. Ronan earned her fourth Oscar nomination in the last twelve years and it is well deserved. Pretty impressive for someone that hasn’t had their 26th birthday yet. Florence Pugh completed a trifecta of great performances in 2019 (the others being Fighting With My Family and Midsommar) and capped off her amazing year by getting an Oscar nod for this movie. I’m not even sure it’s her second-best performance of the year, but I’m definitely happy to see her get nominated… she deserves it.

I was enjoying Little Women for most of the run time, but the last act really brought everything together wonderfully and kicked my rating up a tick. It’s a fun film about people that only cements Gerwig’s status as a top-notch film director. I give Little Women a strong recommendation, but it’s definitely not a bro movie.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, rental) – My first review for this movie wasn’t that favorable but a second viewing made a huge difference. Maybe it’s all about expectations? I’ve gone from wondering what the heck I just watched to loving this film.

The film is essentially about a washed-up actor and his stunt double as they attempt to rekindle their success during 1960s Hollywood. Previously, I thought the plot meandered along with no meaningful connection between the multiple storylines and the climax rubbed me the wrong way (and maybe it still does). However, now I can’t help but appreciate the sheer brilliance of everything that’s happening on the screen – from the unreal performances from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, to the ridiculously detailed old-school Hollywood set designs, to the music, to the wonderful cinematography. Also, there are multiple sequences in this movie that will probably wind up being iconic. I still think the ending of this movie is weird and probably disrespectful, but a part of me thinks it’s also kind of cool. There is also a notorious scene involving Bruce Lee. Disrespectful? Yeah, probably. Hilarious and awesome? Uh…yes.

I can’t think of too many movies that have grown on me this much with a second watch, but this is now one of my favorite films of the year.

8/10 (Must See)

Parasite (2019, theaters) – I had to watch this one twice before I wrote about it just to be sure that it was as truly great as I thought it was the first time. It’s official now: Parasite is my favorite movie of 2019 and it’s unlikely that anything I haven’t seen yet will top it at this point.

The plot is about a lower-class family that creatively (and unethically) deceives an upper-class family into hiring them for various service jobs. The film is just pure brilliance; it’s gripping, funny, surprising and beautifully filmed, all while acting as a commentary on the divide between social classes, plus the ensemble cast does a great (and mostly overlooked) job. Maybe the cast has been snubbed by American awards because Parasite is a Korean film and American audiences are spending a good deal of the movie reading the subtitles instead of watching the performances. You definitely can’t appreciate an acting performance to its full extent if you don’t understand what they are saying and your attention is elsewhere most of the time. I guess that’s understandable, but still… I thought the cast was great overall and, even without knowing the language, I could see that Kang-ho Song (poor dad), Yeo-jeong Jo (rich wife), So-dam Park (poor daughter), and Jeong-eun Lee (housekeeper) all gave standout performances.

I think Parasite deserves the Best Picture Oscar (although 1917 is probably the favorite) and the Best Screenplay Oscar (which should be a lock as anything else winning would be laughable).

Rarely do movies grab my attention from the opening scene and hold it until the credits roll. Parasite did just that and is possibly the only truly sensational film to come out of 2019.

9/10 (Sensational)

The Mustang (2019, rental) – This film proves that great acting and storytelling don’t necessarily need a lot of dialogue. The Mustang is most compelling when its characters are silent and let their actions/body language do the speaking.

The plot follows a long-imprisoned man who can’t connect in any meaningful way with people, including his daughter. The man forms an unlikely bond with a stubborn wild mustang after the man enters a rehabilitation program while doing outside maintenance at the jail. As the plot progresses, the man’s hardened demeanor begins to melt away and it becomes evident he desires rehabilitation for his issues. It’s a touching and sad film about growth, redemption, and life’s inevitable setbacks with solid performances from Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern.

The Mustang is a somber and satisfying drama worth giving a watch.

6/10 (Recommended)

Uncut Gems (2019, theaters) – This one has polarized audiences – people either seem to love it or absolutely loathe it. I was in the former camp, as I was entertained the whole movie and thought it was borderline hilarious, but not in the in-your-face kind of way an Adam Sandler comedy usually is.

The movie opens with Sandler’s character getting a colonoscopy and that’s by far the most relaxing moment he has in the entire movie. After that point, he’s nonstop on the go and the tension basically never lets up. This movie is about a foul-mouthed (Uncut Gems has the 7th most “F-words” in cinematic history according to the movie-review website Screen It!) NYC Diamond District jewelry peddler who bets big on sports and spends his life looking for ways to stay in action while dodging the loan sharks he owes. It’s grimy. It’s unsettling. It’s definitely disturbing.

Uncut Gems is much more subtle with the humor, possibly because a lot of the funniest parts are also a bit horrifying. I’ve heard this movie described as a two-hour panic attack and that’s not a bad description. But I liked it a lot and Adam Sandler is great in it. I’m not sure he got snubbed for an Oscar nomination, but I wouldn’t have found it alarming to see him get a nod.

I’m hesitant to recommend Uncut Gems because so many people disliked it, but if we have similar taste, you might find yourself enjoying this just as much as I did.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Yes Man (2008, Netflix) – This is a decent Jim Carrey movie that’s pretty similar to Liar, Liar in concept (wherein the main character is incapable of telling a lie) but not as funny. The film is about a recently divorced and withdrawn man (played by Jim Carrey) who is convinced to go to a motivational seminar. There, he reluctantly promises to say “yes” to every opportunity, request or invitation that presents itself. In sticking to this promise, Carrey’s character finds himself in unusual and amusing (if not predictable) situations.

Carrey delivers his usual spastic and high-energy performance, but the movie suffers from a weak supporting cast and uninspired plot elements. It becomes painfully obvious what will transpire as a result of the main character’s inability to “say no” during many scenes.

It was moderately entertaining while I was watching it, but Yes Man didn’t stick with me at all and was basically instantly forgettable.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Oscar nominated movies I will review in the future: Jojo Rabbit, The Two Popes, Ford vs Ferrari, Pain and Glory, Bombshell, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Richard Jewell, Harriet, Honeyland, Missing Link


Marriage Story (2019): Best Picture Favorite?

December 13, 2019

Marriage Story (2019)

Director: Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories, Frances Ha, Greenberg)

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? I’m not going to lie, this movie wasn’t even on my radar a month ago, but it didn’t take long for the hype to build and make me think there might be something special here. I thought Marriage Story was absolutely fantastic. It’s a tight little story about a family going through the divorce process as the adults try to pursue their careers on opposite coasts while playing tug-a-war with their only child. I could really feel the authenticity in everything that was happening – from the recollection of happier times to the disbelief that someone you used to love more than anything in the world could suddenly become your worst nightmare, the film rang true and will probably feel familiar to anyone that has been through a difficult breakup. I didn’t think there was a phony moment in this movie. Also, while it’s a tearjerker that will pull at your heart strings, it also made me laugh more than most of the comedies I’ve seen this year.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give absolutely sensational performances. I was blown away by both of them and there were multiple scenes throughout the film where I was enthralled by their acting. They are already both nominated for Golden Globes and both are locks for Oscar noms also, with Scarlett looking like the favorite to win right now to me. Laura Dern is also great in this movie as Scarlett’s divorce attorney. I’ve always thought of her as the actress from Jurassic Park but after her work here and in Big Little Lies on HBO the last few years, it’s pretty clear she’s become an elite actress. She has a Globe nom for this movie also and is certainly drawing live at an Oscar nom as well.

Marriage Story is definitely a difficult and sad movie. I watched it while my wife was sleeping next to me and I was so moved by the film that I gave her a long hug of appreciation for what we have while thinking about how happy and grateful I am to have her in my life. Marriage Story is a good reminder to not take things for granted and to not autopilot your way through life, work, and your relationships. I’m not a highly emotional person and usually movies that have an affect on me just make my eyes water up a little bit, but this one actually made me spill tears.

Marriage Story is an absolute must see movie with some knockout performances. It’s currently among my top 3 movies of the year and definitely has a chance to win the Best Picture Oscar. Check it out on Netflix streaming right now.

Replay Value: Not really the kind of movie that people will want to watch repeatedly, but I think I will enjoy it again before Oscar season.

Sequel Potential: None.

Oscar Potential: Definitely. The film got six Globe noms in all and all three nominated actors will probably get Oscar nods as well. I’ll say a Best Picture nom is a lock and the movie should have a shot at writing, directing, and score noms.

8/10 (Must See)