Supernova

Posted on January 28, 2021 at 5:49 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinkiing
Violence/ Scariness: Illness, dementia, discussion of suicide
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 29, 2021

Copyright Netflix 2021
A lot of thought goes into weddings, but very little of it focuses on one of the promises couples make, the one about “in sickness and in health.” And yet those of us who are lucky enough to share our lives with the ones we love for decades will face a time when one has to care for the other. In “Supernova,” Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play a longtime devoted couple who are facing one of the most painful losses of all. One of them has been diagnosed with dementia.

Firth plays Sam, classical pianist, and Tucci is Tusker, a successful novelist. Asleep, they tenderly embrace. Awake, they amiably bicker and banter as they embark on a road trip in a well-traveled camper.

Sam is clearly the more serious of the two, with Tusker more sardonic and a bit of a tease. Writer/director Harry Macqueen understands the rhythms, stresses, and enduring pleasures of a long-term relationship. And Firth beautifully portrays the way Sam worries, worries about revealing that he is worrying, all the time relishing his time with Tusker all the more because he knows there will be less of Tusker every day.

The trip itself is about memory as they visit places and people that have meant the most to them. And as we understand better the strain they are under, their connections and conversations take on deeper meanings. Looking out at a magnificent view that many couples have found romantic Tusker asks what wish Sam would make. Sam says something many couple have said in that same spot. He wishes this vacation could go on forever. But what he means is that he wants to freeze this moment. Tusker, even impaired, knows Sam well enough to respond to the subtext: “So can you tell that it’s gotten worse?”

The trip takes them backwards and forward. They relive some of their past, through recollection, stops at meaningful locations, and encounters with people who have been important to them for a long time. And then obliquely and then more explicitly they look ahead as they consider their options and priorities. Tusker will become more dependent but, most terrifying for both of them, he will become less himself.

How much deference do you give to someone you love deeply when his judgement may be severely diminished? How much deference do you give to someone you love when he wants to care for you — and you don’t want to be cared for, you want both of you to be spared what will inevitably be (literally) horrible?

Macqueen has a light touch with the bigger picture hinted at in the movie’s title. His palpable sympathy for both men and for the complexity of the decisions they are making and the subtle, sympathetic performances from Firth and Tucci make this film a quiet gem, true to the characters and their love story.

Parents should know that the themes of this movie including memory loss and suicide and characters use very strong language.

Family discussion: Do you agree with Tuskar’s decision? How should Sam respond?

If you like this, try: “Still Mine,” “Away From Her,” “The Leisure Seeker,” “Blackbird,” and “I Remember Better When I Paint”

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Tribute: Cloris Leachman

Posted on January 27, 2021 at 7:51 pm

I can’t say for sure but to the best of my recollection in the history of the Academy Awards, only one presenter had the presence of mind to bring — a letter opener. That was Cloris Leachman, the year after she won her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. While she is usually remembered today for her comedic roles, her Oscar was for a heartbreaking dramatic portrayal of vulnerability in “The Last Picture Show.”

Few people recognized her from her brief role as a cheerful prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Or as “Lassie’s Mom” in one season of the television series about the boy and his collie or a reliable guest star on 1950s and 60s television series, including “Lancer,” the one featured in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

But when she appeared as Phyllis Lindstrom, the very proper neighbor/landlady on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show, she became an instant household name, ultimately getting her own spin-off series.

The opening credits spoofed “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and any theme song that extolled the irresistibility of its star.

Leachman appeared in just about every form of entertainment, most recently providing the voice of the grandmother in “The Croods” and last year’s sequel. She was also known for being quirky, outspoken, and something of a hippie back in the day.

Cloris Leachman and my mother were in the same dorm at Northwestern University freshman year, until Cloris dropped out, and they stayed friends. My mother loved to tell us how Cloris got out of an exam by tearfully telling the professor about her boyfriend who had just been killed in WWII. (He wasn’t killed, in fact he didn’t exist.) Mom says she was a very believable actress even then.

In the 1970s, when my father was asked to give the graduation speech at Northwestern, he told the students that his roommate at the school was the journalist Sandor Vanocur and my mother’s was Cloris Leachman. “If only we were students now,” he said with mock regret. “I could have had Cloris Leachman as my roommate and my wife could have roomed with Sandy Vanocur.” This was considered rather racy and daring back in those days when many schools still had parietal rules limiting visitors of the opposite sex, and the idea of mixed-gender dorms was just beginning to be considered.

Cloris Leachman heard about the speech and wrote to my father. “I am deeply insulted!” she wrote. “How dare you suggest that I would have roomed with you at Northwestern! I would have roomed with Sandy Vanocur!”

May her memory be a blessing.

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Actors Tribute

The Little Things

Posted on January 27, 2021 at 7:00 am

C
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violent/disturbing images, language and full nudity.
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Serial killer crime drama
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 29, 2021
Date Released to DVD: May 4, 2021

Copyright Warner Brothers 2021
Three Oscar winners cannot save “The Little Things,” a crime thriller that starts out promisingly and about halfway through completely loses its way. It’s almost like the screenplay was created by two different people, or undermined by the director. But John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “The Highwaymen”), both wrote and directed, so he is responsible when the story veers into Gothika Rule territory.

It takes place in 1990, and we begin with a pretty young woman driving on the highway and singing along to the Go-Gos as a sinister motorist behind her makes her uncomfortable and then terrified. The first half sets up two mysteries. The first is the realization that the young woman who has been murdered is the victim of a serial killer, expanding and making more urgent the search to find the one responsible. The detective in charge is Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), who takes the job very seriously, even personally. “We work for her,” he says about the dead woman.

A lower-level officer named Deke Deacon (Denzel Washington) has been sent to Baxter’s police station to pick up some evidence. The second mystery is why the people there are (mostly) so hostile to him and why a clearly experienced, capable, and dedicated has not risen in rank. “And they say Black guys never return to the scene of the crime,” another detective says with acid in his voice. But the forensic pathologist seems more sympathetic, agreeing to spend some time with him when a delay in making the evidence available keeps him there overnight.

There’s “something like it up north,” Deke says, and soon he and Baxter are beginning to work together to find the killer. “Things probably changed a lot since you left,” says Baxter. “Still gotta catch ’em? Then nothing has really changed that much,” Deke says.

So far, so good. As long as Deke and Baxter are behaving like intelligent, dedicated professionals, the movie holds our interest as a police procedural with intriguing characters. But then Jared Leto enters the picture as suspect Albert Sparma and it all begins to fall apart. Baxter seems to have an inexplicable change of personality with a decision so monumentally stupid and contrary to day one of any kind of law enforcement training not to mention basic common sense that it takes us out of the story.

Meanwhile, what we learn about Deke’s past is not as meaningful as the movie clearly thinks it is, making the story’s primary mystery secondary to the point of almost inconsequential. Washington’s is the only performance that continues to hold our attention as Leto hits one creepy note and stays there and Malek is unable to overcome his character’s inconsistency. More important, the swerve in tone undermines the film’s aspirations for moral complexity. The title of the film refers to the little things that are important to get right, whether you are a killer trying to evade justice or law enforcement trying to achieve it. In the case of this movie, the little things are all right but the big thing, the screenplay, is a mess.

Parents should know that this movie is about a serial killer and it has some grisly and graphic images and strong language.

Family discussion: Why did Deke send the package to Baxter? How was that decision tied to his own experience? Why did Flo keep the memento on her keychain?

If you like this, try: “Inside Man” and “Silence of the Lambs”

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Online Film Critics Society Awards 2020

Posted on January 26, 2021 at 11:10 am

Copyright Pixar 2020

The OFCS Top Ten:
1. Nomadland
2. Da 5 Bloods
3. Promising Young Woman
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
5. First Cow
6. Minari
7. Sound of Metal
8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
9. Soul
10. The Trial of the Chicago 7

“This list of nominations showcases the diversity and broad expressiveness of the film community. In a year where nothing was as we expected, and those expectations had to shift, cinema not only maintained its creativity and expansive canvas, but it managed to give new voices a chance to speak louder than they might have in any other year,” said Wesley Lovell, a member of the Governing Committee of OFCS, and founder of CinemaSight.com.

He added, “In our directing category alone, we have four women, each at varying points in their careers, alongside one of the major voices of his generation. It is one of our most diverse slates ever. As for the nominees of Best Picture, the feature films represent filmmakers from a wide array of backgrounds and experiences who are able to explore subjects that exemplify the breadth of American life in unique and compelling ways. I don’t think we could be more proud of the selections our members have made this year.”

Copyright Amazon 2020

BEST PICTURE
· Da 5 Bloods
· First Cow
· I’m Thinking of Ending Things
· Minari
· Never Rarely Sometimes Always
· Nomadland — WINNER
· Promising Young Woman
· Soul
· Sound of Metal
· The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
· Onward
· Over the Moon
· Soul — WINNER
· The Wolf House
· Wolfwalkers

BEST DIRECTOR
· Emerald Fennell — Promising Young Woman
· Eliza Hittman — Never Rarely Sometimes Always
· Spike Lee — Da 5 Bloods
· Kelly Reichardt — First Cow
· Chloé Zhao – Nomadland WINNER

BEST ACTOR
· Riz Ahmed — Sound of Metal
· Chadwick Boseman — Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
· Anthony Hopkins — The Father
· Delroy Lindo — Da 5 Bloods WINNER
· Steven Yeun — Minari

BEST ACTRESS

Copyright Searchlight 2020

· Jessie Buckley — I’m Thinking of Ending Things
· Viola Davis — Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
· Sidney Flanigan — Never Rarely Sometimes Always
· Frances McDormand – Nomadland WINNER
· Carey Mulligan — Promising Young Woman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
· Sacha Baron Cohen — The Trial of the Chicago 7
· Chadwick Boseman — Da 5 Bloods
· Bill Murray — On the Rocks
· Leslie Odom Jr. — One Night in Miami WINNER
· Paul Raci — Sound of Metal

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
· Maria Bakalova — Borat Subsequent Moviefilm WINNER
· Olivia Colman — The Father
· Talia Ryder — Never Rarely Sometimes Always
· Amanda Seyfried — Mank
· Youn Yuh-jung — Minari

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
· Da 5 Bloods
· Minari
· Never Rarely Sometimes Always
· Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell WINNER
· The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
· First Cow
· I’m Thinking of Ending Things
· Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
· Nomadland, Chloe Zhao WINNER
· One Night in Miami

BEST EDITING
· Da 5 Bloods
· Mank
· Nomadland, Chloe Zhao WINNER
· Tenet
· The Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
· Da 5 Bloods
· First Cow
· Mank
· Nomadland, Joshua James Richards WINNER
· Tenet

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
· Da 5 Bloods
· Mank
· Minari
· Soul, Trent Reznor Atticus Ross WINNER
· Tenet

BEST DEBUT FEATURE
· Radha Blank — The Forty-Year-Old Version
· Emerald Fennell — Promising Young Woman WINNER
· Regina King — One Night in Miami
· Darius Marder — Sound of Metal
· Andrew Patterson –The Vast of Night

BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
· Another Round
· Bacurau
· Collective
· La Llorona
· Minari (United States) WINNER

BEST DOCUMENTARY
· Boys State
· Collective
· Dick Johnson Is Dead WINNER
· The Painter and the Thief
· Time

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS:
· Sound of Metal – Sound Design
· Emma. – Costume Design
· Tenet – Visual Effects
· Mank – Production Design
· The Invisible Man – Visual Effects

SPECIAL AWARDS
BEST NON-UNITED STATES RELEASE:
(This award is for the best films released outside the United States in 2020 that were not released in the United States during the eligibility period.)
· A Beast in Love (Japan)
· The Disciple (India)
· Ghosts (Turkey)
· Mogul Mowgli (United Kingdom)
· New Order (Mexico)
· Notturno (Italy)
· Rocks (United Kingdom)
· Saint Maud (United Kingdom)
· Summer of 85 (France)
· Undine (Germany)

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS:
· “Small Axe” — Director Steve McQueen created a series of films for the small screen that rivals the best of the theatrical features of the year, that can be seen individually and yet work together to explore a cultural experience largely unseen on big screens, television, or streaming to date.
· Distributor Kino Lorber for being the first company to offer virtual film distribution as a way to help independent theaters during the pandemic through the Kino Marquee.
· Kudos to the independent theater entities that participated in presenting “Virtual Cinema” when forced to close due to the pandemic. Films that otherwise may not have been seen were made available through online platforms, with ticket prices shared by the distributor with the theater.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS:
· Rob Bottin (Makeup Artist)
· David Byrne (Composer)
· Jane Fonda (Actor)
· Jean-Luc Godard (Director)
· Frederick Wiseman (Documentarian)

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Awards Critics

WandaVision — Unpacking Marvel’s New DisneyPlus Series

Posted on January 24, 2021 at 9:56 pm

Copyright 2021 Marvel

Have you taken a look at WandaVision? I’ve watched the first two episodes and I’m very intrigued. I am a fan of comics and superhero movies but I do not know much about the Wanda and Vision characters beyond what’s in the Avengers movies.

Here’s the series trailer.

And here, for those of us who are not fully immersed in the MCU, here is a deep dive into the meaning of the references in the first episode.

My friend and fellow critic Sherin Nicole wrote about Wandavision for Idobi. An exerpt:

A lot of what is most intriguing about the first three episodes of the new Disney+ series WandaVision, from Marvel Studios, is indicative of a lot of what’s wrong in America. WandaVision carries the veneer of classic TV, when everything was perfect and perfectly funny and yet we know those times weren’t great for everybody. There was something sinister beneath the surface. In that way, we suspect things aren’t so great for Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) either.

Something is very wrong in the idyllic new town they’ve moved to—we can tell because the series starts off in a The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961) world and it’s funny and it’s cute and it’s also a little bit creepy. Moments hitch, things go strangely askew, and red is the only spot of color (like a warning light or a bloody cut). The show purposefully uses one of the brightest TV shows ever made to contrast the suppurating ideology that gives “make America great again” power. And that’s what begins to make you uncomfortable—laugh track and all.

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