Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: Disney Dreams & Dreamy Dudes


 

We may be just a few weeks from Easter, but I was only recently able to watch two of Disney's three big Christmas 2018 movies: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and Ralph Breaks the Internet. The wonderful Mary Poppins Returns was the studio's third holiday release. Now, thanks to the (Disney?) magic of home video, everyone can watch all three!


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a visually-sumptuous if rather simple-minded fantasy that references virtually every prior incarnation of E.T.A. Hoffman's classic Yuletide tale. There is a ballet sequence featuring acclaimed dancer Misty Copeland, portions of Tchaikovsky's famous music amidst a film score otherwise composed by James Newton Howard, and even visual echoes of Disney's own Fantasia, with conductor Gustavo Dudamel featured in silhouette at times à la Fantasia's conductor Leopold Stokowski.

This latest film adaptation is an adventure involving young heroine Clara's search for a magical key that will presumably open a mysterious Fabergé-esque egg left to her by her late mother. Her search naturally commences on Christmas Eve and leads her into the distinctive four realms of the title. War is brewing within this colorful world, which is reportedly being provoked by the villainous Mother Ginger.


Helen Mirren does the best she can with the underwritten role of Mother Ginger, while Morgan Freeman has little more than a cameo as the one-eyed inventor Drosselmeyer. Meanwhile, Keira Knightley is a campy hoot as the Sugarplum Fairy and recent Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant is fittingly entertaining as the icicle-festooned regent of the Snow Realm. Relatively unknown leads Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight fare best as, respectively, Clare and her nutcracker prince. Kudos to the casting director, by the way, for incorporating both Fowora-Knight and Freeman into what has historically been a European (i.e. totally Caucasian) story.

Nutcracker is visually over-the-top at times but features some memorable images and moments. It was chiefly directed by Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) but veteran Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Captain America: The First Avenger) provided a month of reshoots to beef up the action sequences and special effects. The result feels schizophrenic at times, as Hallström's more restrained sensibility clashes with Johnston's super-heroic approach. Disney's expensive production didn't do well at the box office as it was competing against the studio's own Ralph Breaks the Internet as well as The Grinch. However, future holiday viewers and generations may yet embrace this diverse, imaginative take on a Christmas classic.


Ralph Breaks the Internet, meanwhile, is a long-awaited sequel to 2012's Wreck-It Ralph. John C. Reilly once again voices the titular video game character, with Sarah Silverman also back as Ralph's misfit friend, Vanellope von Schweetz. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that Wreck-It Ralph is one of only three animated films by Disney or Pixar that I've never seen. Thankfully, seeing the original isn't essential to appreciating this clever, funny sequel, which was an Academy Award nominee this year for Best Animated Feature.

It's frequently satirical screenplay involves the search for an essential part to Vanellope's favorite retro video game. Locating it initially on eBay, Ralph and Vanellope venture into the internet only to find things much more complicated than they anticipated. Co-directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, along with their design team, make visual sport of practically every popular website as well as Disney's stable of princesses, Star Wars figures, and other beloved characters. As amusing as these elements are, Ralph Breaks the Internet becomes self-indulgent in this regard and ultimately overlong at 112 minutes. Most viewers won't care. It is a successful sequel that inspires me to finally watch its predecessor!


From Disney's latest we journey to a bevy of new gay-themed releases, including one bonâ fide classic just released on Blu-ray for the first time. Death in Venice is Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti's acclaimed yet provocative adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella. The Criterion Collection just issued a beautifully restored, 4K edition of this 1971 film. The Blu-ray also boasts a number of documentaries including a pair of short, behind-the-scenes exposés directed by Visconti.

Dirk Bogarde gives a gutsy-for-the-time, nuanced performance as Gustav von Aschenbach, a once celebrated composer in the waning years of his career. During a recovery holiday in the title city, Gustav unexpectedly becomes smitten with a pubescent boy named Tadzio (played by the appropriately fetching Bjorn Andresen). Sadly, Gustav also finds himself afflicted by a cholera epidemic that is quietly sweeping Venice. Art, beauty, innocence, love and death ultimately collide in Visconti's elegant reflection on these themes.

The film's depiction of Gustav's obsession with Tadzio – and vice versa to some degree – is disturbing, both by 1970's standards and today's. However, the ultimate sin presented in Death in Venice isn't homosexuality but growing older. As one character wryly remarks, "There is no impurity so impure as old age." Selections from symphonies by Gustav Mahler provide perfect musical accompaniment, while Piero Tosi's Oscar-nominated costumes are similarly sublime. Whether you have never seen it or will be experiencing it again, it's time to take a trip to Venice.


Love, desire and sexy guys in frequent stages of undress occupy TLA Releasing's new releases Woke and He Loves Me. The Woke DVD is actually season one of a French series entitled Les Engagés (The Engaged). The original title is actually more appropriate, especially given how US-specific the current popular use of the term "woke" seems to me to be. At any rate, its plot is chiefly set in and around an LGBTQ outreach center in Lyon, France. A local politician has cut off the center's funding, sparking a political revolt on the part of its staff members led by resident activist Thibaut (dreamy, mustachioed Eric Pucheu). Thibaut's personal life is thrown into turmoil when a Muslim runaway, Hicham (Mehdi Meskar), shows up on his doorstep. The two met years earlier at a campground and Hicham has carried a torch for Thibaut ever since. Woke features a few dated, clichéd scenes regarding gay self-acceptance but is generally an engrossing production.


He Loves Me is a sensual first feature by Greek filmmaker Konstantinos Menelaou. It opens with two attractive, naked guys lying on a beach together. We learn that they are a couple at a crossroads in their relationship. Their current seaside vacation is actually a "make it or break it" attempt to reconcile their differences. The characters, played by Hermes Pittakos and Sanuye Shoteka, are largely silent while thoughtfully-written narration reflects on the couple's experience. Viewers are ultimately informed/reminded that love takes a lifetime of work. The movie feels a bit meandering and long toward its end, and it's only 72 minutes long. But the abundant nudity on display, Kostis Fokas' beautiful sun-dappled cinematography, and Micke Lindebergh's Enya-esque music score weave a seductive, romantic spell.

Reverend's Ratings:
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: B-
Ralph Breaks the Internet: B+
Death in Venice: A-
Woke (Les Engagés): B-
He Loves Me: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Reverend's Preview: Somos = All for LGBTQ Movies


 

The Spanish word somos means “all” in English, so it seems a fitting new title for the San Diego Latino Film Festival’s LGBTQ showcase. Formerly known as Cine Gay, this year’s event will run March 14th-24th at AMC Fashion Valley and Digital Gym CINEMA North Park.


Now in its 26th year, the festival annually screens more than 160 films from Latin America, Spain, the United States, Mexico and other parts of the world in celebration of Latino film, art and culture. Also featured are after parties, filmmaker workshops and guest celebrities from the hottest TV shows and feature films. The Somos showcase is made possible by the San Diego Pride Festival, the Media Arts Center, and Filmout San Diego.

“LGBTQ cinema is transcendent by nature, oftentimes forcing spectators to look beyond their own experiences and inviting them to engage, reconcile and ultimately relate to issues initially outside of their understanding,” according to Moises Esparza, the festival’s curator. “It is our pleasure to continue our annual tradition of bringing the very best of LGBTQ Latino cinema” to San Diego.

Though primarily reflective of Latino/Latina experiences and locations, the themes of the various movies to be shown are universal. Screenings will be hosted by local drag superstar Franceska. Individual tickets and full festival passes can be purchased in advance here. One can also become a member of this non-profit organization and enjoy special perks here.

A fabulous LGBTQ Short Film Showcase will be presented on Sunday, March 17th at 3:30pm. These mini-movies will include: Broken Sunflower Hearts, Estigma, Infinite While It Lasts, Neither From Here, Nor There, Oasis, The Serenade and The night, unsheltered.

Feature films to be screened are:



Eva + Candela (from Colombia)
The professional ambition of two strong, independent women brings them together but it is also what ultimately pulls them apart. We witness their intense love transform amidst stages of infatuation, sensuality, love, comfort and, finally, routine.


Claudia tocada por la luna (Claudia touched by the moon) (Chile)
Having suffered discrimination throughout her life, Claudia, a trans-Chilean midwife, remembers the hardest and most difficult moments she had to face in order to live her identity. This documentary tells the history, struggle, and constant abuses that are part of a society that still excludes those it considers different.


Tinta Bruta (Hard Paint) (Brazil)
Set in Brazil’s southern city of Porto Alegre, the film focuses on a socially-repressed young man who only comes out of his shell during chatroom performances, when he strips and smears neon paints on his lithe body.


José (Guatemala)
The title character is 19 and lives with his mother in Guatemala, one of the world's most dangerous, religious, impoverished, and socially conservative countries. He spends his days on cramped buses and fighting traffic as he runs food to drivers. When he meets Luis, a migrant from the rural Caribbean coast, they pursue an unexpected and forbidden relationship that thrusts José into an unexpectedly passionate and self-reflective period in his life.


Retablo (Peru/Norway/Germany)
Segundo Paucar, a 14 year old boy, wants to become a master story-box maker just like his father to carry on the family legacy. On his way to a community celebration in the Andes, Segundo accidentally observes his father in a situation that shatters his whole world. Trapped in a chauvinistic environment, Segundo will try to deal in silence with all that is happening to him.


Bixa Travesty (Brazil)
The female trans body becomes a political means of expression in both public and private space. The black, transgender singer Linn da Quebrada deconstructs how alpha males conceive of themselves. Kiko Goifman and Claudia Priscilla's documentary portrays a charismatic artist who reflects on gender and has an extraordinary stage presence.


Las herederas (The Heiresses) (Paraguay/Germany/Brazil/Uruguay/Norway/France)
Chela and Chiquita, both descendants of wealthy families, have been together for over 30 years. Recently, their financial situation has worsened, and Chiquita is imprisoned on fraud charges. Chela, forced to face a new reality, begins to provide a local taxi service to a group of elderly, wealthy ladies for money. As she settles into her new life, Chela encounters the much younger Angy, forging a fresh and invigorating new connection. This drama was Paraguay’s submission to this year's Oscars.


Las Chuntá (The Chunta) (Mexico)
Once a year in a small town in Mexico, men transform into women and become the Chuntá. This documentary follows two gender-bending gangs of dancers as they face off in a struggle between queer identity and powerful traditions.

The San Diego Latino Film Festival will be presented from March 14th to the 24th. Click here for more information.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Friday, February 22, 2019

If We Picked the Oscars 2018



Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert from back in the day, we here at Movie Dearest are once again presenting our own version of "If We Picked the Oscars"! These aren't predictions, but what movies, actors, directors, et al that we would vote for if we were members of the Academy. We also chime in with our picks for the "egregiously overlooked" non-nominees in each category as well as what we deem are the "Worst Nominations of the Year".


So without further ado, the envelope please...



The nominees for Best Picture are: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born and Vice
CC: This is the strongest lineup in several years with the exception of Bohemian Rhapsody, although that has legit crowd-pleaser cred. After much hand-wringing, I would vote for The Favourite. It memorably and entertainingly combines BBC production values with the bitchiest dialogue since All About Eve, or at least Heathers. The writing, cast, art direction, direction direction, cinematography and costumes add up to one stunning movie.
KH: Considering it is the sole BP nominee in my top 20 of 2018, The Favourite is literally my only choice, but certainly the best one here regardless.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Can You Ever Forgive Me? I'll be saying more about this one further down...
KH: This award season has been an increasingly exasperating exercise in frustration for me, no more clearly symbolized than in this Best Picture line-up filled with overrated Oscar bait and/or hollow crowd pleasers instead of such small masterpieces as Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Leave No Trace.

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #8, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1. The Favourite, 2. Roma, 3. Vice, 4. Green Book, 5. A Star is Born, 6. BlacKkKlansman, 7. Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody
KH: 1. The Favourite, 2. A Star Is Born, 3. Vice, 4. Green Book, 5. Roma, 6. BlacKkKlansman, 7. Black Panther and 8. Bohemian Rhapsody


The nominees for Best Actor are: Christian Bale in Vice, Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born, Willem Dafoe in At Eternity's Gate, Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and Viggo Mortensen in Green Book
CC: I regret I haven't seen At Eternity's Gate so can't consider Willem Dafoe's performance but his fellow nominees are pretty fantastic.  Rami Malek makes Bohemian Rhapsody more watchable and moving than it might have been in lesser acting hands.  However, Christian Bale's transformation into former VP Dick Cheney in Vice is nothing short of amazing. Bale, unlike the man he portrayed, gets my vote.
KH: Bradley Cooper's career best performance as the grizzled, fading superstar Jackson Maine stands out among his all-biopic competition.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: While I was not a fan of First Reformed (see below), Ethan Hawke gave an impressive, tightly coiled performance as its troubled pastor protagonist and should have been included here.
KH: Ben Foster was brilliant, once again, in the shamefully not-nominated-at-all Leave No Trace.


The nominees for Best Actress are: Yalitza Aparicio in Roma, Glenn Close in The Wife, Olivia Colman in The Favourite, Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born and Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
CC: Glenn Close is the front runner but I loved Melissa McCarthy's tart but compassionate turn as celebrity forger Lee Israel.  She made a hugely unsympathetic person funny, lovable, and even admirable to a degree.
KH: This is a tough choice between Olivia Coleman and Melissa McCarthy (both, coincidentally, playing real lesbians), with the latter ultimately victorious for making me completely forget her usual screen persona.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Emily Blunt was perfect, not just practically so, in both A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns.  She should have been recognized in this category for at least one of them.
KH: It would be hard to choose between the veritable rawness of Toni Colette in Hereditary and the inimitable charm of Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns.


The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Mahershala Ali in Green Book, Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman, Sam Elliott in A Star Is Born, Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Sam Rockwell in Vice
CC: The wonderful Richard E. Grant has consistently delighted me since he played a wackily megalomaniacal villain in 1991's Hudson Hawk.  I would vote for him not only for Can You Ever Forgive Me? but his entire body of work to date.
KH: As gay grifter Jack Hock, Richard E. Grant was brilliant and hilarious, and brilliantly hilarious, as always.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: While I wasn't as enamored by Black Panther as most, Michael B. Jordan was dramatically and physically imposing as its morally complex antagonist.
KH: Oh, if only it were the days when performances like this were nominated than Hugh Grant's high camp turn as the villainous thespian Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2 surely would have made the cut.


The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Amy Adams in Vice, Marina de Tavira in Roma, Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk, Emma Stone in The Favourite and Rachel Weisz in The Favourite
CC: As good as all these performances are, I would go with Amy Adams as Dick Cheney's suitably Lady Macbeth-like wife, Lynn.  It is time for Adams to be honored with the gold after five nominations.
KH: As a fiercely protective mother who would go to great lengths (such as: Cuba) for her family, Regina King reigns.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Linda Cardellini, perhaps best known as Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, was terrific as the yearning but patient New Yawk housewife in Green BookClaire Foy was also terrific in a similar role in First Man.
KH: As a devout Christian mother who finally sees the light regarding her gay son, Nicole Kidman was the best thing about Boy Erased.


The nominees for Best Directing are: Alfonso Cuarón for Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite, Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman, Adam McKay for Vice and Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War
CC: I wasn't as impressed as others by Yorgos Lanthimos' earlier films (The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer) but he won me over with his handling of the saucy, sassy and sexy royal goings on in The Favourite.
KH: I've been a big fan of Yorgos Lanthimos' darkly skewed work to date (starting with the Oscar nominated Dogtooth), so his crossover success with The Favourite is well deserved... and deserving of the Oscar.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Damien Chazelle became the youngest-ever winner of the Oscar for Best Direction two years ago for La La Land, but he exceeded himself with the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man.  It was my choice as Best Film of 2018 but only scored a few Academy Award nominations in technical categories.  It is one of the most visceral and haunting movies I've ever seen thanks to Chazelle's craft.
KH: There were no finer examples of excellent direction last year than the work of Marielle Heller in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Debra Granik in Leave No Trace.


The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk and A Star Is Born
CC: The compassionate, frequently hilarious yet deeply moving Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
KH: The Writers Guild Awards got it right: Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty's finely crafted adaptation of the Lee Israel memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: 1964's Mary Poppins was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay but not its past due 2018 sequel. Times were more innocent back then but Mary Poppins Returns (screenplay by David Magee, story by Magee, Rob Marshall and John DeLuca) went somewhat deeper and is virtually as accomplished as the original.
KH: And the USC Scripter Award got it right as well: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini's adaptation of the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock into the film Leave No Trace.


The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma and Vice
CC: The Favourite, perhaps the finest historical dramedy since 1963's Tom Jones (which incidentally starred the great Albert Finney, who passed away earlier this month).
KH: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara's wryly sardonic script for The Favourite naturally gets my vote.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Bo Burnhams's debut feature Eighth Grade hit the transition from pre-pubescence to adolescence on the nose as no film before it has.
KH: Once again, the Writers Guild Awards got it right with Bo Burnam's Eighth Grade, which somehow was totally ignored by the Academy.


The nominees for Best Cinematography are: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma and A Star Is Born
CC: The two black & white entries here, Cold War and Roma, are grabbing all the attention. I go for Robbie Ryan's more colorful, classical work on The Favourite.
KH: With Robbie Ryan's use of natural lighting and unorthodox lenses, no other movie looked quite like The Favourite last year... or most other years.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The visually stunning First Man, shot by the great Linus Sandgren.
KH: Some of the scariest moments in Hereditary are thanks to its DP Pawel Pogorzelski and his expertise with shadows and framing.


The nominees for Best Production Design are: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns and Roma
CC: First Man and Mary Poppins Returns finally get some love here.  However, I would vote for the equally period-perfect The Favourite.
KH: From the inside of a Royal Doulton bowl to the top of Big Ben, not to mention the lovingly recreated Cherry Tree Lane, Mary Poppins Returns delivers the most eye candy.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Sure, its mostly set in dirty apartments and used book stores but Can You Ever Forgive Me? nails its early-1990's NYC setting.
KH: Crazy Rich Asians' over-the-top wedding alone should have attracted Oscar's attention here.


The nominees for Best Costume Design are: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns and Mary Queen of Scots
CC: Designer Sandy Powell was a busy lady last year, and is nominated for both The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns.  I would vote for Powell's impressive attention to detail in the latter.  Note that she hand-painted the costumes for the show-stopping, traditionally animated "A Cover is Not the Book" production number.
KH: Can't double nominee Sandy Powell just win for both? No? OK, then her inventive, whimsical frocks for Mary Poppins Returns win by a nose.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: It's hard to believe Bohemian Rhapsody was overlooked here, what with all its 70's and 80's tribute fashions.
KH: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again clothed the likes of Lily James and Cher in fashions from the 70's and today... pretty groovy.


The nominees for Best Original Score are: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk, Isle of Dogs and Mary Poppins Returns
CC: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman had a tall order when they took on the sequel to one of Disney's most beloved live-action musicals. Their score for Mary Poppins Returns more than rose to the occasion, adding some clever and memorable new songs while wistfully evoking the original's at times. Although only Shaiman is nominated in this category, I expect him to drag Wittman – his longtime partner in music and life – on stage with him if he wins. The pair brought the house down when they won the Tony Award for their Hairspray score and kissed on national TV, which was still pretty scandalous back in 2002.
KH: Marc Shaiman is just missing the "O" from the "EGOT", and his appropriately Sherman-esque melodies for Mary Poppins Returns deserve to earn him the final piece of that showbiz quadruple-crown.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I love Justin Hurwitz's haunting, minimalist music in First Man. It's a 180 degree turn from La La Land.
KH: Brian Tyler's Crazy Rich Asians score was a wonderful mash-up of Asian influences and big band sounds.



The nominees for Best Original Song are: "All the Stars" from Black Panther, "I'll Fight" from RBG, "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns, "Shallow" from A Star Is Born and "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
CC: Gotta go with Gaga and "Shallow".
KH: I have soft spots for the songs from Mary and Buster, but there's no denying the instantly iconic "Shallow".
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: "A Place Called Slaughter Race" is a simultaneously heartfelt and hilarious mock Disney Princess "I want" song in Ralph Breaks the Internet.
KH: Pick a show-stopper from A Star Is Born ("Always Remember Us This Way", "I'll Never Love Again") or Mary Poppins Returns ("Can You Imagine That?", "Trip a Little Light Fantastic").


The nominees for Best Film Editing are: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book and Vice
CC: I was impressed by the whiplash editing in Vice as it veered from serious political drama to comedy to all-out satire.
KH: I concur, Vice it is.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: How did First Man...
KH: ...and A Star Is Born not make this final cut?


The nominees for Best Sound Mixing are: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma and A Star Is Born
CC: As much as I loved all the Queen tunes and concert footage in Bohemian Rhapsody, I would go with First Man.
KH: A Star Is Born, not just for the obvious work with the music and songs, but also the effective depictions of Jackson Maine's substance abuse.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: How did the hyper-heroic and suitably-loud Avengers: Infinity War get overlooked here?
KH: Musicals usually fare well in this category, so where's Mary Poppins Returns?


The nominees for Best Sound Editing are: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place and Roma
CC: Since this is the only nomination garnered by the very effective thriller A Quiet Place, I would vote for it with its sound-sensitive monsters.
KH: With or without it, A Quiet Place was all about the sound.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Avengers: Infinity War redux.
KH: Another popular superhero fest, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.


The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One and Solo: A Star Wars Story
CC: The other nominees in this category are bigger and flashier (not to mention more expensive), but I adored and totally believed the CGI versions of A.A. Milne's beloved Winnie the Pooh and friends in Christopher Robin. I'm so happy it was nominated here.
KH: If it was just the impressive Thanos, than I'd go with Avengers: Infinity War, but then there's scenes like this. And don't get me started on the muddy, ugly Ready Player One. So I too will go with the entirely believable childhood toys of Christopher Robin's childhood days.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Disney's artists also scored big with Mary Poppins Returns, turning Meryl Streep upside down and setting the entire cast afloat for the finale. I especially liked the dolphin that pops up in the bathtub ("No, not yet") during the delightfully nautical "Can You Imagine That?" number.
KH: A far cry from Disney's high-flying nanny and cuddly stuffed animals: Hereditary's host of decapitated bodies.


The nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are: Border, Mary Queen of Scots and Vice
CC: Christian Bale's transformation into Dick Cheney was frighteningly effective in Vice.
KH: The impressive transformations in Vice were only surpassed by the seamless creations of the trolls in the Swedish film Border.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Mary Poppins Returns, if primarily for Meryl Streep's appearance as cousin Topsy.
KH: Nicholas Hoult's wigs: three words that prove that The Favourite should have been recognized.


The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
CC: I love Isle of Dogs. Is that redundant?
KH: The new adventures of Ralph and Spidey are faves, but Wes Anderson's wacky Isle of Dogs was wildly original and thoroughly entertaining.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Actually, the Academy seemed to nail this category for once.
KH: Does Paddington 2 count?


The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film are: Capernaum (Lebanon), Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany), Roma (Mexico) and Shoplifters (Japan)
CC: Alfonso Cuarón's lovingly autobiographical Roma gets my vote.
KH: I have yet to see the Lebanese and German contenders, and was mostly underwhelmed by the Polish and Mexican front runners, which leaves Hirokazu Kore-eda's brilliant Shoplifters, which would have been my pick no matter what.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: It wasn't officially submitted for consideration but Finland's A Moment in the Reeds is both a great foreign language film and one of the best gay-themed films in several years.
KH: I was mesmerized by the tense Danish thriller The Guilty; Jake Gyllenhaal, you have a lot to live up to.


The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons and RBG
CC: All hail the RBG!
KH: There's no stopping the Notorious RBG.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Won't You Be My Neighbor?  WTF?
KH: The twisty strange-but-true Three Identical Strangers was robbed.



The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: Black Sheep, End Game, Lifeboat, A Night at The Garden and Period. End of Sentence.
CC: I've worked with the dying on hospice for many years so am partial to the courageous End Game.
KH: I was greatly impressed by the tenacious women of Period. End of Sentence., the only "feel good" contender here that nevertheless earns every good feeling it elicits.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: The title of My Dead Dad's Porno Tapes alone would have brought some levity to this predominantly somber bunch.


The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Animal Behaviour, Bao, Late Afternoon, One Small Step and Weekends
CC: The adorable, dumpling-themed Bao both touched me and made me hungry.
KH: The bittersweet Late Afternoon is easily one of my favorite nominated films this year, short or otherwise.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: DreamWorks' Bilby (which will screen theatrically with the newest How to Train Your Dragon later this month) is a cute and funny adventure through the wilds of the Australian Outback.


The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: Detainment, Fauve, Marguerite, Mother and Skin
CC: Marguerite is the only one I've seen but it is lovely and worthy of my vote.
KH: From a batch of nominees that has become infamous for its bleakness, the grim and gritty Fauve is the one that haunts me still.
Egregiously Overlooked:
KH: The Hungarian comedy Chuchotage would have injected some needed levity into this category this year.


And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
CC: Best Original Screenplay for First Reformed. I'm a longtime fan of writer-director Paul Schrader and this is his first, overdue Oscar nomination. Normally I would applaud him but I was frustrated by this baffling, religio-environmental drama that plays like a mashup of Schrader's scripts for Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ.  His underrated, 1982 remake of Cat People was better than this.
KH: This year I'm going straight to the top and call out the Best Picture nomination of Bohemian Rhapsody. There are so many things wrong with this long-in-the-works Freddie Mercury biopic, both onscreen (those teeth!?!) and behind the scenes (yeah, I'm not going to touch any of that), and yet it somehow kept on getting attention this award season, one perplexing nomination after another, until this. An Oscar nomination for Best Picture. To paraphrase the Queen title tune: "Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy? Oh, mamma mia. Just let me go..."

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, hottest escorts and most heartfelt acceptance speeches.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator, editor and head writer of Movie Dearest.