Every year there’s always a few big Oscar bait-ers that I end up scrambling to see before the big night, and this year was no different.
This inspirational crowd-pleaser tells the previously little-known stories of the black women who endured racism and sexism to contribute greatly to the American Space Program during the early days of NASA. The terrific trio of Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer imbue their characters with the poise, drive and intelligence their real-life inspirations deserve, women that quietly overcame both by example and by simple strength of character. Sure, it’s Hollywood slick and a bit corny at times, but a little old fashioned corn won’t hurt you when it’s served up this well. (8/10)
|The Ladies Who Launch|
What would happen if several gigantic alien craft appeared at various locations across the Earth and we have no idea what they want? That question is the starting point of this moody science fiction drama that stars Amy Adams as a brilliant linguist tasked with finding a way to communicate with the squid-like, ink-squirting visitors. Director Denis Villeneuve maneuvers through the dense narrative that is heavy on the science (at times overwhelmingly so) but it remains grounded by the human emotions that bring it down to earth, ultimately revealing itself as a uniquely intimate sci-fi epic. (8/10)
|The aliens have yet to master the art of the high five.|
Taking its name from the plaintiffs of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark 1967 US Supreme Court civil rights case that struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, this well-intentioned but frustratingly uninvolving biopic proves that sometimes being historically accurate, no matter how noble the intentions may be, can produce a really boring movie. As Richard and Mildred Loving, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga craft delicate, understated performances despite the overly-reverent approach of writer/director Jeff Nichols. As the film inches along, the protagonists gradually turn into observers of than actual participants in their own story. (6/10)
And speaking of overly-reverent, director/star Denzel Washington practically enshrines the words of playwright August Wilson in this screen adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning kitchen sink drama. As director, Washington barely opens up the action, while as an actor he recreates his Broadway turn as an embittered garbage man alongside this season’s award magnet Viola Davis as his long suffering wife. The duo won Tonys the last time they played these roles, and they’re still playing for the balcony here. The florid dialogue is spoken in that heightened stage inflection that signifies “Acting”, and dammit if Denzel won’t let you forget it. (5/10)
|Viola Davis, fearlessly using every bodily fluid possible to get that Oscar.|
Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.