(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Reverend's Preview: Conditions are Ideal for FilmOut 20

As summer 2018 gets underway, so does the 20th anniversary edition of FilmOut San Diego!  The annual LGBTQ film festival will run June 7th-10th at at the historic Obervatory North Park.  No fewer than 45 short and feature films will be screened during the fest's relatively brief 60 or so hours.  Many of their creators and cast members will be in attendance and participate in question and answer sessions with the audiences.

San Diego city council member Chris Ward will officially kick off the Opening Night festivities on Thursday, June 7th.  Ideal Home serves as this year's inaugural movie and its a goodie.  Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, and British comedian Steve Coogan are hilarious as a bickering, longtime gay couple.  Their lives are turned upside down when a 10-year old boy shows up at their door claiming to be the elder partner's grandson.  Neither man is ready to give up their extravagant lifestyle to be parents but this initially nameless kid has a thing or two to teach them about the value of family.

Ideal Home, which will be making its West Coast premiere, was written and directed by Andrew Fleming.  Fleming previously made the underrated LGBT-interest movie Threesome as well as the cult classic horror film The Craft (which FilmOut will be hosting a special screening of in October).  Its great to see him back in fine, funny form with his latest gay-themed comedy.

Four of the films to be screened during the festival incorporate local topics and/or talent.  San Diego's Gay Bar History is a KPBS-funded and community-supported documentary that will be having its world premiere.  Preceding this documentary will be two short films, Deviant and Saltwater Baptism, directed by local filmmakers.  Finally, San Diego resident Patrick Zeller is the lead actor in another world premiere, Say Yes.  Writer-director Stewart Wade (Such Good People, Tru Loved) returns to FilmOut with Say Yes, in which a young woman diagnosed with cancer tries to play matchmaker between her soon-to-be widowed husband (Zeller) and her bisexual twin brother.  Terminal illness, mortality, compassion and sexual fluidity are all touched upon in this poignant and heartfelt drama. 

Rage Magazine is once again a proud sponsor of FilmOut as well as co-presenter of a major new documentary that will be shown on Friday, June 8th.  To A More Perfect Union: United States v Windsor tells a true story of love, marriage and the fight for equality.  This West Coast premiere chronicles two unlikely heroes, octogenarian Edie Windsor and her attorney Roberta Kaplan, on their quest for justice.  Beyond the story of what became the pivotal case in the marriage equality movement and the compelling personal, legal and political stories behind it, the documentary also chronicles our continued journey as a people, as a culture, and as citizens with the promise of equal rights.

Edie Windsor met Thea Spyer in 1963.  It was a time when "it was scary to be a lesbian," according to Windsor in the film.  The couple became engaged in 1967, symbolized by a circular pin of diamonds that each wore rather than rings.  It took 40 years but Edie and Thea finally married in Canada in 2007.  Sadly, Thea died just two years later of complications from multiple sclerosis.  Edie just passed away last year at the age of 88. To A More Perfect Union rehashes some material that has been covered in previous documentaries about the fight for marriage equality but, at just over an hour long, is more streamlined and succinct.  Edie is interviewed extensively, as are Rosie O'Donnell and other lesbian celebs.  Even if Edie's story is well-known to some, this film is a worthwhile addition to the LGBT canon. UPDATE: To A More Perfect Union will be released theatrically this Friday in multiple cities. Visit the film's official website for screenings in your area.

The fest's Closing Night film, Anything, has garnered a lot of buzz for its standout lead performance by out actor Matt Bomer.  He plays Freda, the transsexual neighbor to a kind, decent straight man grieving the recent death of his wife.  The simplicity of the pair's shared loneliness and growing affection must be reconciled with the complexity of their disparate backgrounds.  As non-judgmental as its Southern-born protagonist, Anything is a deceptively quiet love story and an all too timely parable on the pressing need to bridge barriers and find common ground.  Its screening will be followed by a sure to be fabulous Closing Night party.

Speaking of fabulous, children of the 1970's and 80's shouldn't miss The Fabulous Allan Carr.  Award-winning documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (Vito, I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential) turns his attention on the over-the-top antics of Carr, the gay producer of 1978's mega hit Grease.  Despite his best efforts, he was unable to duplicate that movie's success and instead produced such flops as Grease 2 and the camp classic Can't Stop the Music.  Carr redeemed his reputation somewhat by backing the Tony Award-winning La Cage aux Folles on Broadway only to sink it again a few years later when he produced the notoriously cheesy 1989 Academy Awards show. Schwarz's doc serves as a loving reassessment of the man. UPDATE: The Fabulous Allan Carr is now available to rent or purchase on Amazon.

Obviously, the 20th annual festival has plenty to offer our community.

The full FilmOut 2018 schedule is as follows:

Thursday, June 7th
7:00 PM: Ideal Home

Friday, June 8th
1:00 PM: Al Berto (2017)
3:15 PM: Mario
5:30 PM: To A More Perfect Union: U.S. v Windsor
7:00 PM: Golden Boy
9:30 PM: Devil’s Path

Saturday, June 9th
11:00 AM: Best of LGBT Shorts - Volume 1
1:15 PM: Say Yes
5:30 PM: The Fabulous Allan Carr
9:45 PM: M/M

Sunday, June 10th
11:00 AM: Best of LGBT Shorts - Volume 2
1:15 PM: San Diego’s Gay Bar History
7:15 PM: Anything (2017)

For additional festival info and to purchase tickets or passes, visit the FilmOut website.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dearest Reviews: Avengers Disassembled

With its string of blockbusters piling up on the list of all-time box office champions, it looks like superhero fatigue isn't much of a threat to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (at least not yet). And with the overwhelming success of Black Panther and the surprisingly deep characterization of the big bad in Avengers: Infinity War, plus the upcoming female-led Captain Marvel and hints of a long-awaited Black Widow solo outing, it appears that Marvel is (slowly but surely) addressing all of the biggest complaints against them from their first decade of existence, at least in regard to ethnic and gender diversity and its rogues gallery of underwhelming villains.

Granted, there's still the issues of convoluted plots (thank god this business with Infinity Stones is almost over), rushed storylines (the Sokovia Accords) and questionable motivations (the Sokovia Accords), not to mention the film division's snobbish disregard for the entire TV side of the MCU (by the by, forget those drama queen "defenders" on Netflix and tune in instead to the criminally underrated, recently renewed Agents of SHIELD on ABC, where the terrific ensemble of Phil Coulson and Co. are currently facing an apocalypse of their own). No, the biggest threat to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that they just can't help cracking a few jokes.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with a little "funny" in these "funny pages"-based movies, but that's the point: the jokes should be funny. Starting around the time boy scout Captain America chastised rich playboy Iron Man for his salty language in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the attempts at injecting humor into the superheroic fray began to become forced, often corny, and increasingly embarrassing. Just look at Doctor Strange playing straight man to a sentient cloak and try not to stop your eyes from rolling out of your head.

Nowhere is this increasing overreliance on humor more evident than in Thor: Ragnarok (now available on DVD and Blu-ray). Who knew the Norse God of Thunder was such a quipster? Yeah, Chris Hemwsorth (apparently more than willing to take on the mantle of "funny hunk" for the rest of his career) has always imbued his Thor with a healthy dose of self-aware humor, but he nearly OD's here. But then again, maybe he's overcompensating for losing his mighty hammer and golden locks to the baddies played by, respectively, Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum, each out-camping the other as the film (directed by Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows cult fame) goes on. And then there's Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, who here (and continuing in Infinity War) has been transformed into the Marvel version of (parent company) Disney's Absent-Minded Professor.

Even that overpraised overperformer Black Panther (available on DVD and Blu-ray today) isn't immune to these lame attempts at laughs, most cringingly with the silly "don't freeze"/"did he freeze"/"he froze" running gag. To superhero sagas in the way that Get Out was to horror flicks, Black Panther has been given a lot of extra credit for simply being a good genre offering that just so happens to have a black protagonist. Its real strength lies not in Chadwick Boseman's (let's face it, kinda dull) King T'Challa but his trifecta of Wakandan Woman Warriors™ played by The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and Letitia Wright (not to mention Angela Bassett as a fierce Queen Mother). Black Panther did manage to illicit a few chortles out of me... of derision, that is... for its "wonder element" vibranium, an all-purpose substance that does all sorts of nifty things; no matter what the script dictates, have no fear, vibranium can fix it!

The saving grace for all three of these films is that once the plot starts rolling, the jokes peter out and the action amps up, giving us what we all want from a superhero movie: some kick-ass fight scenes. Infinity War does this best, with several climactic set pieces unfolding at roughly the same time (reminiscent of the final battle(s) in Return of the Jedi), and relatively seamlessly at that. Speaking of which, kudos must be given to directors Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for not only managing to bring all these characters together and (mostly) serving each one well, but also for keeping the huge scope of the movie from consuming itself; just take a look at Ready Player One to see how easily a massive clusterfuck can happen when you have a cast of pop culture thousands.

With the biggest feature film cliffhanger since The Empire Strikes Back (what, two Star Wars references? Wait, doesn't Disney own that too...?), it's not hard to look at Infinity War as incomplete, and ultimately irrelevant once the next Avengers flick comes out and un-dos < insert "tip-toe around the spoilers" here > (come on, it's been out for over two weeks now, go see it already!). But, unlike the three year wait for Empire, at least we only have to hold on for a year to find out how they do it, and hopefully without the use of a "screenwriting equivalent of a "Get Out of Jail Free card" like the Time Stone, or vibranium. Or too many jokes, for that matter.

Dearest Ratings:
Thor: Ragnarok: 6/10
Black Panther: 6/10
Avengers: Infinity War: 7/10

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Reverend's Reviews: Theatre on the Fringe


Long Beach, California's International City Theatre (ICT) has presented a number of bold, challenging plays throughout its 33-year history.  With Cardboard Piano, however, the company goes farther than I have known them to go during the 12 years I have been associated with them.  ICT is staging the West Coast premiere of Hansol Jung's powerful, lesbian-themed drama now through May 20th at the Beverly O'Neill Theater.

caryn desai, ICT's Artistic Director/Producer, caught the world premiere of Cardboard Piano at 2016's Humana Festival in Louisville, Kentucky.  She was deeply moved and felt immediately inspired to seek the rights to present it locally.  Although Jung is Korean, the playwright drew from Uganda's tortured political history for her latest work.

During the 1980's-1990's, more than half a million Ugandans were either killed or expelled from the county between four different, harsh presidential regimes.  A civil war raged in the country for 21 years.  The play opens in 1999, on the eve of the new millennium, and concludes 15 years later.  This provides a glimpse into conditions both during and after the civil war.

It is difficult to relate the plot of Cardboard Piano without revealing what might be considered spoilers by those who haven't seen it. As the play begins, a young American missionary in Uganda, Chris, is solemnizing her same-sex relationship with a local girl, Adiel.  The couple has prepared to flee Chris's disapproving parents and the troubled country right after their marriage ceremony.  Fate intervenes tragically via the arrival of Pika, a teenaged soldier.

Chris returns alone to Uganda in 2014 and the small church her father established there.  An unexpected reunion as well as a chance meeting with Adiel's gay cousin provides Chris with both challenge and hope as she tries to reconcile with her past.  As the play's author has observed, "Religion can do two opposite things: it can destroy, hurt, and be an instigator of violence, but it can also be the only thing capable of controlling that violence."  This is well-illustrated during the course of Cardboard Piano.

desai directs this provocative work with her usual clarity and compassion.  Scenic designer Yuri Okahana, working with ICT for the first time, has provided an impressive set for the action to take place.  Most impressive though is the four-member cast, two of whom play double roles.  I felt Allison Blaize lacked a little focus or commitment on opening night with her performance as Chris but this could have been due to nerves.  Dashawn "Dash" Barnes, JoJo Nwoko and Demetrius Eugene Hodges were excellent.  All four actors are to be commended for their willingness to take on this emotionally wrenching play.

While exiting the theater, I overheard another attendee say "Well, not every play can have a happy ending."  This is true but I believe Cardboard Piano has an open, ultimately hopeful ending.  Kudos to ICT for having the courage to mount this noteworthy premiere.

For tickets, call 562-436-4610 or visit the ICT website.  Use coupon code CENTER18 at checkout for a $10.00 discount on each ticket that will also benefit the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.

Plenty of us LGBTQ folk feel like we’ve long lived on the fringes of society. The irony is that over time we’ve become cultural tastemakers, deciding which TV shows, movies, plays and musicals are truly worthy of attention.

The Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual, open access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community. Begun in 2010, this year’s dates are June 7th-24th. World-premiere plays, musicals, revivals and other theatrical events will infiltrate the Hollywood neighborhood. Fully-equipped theaters, parks, clubs, churches, restaurants and other unexpected places will host hundreds of productions by local, national, and international arts companies as well as independent performers.

Participation in the non-profit fest is completely open and uncensored. This free-for-all approach underlines the festival’s mission to be a platform for artists without the barrier of a curative body. By opening the gates to anyone with a vision, the festival is able to exhibit the most diverse and cutting-edge points of view the world has to offer. Additionally, by creating an environment where artists must self-produce their work, the Fringe motivates its participants to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurialism in the arts.

The Fringe concept was incubated in Edinburgh, Scotland more than 70 years ago. In 1947, eight performance groups appeared uninvited on the “fringes” of the exclusive Edinburgh International Festival. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has since grown into the largest arts festival in the world with hundreds of artists, thousands of performances, and millions of patrons every summer. It annually grosses over $100 million for the local economy and remains the biggest tourist draw in the UK.

Fringe Festivals have since sprung up in dozens of cities around the world. Diversity in programming is strongly encouraged to provide a true festival atmosphere. This typically results in a number of projects with LGBTQ interests. 2018’s offerings will include:

  • The Importance of Being Oscar, which follows Oscar Wilde at the end of his life. Released from prison, he discusses love, loss, morality and lack thereof. A whimsical and heartbreaking tribute, laced with Wilde’s own words and wit.
  • The Actor’s Nightmare, by award-winning gay playwright Christopher Durang, is a one-act comedy exploring different styles of theatre (Shakespeare, Beckett, Coward) and how one man deals with being thrust onstage to perform without having seen his lines.
  • Expectations High, written by teens for teens (and anyone who has ever been a teen). Overheard humor, rumor, drama, trauma, bromance, romance and karma play out during passing periods in high school.
  • Snap Honey. Do you wanna get snapped? Grab a seat, get some tip money and enjoy female impersonator Vageena Honey as she tells the story of her rise to fame in a no-holds-barred diva style.
  • The Book That I’m Going to Write, by Judy Garland. Tasked with dictating her memoirs alone to a tape recorder, the legend's life story quickly gives way to the searing inner-rage and personal revenge fantasies of a woman left robbed and broken by decades of abuse in Hollywood, now living the profound heartbreak of not being heard.
  • A Pride of Queers. What does it mean to be queer? What is queer art? And how do we approach the truth, the vanity, and the stereotypes to find something new? Come and find out.
  • My Calico Soul, a theatrical journey about taking all the labels that get thrust upon us or even give to ourselves and fully embracing them, including bisexuality.
  • Cameron’s in Drag, an emotionally driven musical about adolescence and the difficulties of a young black teen being bullied as he struggles with gender identity, both at his private high school and at home with his widowed father.
  • The Craftlesque, a musical-burlesque parody of the cult classic horror film The Craft!
  • Salve Regina: A Coming of Gay Story. Born in Puerto Rico to an ultra-religious mother and a domineering father is not easy, especially when it’s likely you are a big Queen. Thank God for Madonna.
  • Lorelei: I'm Coming Out. Glitter, Grace, and Grindr… who says the life of a drag queen is easy?
  • Converted. Matt and Zeke get caught having sex at a gay conversion therapy camp in southern Ohio is just the beginning of this one-act comedy.
  • Sex and the Musical. A new parody musical, this prequel to Sex and the City answers the question of how our favorite ladies became friends.
  • Les Deux Remember This: The Musical. This juke box musical begins in 2006 where Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton go out to the famed club Les Deux and discover that their Bentley can time travel.
  • Marilyn Monroe: The Last Interview. Subtitled "The Raw Truth of a Hollywood Legend", this solo show is based on Marilyn's final interview for Life Magazine in 1962.
  • The Bitch is Back: An Elton John Cabaret. A musical journey through Elton John’s hits from the early 70’s to the late 80’s.
  • The Oz Monologues goes beyond the story you already know, exploring each of the beloved characters from The Wizard of Oz... with a poetic and irreverent modern take.

Who knows, some of these shows could go on to off-Broadway or even Broadway as previous Fringe offerings have done.  For more information about these performances and the festival, visit the HFF website.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Reverend's Preview: Newport Beach Film Fest 2018 is Larger than Life


Despite having one major LGBT offering pulled at the eleventh hour by its distributor, this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) will still spotlight several feature-length and short films of interest to our community. The 19th annual event will run April 26th through May 3rd at multiple venues in and around its renowned host city.

NBFF strives each year to bring to Orange County the best of classic and contemporary filmmaking from around the world. It also provides an important forum for cultural understanding and enriching educational opportunities by showcasing a diverse collection of studio and independent films.

Among these are a number of productions with LGBTQ appeal, although this year’s final lineup had not been announced at press time. LGBTQ filmmakers participate as well as thousands of both LGBTQ and straight festival attendees.

One intended inclusion this year was The Game Is Up, a new documentary about LGBT professional athletes. It is inspiring and features several 2018 Olympians including out freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy. Unfortunately, distributor AT&T decided not to screen it at NBFF due to an altered release plan. The film is worth seeing though, whenever and wherever it does eventually show.

UPDATE: The Game Is Up has been retitled as Alone in the Game and will premiere on the AT&T Audience Network on June 28th. Watch the trailer here.

Another standout documentary that will be screened is Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story. Aucoin (pronounced Ah-kwan) revolutionized the art of makeup in the 1980's and 90's and would subsequently become an icon.

After his birth in 1962, Aucoin’s mother gave him up for adoption. He was taken in and raised by a loving family in Lafayette, Louisiana. As a kid, he continuously listened to Barbra Streisand and Cher albums, and was later spotlighted in his high school’s newspaper for his devotion to these divas. He is described in the film as “a tall and lanky club kid, dramatic and over-the-top.”

By the age of 11, Aucoin had committed himself to glamour and beauty, according to one of his friends at the time. Aucoin stated once he was an adult that he had been “a regular little boy who also liked some of the things girls did.” This paid off when he met a New York makeup artist by chance in the early 1980’s. “Months later, he was a pro beyond belief,” the artist who discovered Aucoin reports in the film.

Aucoin took a more naturalistic approach to makeup, and changed the style of the time as a result. “Meticulous,” “a painter” and “a natural with a twist” are a few of the descriptions applied to him in the film. He was also one of the first prominent, openly gay artists at the time and later prided himself on “working toward acceptance of diversity in this business.”

Following his initial work on models (including Paulina Porizkova and Christy Turlington, pictured above with Aucoin) and porn actresses, he began a highly successful career in New York City doing makeup for the covers of such big magazines as Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Aucoin worked on such beautiful and talented women as Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, Andie McDowell, Liza Minnelli, the late Whitney Houston, and his childhood fave, Cher. As one of them comments, “He was addicted to making us beautiful.”Cher is interviewed in the documentary about her admiration for the late artist.

Sadly, Aucoin was diagnosed with a rare pituitary condition that caused some parts of his body, including his hands and skull, to grow larger than normal. This became more painful over time and he became addicted to Vicodin and other pain medications. Word of his addiction spread through the industry and ended his career. Aucoin died in 2002 at the age of 40 as a result of his drug abuse.

Directed by Tiffany Bartok, Larger Than Life is a comprehensive, intimate look at Aucoin’s short-lived but impressive time on Earth. His legend as both a makeup artist and a pioneer in the fight for LGBT rights lives on. Not even Aucoin’s untimely death could stop the revolution he helped to launch. As no less a luminary than Cher states in the documentary, “He inspired so many people.”

NBFF 2018 will also present an LGBTQ short films program entitled “Short, Sweet & Queer.” The lineup includes the following: 
  • Alex and the Handyman, in which a 9-year old boy develops a crush on the moody 25-year old guy who works in his family’s mansion.
  • Broad Strokes, about two gay, platonic friends who contemplate marrying each other and raising a family when they fail to find their significant others.
  • Disforia finds a young, gender-queer person returning home after an absence to discover his family has moved away and their house has been sold.
  • Jordy in Transitland, a modern fairy tale about a trans woman on the brink of her physical transition who finds it more challenging than anticipated.
  • Manivald, an animated exploration of the title character’s harmonious life being disrupted by the arrival of a hot young plumber.
  • Suitable, which features a young, ethnically diverse cast in a story of gender politics.
  • Swim, the award-winning look at a young trans girl who finds freedom taking a secret midnight swim.

Individual tickets and festival passes are now on sale. They may be purchased by visiting the NBFF website or calling 949-253-2880.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dearest Reviews: Three Toons and a Baby

No wonder Coco won.

Quick takes on some popular animated movies now streaming and/or on home video.

It's odd to see a family flick centered around the "sport" of bullfighting in this day and age, but here it is. Nevertheless, this modern adaptation of the kid lit classic (previously made by Disney as an Oscar-winning cartoon in 1938) is silly fun and sometimes clever (our hero visits the proverbial china shop), although one has to question the casting of wrestling stud John Cena in the title role... who casts John Cena for his voice? One can only imagine the queer lunacy a Nathan Lane could have brought to the part of a flower-loving pacifist. (6/10) Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Um... is he pointing at his nipples?

The Breadwinner:
This Afghani version of Mulan from Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon begins with the young protagonist witnessing her mother being brutally beaten in the street. Yikes... I don't normally have issues with mature themes in animation, but I do when the characters resemble the cute little sprites from The Secret of Kells. Parents beware. (5/10) Now streaming on Netflix.

Don't trust this face.

Cars 3:
Hey Pixar, are you finally done with this worn-out, over-exposed franchise? Now that I've got that out of my system, this third Cars feature isn't too bad, especially since the focus has shifted back to Lightning McQueen (after the wall-to-wall Mater of Cars 2), even if he is saddled with a downer storyline about facing that final pit stop... uh, retirement? Yep, I think they're done. (6/10) Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Glengarry Glen Gerber

The Boss Baby:
In a field that has included the sad likes of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Shark Tale, The Boss Baby can now easily claim the title of the worst movie to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Crammed to the breaking point with everything that makes today's average animated fare so bad — such sloppy, lazy tropes as stunt voice casting (Alec Baldwin! As a baby!), a soundtrack-ful of tired pop songs, plenty of poop/fart/burp/booger jokes — this Boss Baby deserves a permanent time out. (2/10) Now streaming on Netflix.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Reverend's Reviews: Totally Awesome Visions, New & Old


I have emerged from my longer-than-anticipated, post-awards season recovery coma.  Somewhat similarly, Steven Spielberg has just premiered his first post-The Post movie, Ready Player One. It proves to be an awesome, just plain fun return to the über-director's 1980's heyday before he got all serious and stuffy with 1993's Oscar-winning Schindler's List.  Despite a couple of exceptions, Spielberg has been making serious films ever since including Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Munich, Bridge of Spies and last year's The Post.

Ready Player One barely has a serious bone in its body, and the movie is totally successful as a result.  It is also dripping with nostalgia for all things 1980's-early 90's.  The time travel-augmented Delorean from Back to the Future is prominently featured, as are Spock's burial capsule from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, incantations from John Boorman's Arthurian epic Excalibur, and a rampaging T-Rex from Spielberg's own Jurassic Park.  Twisted Sister's rowdy "We're Not Gonna Take It" plays over the film's climactic battle scene.  Had Ready Player One actually been made in the 80's, Corey Haim no doubt would have played hero Wade Watts (a.k.a. Parzival) instead of current headliner Tye Sheridan, while Peter Coyote would be cast as big baddie Nolan Sorrento instead of new villain du jour Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Animal Kingdom).

Set in the year 2045 and a predictably dystopian, post-Trump Ohio, Spielberg's terrific sci-fi adventure showcases Wade's efforts to solve three virtual reality riddles created by the late James Halliday (a great performance by the director's current muse, Mark Rylance, in a fright wig and age-defying CGI).  Whoever solves these puzzles by the Willy Wonka-ish video game designer will win a priceless "Easter egg" including ownership of Halliday's entire online universe, known as the OASIS.

Naturally, anything priceless is going to attract not only well-intentioned folks like Wade but money-grubbing, megalomaniacal people such as Sorrento, who turns out to have been Halliday's former personal assistant. Sorrento lords over a staff of hundreds whose only job is to play the OASIS's games and get the all-powerful Easter egg. A big part of the fun in watching the visually dazzling Ready Player One for anyone over 40 is looking for the many mini "Easter eggs" that play brief background roles.  Appropriately enough, my friends and I saw the movie on Easter Sunday.  It was definitely less messy than dying actual eggs.

The movie's best sequence is set in the Overlook Hotel, haunted setting of Stephen King's horror novel The Shining and Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation.  I haven't read the book Ready Player One but I've read that this Shining sequence replaced a lengthy literary homage to Blade Runner. It includes appearances by the scary twin girls and an expanded part for the bathtub-dwelling ghost in infamous room 237.

In the end, Ready Player One incorporates the best elements of Spielberg's 80's oeuvre: heroic young people, awe-inspiring special effects, abundant humor, and an emotionally uplifting finale. Older viewers may have difficulty with all the fast-moving video game CGI on display but will still likely enjoy this thrill ride of a film.

Classic cinema meets modern media in two stunning new Blu-ray releases from the lovingly curated Criterion Collection.  Turning back the clock 90 years, we find Carl Theodore Dreyer's famed religious pageant The Passion of Joan of Arc.  Inspirational in the best sense, it draws from actual court documents of the time to recount the trial, sentencing and execution of the female French soldier who would eventually become one of the Catholic Church's most renowned saints.

Renee Falconetti gives an unforgettable, screen-searing performance in the title role.  Dreyer required Falconetti and the rest of his cast to forego makeup in order to heighten the film's Middle Ages authenticity.  Rudolph Mate's innovative black and white photography, heavy on extreme closeups and odd angles, has inspired generations of cinematographers.

The Blu-ray of The Passion of Joan of Arc boasts numerous extras of historical interest as well as three different music scores by which to watch it.  One is Richard Einhorn's acclaimed oratorio "Voices of Light," which accompanied the film's 1995 release on VHS.  While this is the best regarded option, I enjoyed/appreciated the more recent, percussion-heavy score co-composed by rockers Will Gregory of Goldfrapp and Adrian Utley of Portishead.  The third musical option by Japanese pianist Mie Yanashita is lovely and reflective.  This universally-recognized classic is worth watching with all three scores as well as in its original silent mode.

Fast-forwarding to 1968 is Criterion's spotless, newly restored release of George A. Romero's revolutionary Night of the Living Dead.  The late director's famously low-budget horror hit set the template for all subsequent depictions of zombie uprisings, including today's Walking Dead franchise.  But the film may strike many as more significant or timely than ever due to its not-so-subtle commentary on race relations in the US.  Watching it now as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination makes this movie that much more relevant.

Largely set in a Pennsylvania farmhouse and its surrounding countryside, the movie depicts uneasy relations among a group of white strangers who have taken refuge from a siege by flesh-hungry undead.  The appearance of a black man (Ben, memorably played by Duane Jones) who is easily the smartest and strongest of them all only serves to heighten tensions.  In the end, the black hero survives only to be killed by a sheriff's posse that shoots without even determining if he is a zombie.

The original theatrical release of Night of the Living Dead at the height of the Civil Rights Movement was an unintended but providential occurrence that has helped to make the movie a cross-generational, multi-ethnic phenomenon for five decades now.  Sure, the actors' performances are amateurish at times and I noticed upon re-viewing it that some of the sound editing is off, especially during a fistfight scene.  These are minor criticisms though when held up against this movie's enduring cultural impact.  A new documentary about this, Light in the Darkness, is included as a bonus and features new Oscar winner Guillermo Del Toro among its commentators. Awesome indeed.

Reverend's Ratings:
Ready Player One: A-
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): A
Night of the Living Dead (1968): A-

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

MD Top 10: Will & Grace Guest Stars Who Need to Return

In its heyday, Will & Grace had so many guest stars it was practically The Love Boat (with Jack, Your Cruise Director). These guest spots ranged from hilarious (Matt Damon as a straight guy who just wants to sing) and iconic (Cher, naturally) to misfires (Ellen DeGeneres as a nun?) and outright bombs (Madonna or Britney, take your pick).

Since its return last fall, the classic sitcom has continued its guest star tradition with both new and returning celebs, including Grace and Will's ex-loves (Harry Connick, Jr. as Leo Markus, Bobby Cannavale as Vince D'Angelo), a couple of Karen's many nemeses (Minnie Driver as Lorraine Finster, Leslie Jordan as Beverly Leslie), recurring faves Nurse Sheila (Laura Kightlinger) and Val Bassett (Molly Shannon) and, coming soon, Blythe Danner as Will's mom Marilyn and Alec Baldwin as the mysterious Malcolm Widmark.

Of course, we'd love to see even more blasts from the past, and now that Will & Grace has been renewed for yet another season already they'll have plenty of opportunities to bring back some of our old favorites, such as...

(In alphabetical order, click on character name for a video clip.)

1. Candice Bergen as Candice Bergen

The multiple Emmy winner (or is it People's Choice Awards?) can warm up for the pending return of Murphy Brown by sparring with Karen yet again; imagine their debate about the pros and cons of a certain commander-in-chief.

2. Sandra Bernhard as Sandra Bernhard

Picture it: Will and Grace once again cross paths with the comedienne (who will also be in the upcoming Roseanne revival) and, since Sandra doesn't remember them, they become pals again... until Grace breaks out in song.

3. Veronica Cartwright as Judith McFarland

Jack has already mentioned his loving but clueless mother ("What is she, headless?") in the current season, a perfect set up to bring her back for a long-awaited second appearance. How about a dinner party with Marilyn?

4. Cher as Cher

Dear NBC: Just. Make it. Happen. Signed: The Grateful Gays of the World.

5. Michael Douglas as Gavin Hatch

Connect the dots... Gavin was a closeted cop who took a shine to Will. Jack's current boyfriend is a cop just out of the closet. How about a blind double date? Woof!

6. Christine Ebersole as Candy Pruitt

Candy was one of Karen's many high society rivals, the one with a penchant for plastic surgery. Imagine her now in the age of Botox.

7. Woody Harrelson as Nathan

Leo who? We always thought Nathan was the true love of Grace's life, and his bohemian vibe played well off of the straight(ahem)-laced Will. So how about a round two?

8. Dan Futterman as Barry

Don't you want to see where Barry is at now? Karen's cousin, who was Eliza Dolittle-d into a handsome head-turner by Will and Jack, has been out for awhile now... time enough surely to give Will a second chance.

9. Parker Posey as Dorleen

What a hoot it would be to see Posey (who'll play a gender-swapped Dr. Smith in Netflix's Lost in Space reboot) yet again as Dorleen, Jack's high-strung supervisor during his all-to-brief stint at Barney's.

10. Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Ro D'Angelo

Let's face it: Will & Grace was never too kind to lesbians during its original run (remember the cringe-inducing couple played by Edie Falco and Chloë Sevigny? Yikes). They can make up for it now with an encore appearance of Vince's sister Ro, who Jack convinced to come out to her family that one memorable Thanksgiving.

There are just two episodes left of Will & Grace this season, so you'll know where to find me the next two Thursday nights...!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Dearest Reviews: The Kids Are All Right

Casting a glance

Kids these days... Quick takes on Lady Bird, Wonder, Wonderstruck and The Florida Project.

Lady Bird:
Writer/director/critical darling Greta Gerwig has winningly recreated her quirky/angsty teen years of the early oughts in Sacremento, California, finding her ideal "mini-me" stand-in in Saoirse Ronan. Laurie Metcalf also shines as the put-upon mom in this often funny, often bittersweet (though quite overrated) coming of age tale. (7/10) Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Boy Wonder

This inspirational crowd-pleaser starring that charming Room-mate Jacob Tremblay as a boy born with a facial deformity is a lot better than it needed to be as far as inspirational crowd-pleasers go. Over earnest and sentimental, yes, but if you have a big heart you'll likely be tearing up within the first five minutes. (7/10) Now available on DVD and Blu-ray. one era and out the other...

Todd Haynes' gem of a family-friendly film will leave you, well, wonderstruck with its simple beauty and top drawer craftsmanship. Telling a decade-spanning story of two lost kids in search of familial connections, Wonderstruck takes place in the real world but has the magical feel of such beloved fantasies as The Wizard of Oz. A true future classic. (9/10) Now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Dafoe and da ho

The Florida Project:
Just because it's set on the outskirts of the Happiest Place on Earth does not make this dreary, gross mess of a wildly-overpraised indie at all Disney-ish, let alone watchable. Filled with non-actors as foul-mouthed, obnoxious children and their mothers, poor Willem Dafoe is the one (slightly) saving grace in Sean Baker's perversely pretentious morass. (2/10) Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

Friday, March 2, 2018

If We Picked the Oscars 2017


Borrowing a page from Siskel and Ebert from back in the day, we here at Movie Dearest are 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 as well as the "Worst Nominations of the Year". 


So without further ado, the envelope please...

The nominees for Best Picture are: Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And our winners would be:
CC: It was a very strong year at the movies, and this is one of the rare lists of nominees where they are almost all equally worthy of the gold.  True, I consider Call Me By Your Name a tad overrated but its heart is certainly in the right place.  Most of the other nominees made my top 10 of 2017.  All that being said, I would vote for my #1 pick, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  Martin McDonagh's exceptional drama with darkly comic touches surprised, impressed and moved me the most when compared with its fellow competitors.
KH: Since it topped both the Dearie Awards and my own personal top 10, it should be no surprise that my choice for Best Picture would be The Shape of Water (or that it will be mentioned by me many more times by the end of this piece).
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Wonder Woman was one of the best comic book-inspired movies of the last 40 years.  Including it here, especially in light of the 2017 birth of the #MeToo movement, would have been most appropriate.
KH: And since it came at number 2 on my top 10, it should also be no surprise that my choice here would be for Wonderstruck, Todd Haynes' marvelous mini-masterpiece that unfortunately got lost in all the shuffle this awards season.

For their final voting, Academy members are asked to rank the Best Picture nominees from #1 to #9, so here are our rankings:
CC: 1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2. Dunkirk, 3. The Shape of Water, 4. Darkest Hour, 5. Get Out, 6. Lady Bird, 7. Phantom Thread, 8. The Post and 9. Call Me By Your Name.
KH: 1. The Shape of Water, 2. Darkest Hour, 3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 4. Phantom Thread, 5. Get Out, 6. Lady Bird, 7. Dunkirk, 8. The Post and 9. Call Me by Your Name.

The nominees for Best Actor are: Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name, Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour and Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq.
And our winners would be:
CC: Gary Oldman, hands down.  One of our generation's best actors, he has received surprisingly few nominations over the years and has never won.  This is his time but, most critically, I forgot I was watching Oldman midway through Darkest Hour and was convinced it was Winston Churchill himself.  Now that's acting!
KH: Yes, he's been the presumed front-runner for months now and long overdue for his years of brilliant work, but Gary Oldman deserves the gold for his wholly-immersed, deeply fascinating performance of Winston Churchill.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Tom Hanks gave one of his best, least hammy performances in years as The Post's Ben Bradlee.  Hanks and Streep also had great chemistry.  She was nominated (again) but he wasn't.  What gives?
KH: First Nightcrawler, now Stronger... what does Jake Gyllenhaal have to do to get his second Oscar nomination?

The nominees for Best Actress are: Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird and Meryl Streep in The Post
And our winners would be:
CC: This is a very strong group of contenders.  As much as I loved all their performances, I would vote for the delightful Sally Hawkins.  She was the virtually silent heart and soul of Guillermo del Toro's lovably odd romantic-fantasy.
KH: Sally Hawkins made her Elisa inspired, passionate, intelligent, empathetic, determined, loyal and even a little feisty... all without saying a word.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Gal Gadot's star-making turn as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince in three movies now should have received more respect from the Academy's acting branch.
KH: Once again, Meryl Streep's mannered flouncing has caused the unjust omission of a superior performance. This year's casualty: Jessica Chastain's firecracker "Poker Princess" in Molly's Game.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are: Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project, Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Richard Jenkins in The Shape of Water, Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World and Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And our winners would be:
CC: I haven't seen All the Money in the World but loved all the other nominees' performances.  Harrelson and Rockwell kind of split my vote, leaving Dafoe and Jenkins.  Both are terrific in their respective movies but I can't help but feel Dafoe is more overdue.  Willem Dafoe gets my vote.
KH: As the gay artist Giles, Richard Jenkins deftly created a world-weary man ready to give up until his life brushes up against the fantastic.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Michael Stuhlbarg's deeply moving turn as the unconditionally loving father of a gay teen in Call Me By Your Name.
KH: In Logan, Patrick Stewart was stunning, heartbreaking as fallen hero Charles Xavier.

The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Mary J. Blige in Mudbound, Allison Janney in I, Tonya, Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread, Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water
And our winners would be:
CC: Lesley Manville's delicious performance was a late season surprise and it is tempting to vote for her out of all these strong women.  However, Laurie Metcalf would get my vote not only on the strength of her performance but because it would get her that much closer to EGOT status.
KH: I love me some Allison Janney, but her mommie dearest turn in I, Tonya felt too much like her Mom character cranked up to an R rating. I'll go for the other mother, Lady Bird's quietly imploding one, 'cause I also love me some Laurie Metcalf.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Catherine Keener's memorably creepy, tea-stirring psycho mom in Get Out.
KH: Too bad that there wasn't enough room for another mother or two, such as The Big Sick's Holly Hunter and/or mother!'s Michelle Pfeiffer.

The nominees for Best Director are: Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread, Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk and Jordan Peele for Get Out
And our winners would be:
CC: The never-nominated Nolan did a spectacular, masterful job with Dunkirk.  No other movie last year made me feel I was in the midst of the action as it did.  Despite my deep admiration of del Toro and The Shape of Water, Christopher Nolan would get my vote.
KH: Only Guillermo del Toro could have made a love story about a deaf and mute woman and the Creature of the Black Lagoon not only work, but soar.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I'm glad they nominated at least one woman in this category, but Patty Jenkins would have been another welcome nominee for her great work finally getting Wonder Woman's solo movie to the big screen.
KH: You can't go wrong with a Wright: either Joe (Darkest Hour) or Edgar (Baby Driver).

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are: Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly's Game and Mudbound
And our winners would be:
CC: Although it isn't his fault, even likely Oscar winner James Ivory has complained about how his more sexually graphic adaptation of Call Me By Your Name was compromised during production. That tips me in the direction of Aaron Sorkin's crackling good script for Molly's Game.
KH: OK, I don't know how to play poker and I don't get gambling, but that didn't make Molly's Game (written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin from the Molly Bloom memoir) any less thrillingly entertaining.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick's elegant adaptation of his time-tripping novel.
KH: Two young adult novels — R.J. Palacio's Wonder and Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck — were nicely transformed into fine films for all ages by (respectively) Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad & Stephen Chbosky and Selznick himself.

The nominees for Best Original Screenplay are: The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And our winners would be:
CC: This is another strong group of almost equally-good contenders but Martin McDonagh's thoughtful, timely script for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri gets my vote.
KH: The spectacular uniqueness of The Shape of Water is in its mixture of fairy tale, horror story, Cold War thriller and cinematic homage, and that all originates in Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor's script.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: A lot of critics including myself appreciated writer-director Kogonada's reflective indie Columbus.  Perhaps with a little more visibility it would have made this category.
KH: It's a shame that the late-in-the-game surge for Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread didn't also include a nomination for his clever, darkly comic screenplay.

The nominees for Best Cinematography are: Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Mudbound and The Shape of Water
And our winners would be:
CC: 14-time nominee bridesmaid Roger Deakins deserves to win for the frequently gorgeous Blade Runner sequel, but I found The Shape of Water a more organically beautiful movie.
KH: It's a crime that Roger Deakins doesn't have an Oscar (or three) already but his stellar work on Blade Runner 2049 will hopefully, finally solve that problem.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's sexy, sun-dappled work on Call Me By Your Name.  'Nuff said.
KH: Edward Lachman made the two distinct stories of Wonderstruck look like they were filmed in their respective eras: a black and white silent movie and a gritty 70s film.

The nominees for Best Production Design are: Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk and The Shape of Water
And our winners would be:
CC: The other nominees are great to look at but The Shape of Water's art direction is uniquely, gorgeously evocative.
KH: From the bright green slices of Key lime pie to the shadowy secret lab to that dreamy musical fantasy in glorious black and white, the look of The Shape of Water is one of a kind.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: It's costumes understandably command the most attention but Phantom Thread's sets are almost equally entrancing.
KH: The 19th century settings of The Greatest Showman deserved to be celebrated.

The nominees for Best Costume Design are: Beauty and the Beast, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water and Victoria & Abdul
And our winners would be:
CC: Phantom Thread made me want to dress in drag for the first time ever, so it naturally gets my vote.
KH: Considering its fashion house locale and all those fabulous frocks continuously paraded before our eyes, how could it be anything but Phantom Thread? It deserves to win for that pink lace number (pictured) alone.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: While I was underwhelmed by The Greatest Showman on the whole, Ellen Mirojnick's costumes are dazzling.
KH: Wonder Woman was really three movies in one — superhero fantasy, period piece and war epic — each with their own unique costuming demands.

The nominees for Best Original Score are: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And our winners would be:
CC: Jonny Greenwood of the rock band Radiohead composed a surprisingly symphonic score for Phantom Thread.  As much as I enjoyed The Shape of Water's more whimsical soundtrack, Greenwood gets my vote.
KH: Alexandre Desplat's lushly romantic, Old Hollywood-style score for The Shape of Water made a great movie even better.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I loooove Mark Mothersbaugh's 80's-inflected yet suitably heroic work on Thor: Ragnarok, complete with a Grandmaster Jam Session!
KH: You have to wonder how Carter Burwell was nominated this year for Three Billboards and not Wonderstruck.

The nominees for Best Original Song are: "Mighty River" from Mudbound, "Mystery of Love" from Call Me By Your Name, "Remember Me" from Coco, "Stand Up for Something" from Marshall and "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman
And our winners would be:
CC: I didn't think the wonder duo Pasek & Paul deserved to win last year for their too simplistic "City of Stars."  This year, though, I would vote for their rousing "This Is Me" anthem over the similarly simplistic "Remember Me."
KH: As much as I admire how well "Remember Me" is integrated into the story of Coco, my vote goes to the more lyrically rich "This Is Me"... and I can't wait to see Keala Settle kill it on Sunday night.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I'm partial to Sara Bareilles' "If I Dare" end title tune from the otherwise neglected Battle of the Sexes.
KH: The original Beauty and the Beast scored three nominations here (a first), so perhaps a fourth for the big Beast ballad "Evermore" from this year's live action remake was too much to ask for.

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: Baby Driver, Dunkirk, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
And our winners would be:
CC: Dunkirk's innovative time-hopping narrative was aided and abetted by the superb editing.
KH: The opening bank heist/car chase synced to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms" alone makes Baby Driver more than deserving of the prize for Best Film Editing.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Wonder Woman comes to mind first and foremost.
KH: Overall Molly's Game should have got more love, especially in this category.

The nominees for Best Sound Mixing are: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water and Star Wars: The Last Jedi
And our winners would be:
CC: Its kinda a toss up for me between Dunkirk and The Last Jedi but I would probably vote for the historical former.
KH: The opening bank heist/car chase synced to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms" alone makes Baby Driver more than deserving of the prize for Best Sound Mixing as well.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I'm thinking Wonder Woman is going to be my nominee in most of these technical categories.
KH: Pick a musical: Beauty and the Beast, Coco or The Greatest Showman.

The nominees for Best Sound Editing are: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water and Star Wars: The Last Jedi
And our winners would be:
CC: Dunkirk, natch.
KH: The Shape of Water sound editors gave our aquatic hero his voice.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Wonder Woman, natch.
KH: Wonder Woman, for all those bullets bouncing off her bracelets.

The nominees for Best Visual Effects are: Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and War for the Planet of the Apes
And our winners would be:
CC: War for the Planet of the Apes Shockingly, none of the previous films' brilliantly conceived CGI effects have won.  This one should to honor the entire trilogy (to date).
KH: Five nominees, five franchise films. Which one showed us the most of what we hadn't seen before? Blade Runner 2049, easily.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: Thor: Ragnarok, if primarily for Cate Blanchett's fabulous CGI headdresses.
KH: The Visual Effects branch should be embarrassed and ashamed for the lack of a nomination in this category for The Shape of Water.

The nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are: Darkest Hour, Victoria & Abdul and Wonder
And our winners would be:
CC: Darkest Hour for so completely and convincingly transforming Gary Oldman.
KH: With their transformation of Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill, the Darkest Hour team created not just the best character makeup of the year but perhaps the best character makeup ever.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The Shape of Water, duh.
KH: Perhaps the creature makeup was deemed too much of a special effect, but the lack of The Shape of Water here sure looks odd.

The nominees for Best Animated Feature are: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand and Loving Vincent
And our winners would be:
CC: The Boss Baby?  Uh, no.  The heart-tugging Coco gets my vote.
KH: The old school artistry of Loving Vincent is tempting, but the joyful Coco is irresistible.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: How did Boss Baby get nominated over the smart and hilarious Lego Batman Movie???
KH: Holy snub, Batman! Where's The Lego Batman Movie?

The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film are: A Fantastic Woman (Chili), The Insult (Lebanon), Loveless (Russia), On Body and Soul (Hungary) and The Square (Sweden)
And our winners would be:
CC: I regret I haven't seen them all but, out of the three I have seen, The Square rules.
KH:  I haven't seen Loveless, was underwhelmed with A Fantastic Woman, repulsed by On Body and Soul and, well, see below for my thoughts on The Square. So I guess that leaves The Insult...
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: The omission of France's inspiring and moving AIDS drama BPM (Beats Per Minute) borders on the criminal.
KH: Where is Golden Globe and Critics' Choice winner In the Fade? Sorry, but this category really sucks this year.

The nominees for Best Documentary Feature are: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo and Strong Island
And our winners would be:
CC: Strong Island tells a heart-rending story from a unique, trans perspective.
KH: I loved Agnès Varda's quirky Faces Places, but it felt more like a travelogue than a documentary. My choice would be the intensely personal Strong Island, which found new ways to tell an unfortunately familiar tale.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: There are a lot of contenders here but Jane is probably the most egregious.
KH: Jane, the Most Egregiously Overlooked of the Year.

The nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are: Edith+Eddie, Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Heroin(e), Knife Skills and Traffic Stop
And our winners would be:
CC: Sorry to say I haven't had time to see any of them, even though they're short.
KH: The heartbreaking Edith+Eddie is unforgettable.

The nominees for Best Animated Short Film are: Dear Basketball, Garden Party, Lou, Negative Space and Revolting Rhymes
And our winners would be:
CC: The only one I've seen is Dear Basketball but its a winner.
KH: Despite a somewhat gruesome ending, I got a kick out of the antics of the photo-realistic amphibians in Garden Party.
Egregiously Overlooked:
CC: I'm apparently one of the few who enjoyed Olaf's Frozen Adventure, probably enough to nominate it if I had the chance.
KH: Although it's a bit simplistic, I would have picked In a Heartbeat over the Pixar dud Lou in a, well, heartbeat.

The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film are: DeKalb Elementary, The Eleven O'Clock, My Nephew Emmett, The Silent Child and Watu Wote/All of Us
And our winners would be:
CC: Haven't seen any of them, regretfully.
KH: Even in this, the strongest batch of shorts this year, the bittersweet The Silent Child stands out.

And now for our own special category of dishonorable mention, the Worst Nomination of the Year:
CC: As I think I indicated loud and clear above, The Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature.
KH: Maybe it's a European thing? How else to explain the wealth of accolades, from the Cannes Palme d'Or to six European Film Awards, that have been showered on The Square, the Best Foreign Language Film nominee from Sweden. Billed as a "satire of the art world", it isn't funny. At all. For all of its 151 minutes. In a year with so many good foreign films (In the Fade, BPM (Beats Per Minute), Thelma, The Wound, Tom of Finland), it is incredibly frustrating that such a coy, pretentious and insulting piece of Eurotrash as this made it to the Oscars.

And so the final march to Oscar glory begins. Tune in to the Big Show, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, on ABC this Sunday to see who wins, as well as which nominees are rocking the best (and worst) gowns, most attractive 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.

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