Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Dearest Review: Short Cuts 2019, Part 3: Oscar's Documentary Short Subject Nominees


 

ShortsTV once again presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater or streaming service near you. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see all of these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the last of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.


Unlike the bumper crop of contenders for the Documentary Feature category (where such high profile hits as Won't You Be My Neighbor? and Three Identical Strangers couldn't even make the final cut), the pool of Documentary Shorts must have been a shallow one considering this mostly average slate of nominees. The largely familiar subjects and/or lack of innovative approaches makes this year's finalists a weaker field than recent years. And a somber one as well, which is good news for the lone "inspirational" nominee as "overcoming adversity" narratives are often the victors here.

In addition to my reviews and video links, I've suggested a similarly-themed Oscar nominated feature film to pair with each short film nominee to create your own Academy-sanctioned double feature. Bring on the popcorn!

And the nominees are...



Black Sheep, Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn (UK, 27 minutes).

Meet Cornelius Walker, a black man who spent his youth going to extreme lengths to "fit in" with his racist friends. Winner of several film festival awards, this vivid personal history is brought to life through well-crafted reenactments depicting Walker's physical transformation, which even he is shocked by in retrospect. Walker is undoubtedly a charismatic subject (and his story just screams to be fully dramatized), yet Black Sheep comes up short in the end by, curiously, leaving out how his survival plan ultimately played out.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: Documentary Feature nominee Hale County This Morning, This Evening, another intimate study of the modern black experience.



End Game, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (USA, 40 minutes).

An intimate look inside San Francisco’s Zen Hospice Project and UCSF’s Palliative Care Program, where several terminal patients are faced with the choices that must be made as they are nearing the end of their lives. From the long-running directing duo behind the Oscar winning Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (as well as such essential gay docs as The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175, etc.), this Netflix documentary short doesn't live up to their past work; it feels like the first draft of what would be a more fully-realized feature.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 6/10
Pair it with: Granted, the title may sound a tad too on the nose here, but the biopic At Eternity's Gate does deal with the final days of famed painter Vincent Van Gogh's life.



Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser (USA, 34 minutes).

Volunteers from a German non-profit humanitarian group search the Mediterranean Sea to rescue Libyan refugees who have fled from their country in dangerously overcrowded rafts. The second installment of the filmmakers' trilogy of short films exploring the global refugee crisis, Lifeboat does have an important story to tell. However, its impact is reduced if one has seen the feature Fire at Sea and/or the short 4.1 Miles, two Oscar nominated docs from two years ago that covered similar ground in much more immediate fashions.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 6/10
Pair it with: Like these refugees who are seeking a better life, the young protagonist of Capernaum (Lebanon's Foreign Language Film contender) is fighting against the life that was imposed on him.



A Night at The Garden, Marshall Curry (USA, 7 minutes).

On February 20, 1939, an American Nazi rally is attended by 20,000 people in New York City's Madison Square Garden. This one is a puzzlement to me. There is no doubt that what we see is powerful, and terrifyingly similar to certain modern-day political rallies (which is probably why it has made it this far at the Oscars). But it is literally just archival footage, with no commentary other than a three-sentence title card at the end. Frankly, it just doesn't seem it deserves to be here considering how little actual filmmaking was involved in it.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 5/10
Pair it with: Needless to say it is not much of a stretch to go from Nazis to the KKK, therefore: BlacKkKlansman.



Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton (USA, 26 minutes).

In India, female menstruation is looked upon as taboo and less than 10% of women use feminine hygiene products. We meet a group of women who, fed up with the stigma attached to this natural act of human biology, learn how to manufacture and sell sanitary pads. Sponsored by the Pad Project, this AFI Fest Award winner from Netflix refreshingly focuses on the solution rather than the problem, and the result is a joyous salute to its inspiring subjects, women helping women by making their lives better in a basic but profound way.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 8/10
Pair it with: A female empowerment doc? You won't find a better match than RBG.


Coming soon: A Movie Dearest annual tradition: "If We Picked the Oscars".

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: Men of the Moment



After a five-decade career on the screen, Sam Elliott is currently enjoying his first Oscar nomination. The 75-year old actor has played memorable roles in such films as Mask, Tombstone, Hulk, The Hero, Road House and Lifeguard (wherein he memorably wears little more than a Speedo). He has finally been honored by the Academy and other awards-giving groups for his turn as Bradley Cooper's older brother/surrogate father in A Star is Born.


Elliott's brand new movie is perhaps his most offbeat to date. He headlines as Calvin Barr, the title character in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. Proclaiming itself "an American myth" in ads, it is now playing in theaters and is available on VOD. Long retired after assassinating the Führer at the end of World War II (turns out the US and Germany conspired to make Hitler's death appear a suicide), Calvin is recruited in the modern day to hunt down ol' Sasquatch. Bigfoot is believed to be carrying a plague that could potentially wipe out all life on the planet.

The film, written and directed by Robert D. Krzykowski, veers unevenly at times between high adventure, period romance, and reflective philosophical drama. It is highly enjoyable in the end, though, and beautifully photographed by Alex Vendler. Elliott is at his rugged, taciturn best throughout, with handsome Aidan Turner (Kili in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy as well as star of the BBC's Poldark) appearing as the younger Calvin in flashbacks. Actor-comedian Larry Miller is also memorable as Calvin's brother. Miller and Elliott have almost as good a sibling chemistry as Elliott and Cooper do in A Star is Born.

Composer Joe Kraemer provides a John Williams-esque music score. Also of note, this movie's producers include indie filmmaker fave John Sayles plus Oscar-winning special effects guru Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner). While it is early in 2019, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is my fave movie of the year so far.


While it wasn't the blockbuster many anticipated it to be, I found M. Night Shyamalan's Glass to be a worthy and exciting sequel to his earlier thrillers Unbreakable and Split. Of course, we didn't learn until the end of Split that it was even related to 2000's superhero origin story that starred Bruce Willis as a man unable to be injured.

Willis and Samuel L. Jackson (as his arch-nemesis, Mr. Glass) both returned for the new film, with James McAvoy reprising his role as Split's multi-personality disorder afflicted Kevin Wendell Crumb. It's great to see Willis and Jackson sparring once again, if briefly, but this movie totally belongs to McAvoy. He portrays all 24 personalities collectively known as "The Horde" (we only saw about half of them in Split) and dazzles during one scene where he switches from one to the other in rapid succession.

Although McAvoy's acting is spellbinding throughout (he plays female characters in addition to males plus at least one gay personality), his in-shape body may be even more impressive. He spends much of the movie in form-fitting hospital "scrubs" but tears his shirt off whenever he becomes "the Beast," Crumb's most malevolent, animalistic persona. McAvoy leaps across rooms, climbs walls, and rampages across the hospital's parking lot. I couldn't take my eyes off him, nor would I want to.

Not all the plot points in Glass make sense, and some dramatic developments (especially those involving Mr. Glass's machinations) seem to happen way too easily. It is a satisfying conclusion, though, to a risk-taking mythic trilogy.


I hadn't heard of gay filmmaker Ohm Phanphiroj until I received press info about a new DVD release showcasing several of his works (more of his tamer shorts can be found on YouTube). Desire: The Short Films of Ohm will be available February 26th from TLA Releasing. Comprised of four sexually-charged tales plus one mini documentary, it serves as a fine introduction to this director's no-holds-barred approach to modern gay/questioning relations.

The Deaf Boy's Disease and The Last Kiss both focus on the same trio of young men dealing with their sexuality but at different points in their lives. The documentary, The Meaning of it All, features Ohm himself conducting interviews – and more, ahem – with various attractive guys while in Atlanta, Georgia. All That I Desire is a somewhat disturbing art installation piece, while The Space Between Us proves to be the best and most affecting of these shorts. In the latter, a middle-aged married man and the 17-year old homeless youth he picks up have an honest getting-to-know-you encounter in a hotel room.

Some of the films suffer somewhat due to amateurish performances, but Ohm has a great eye and also employs sharp time-jumping editing. I'll be following him and his work from now on, and I encourage other gay viewers to do the same.


Steve McLean's Postcards from London, now available on DVD from Strand, is one of the most stylish and intellectual gay-themed films to come along in some time. A delayed but more confident follow-up to McLean's 1994 Postcards from America, it deals with art, psychology and cultural literacy, not your typical topics in homo flicks.

Harris Dickinson (hottie star of 2017's Beach Rats) stars here as Jim, an adventurous if naïve young man who moves to London from the provinces in search of "a world full of mysteries and possibilities." He is quickly robbed but subsequently taken in by a group of "raconteurs," art-loving call boys who specialize in providing "intellectual intimacy" to wealthy older men. They teach Jim their ways and he soon becomes the most successful at their trade. Unfortunately, Jim also comes down with a case of rare Stendahl Syndrome, which causes its sufferers to develop a physical aversion to fine art.

The plot of Postcards from London sounds strange on paper, but I assure you McLean makes it work beautifully through his use of neon-lit, painterly tableaus; Caravaggio and Pasolini references; and an interesting mix of pop songs and standards that culminate in a dance number. Dickinson is captivating, with his fellow actors also in fine form and similarly easy on the eyes. Unusual, yes, but well worth checking out.

Reverend's Ratings:
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot: B+
Glass: B
Desire: The Short Films of Ohm: B-
Postcards from London: B+

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Oscar Party 2019


 

The invitations have been sent and the Oscar ballots have been printed, so you're almost ready for all your friends and fellow movie-lovers to gather together on the Big Night for your annual Awesome Oscar Party! All that's left for you to do is... figure out what to feed them!


But fret not, for Movie Dearest is here for you with some great ideas for your memorable, movie-themed menu, each inspired by one of this year's nominated movies.


DRINKS:

Mary Poppins Returns:

Practically Perfect English Tea
 Served in a Royal Doulton Tea Set, indubitably!

 Bohemian Rhapsody:

Bohemian Rhapsberry Cocktail
Magnifico!

First Man:

Tang
Drink up!

Can You Ever Forgive Me?:

Booze.
Lots and lots of booze.

APPETIZERS:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs:

"When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Chicken Wings"
Yippee-ki-yi-yay...

Mary Queen of Scots:

Scottish Smoked Salmon on Tattie Scones
Yeah, that's a "nae" on haggis.

Bao:


Bao
(duh)

A Star Is Born:

"Shallow" Shallot Dip
"In the shallot, shallot, sha-ha-lot
In the shallot, shallot, sha-ha-lot
In the shallot, shallot, sha-ha-lot
We're far from the shallot now"

TREATS:

Black Panther:

Black Panther Caramel Apples
Wakanda forever!

Isle of Dogs:

Puppy Chow Party Mix
Chief's favorite snack!

Christopher Robin:

Pooh's Honey Snacks
Will cure that rumbly in your tumbly.

Border:

Gummy Maggots
Your troll friends will love 'em.

SIDES:

Roma:

Roma Tomato Salad
Cleo's specialty.

A Quiet Place:

Mashed Potatoes
Think about it.

Avengers: Infinity War:


Thanos' Snap Peas
Of course, half of them disappear.

The Wife:

Walnut Salad
Made by the Hostess but the Host takes credit for it.

ENTREES:

The Favourite:

Lady Sarah's Roast Pheasant
Be sure to remove the buckshot, one wouldn't want to choke to death.

Green Book:


Kentucky Fried Chicken... from Kentucky
Better than those pimento cheese sandwiches, yeesh....

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:

Spider-Ham Balls
They're spectacular!

Vice:

W.'s Texas BBQ Chicken
Not just for Republicans.

DESSERTS:

Ralph Breaks the Internet:

Pancake Milkshake
The best of both sides of the table.

RBG:

RBG's Lace Collar Cookies
They're supremely delicious.

Incredibles 2:

Apple Jack-Jacks
Num-Num!

Solo: A Star Wars Story:


Your porg friends will love 'em


Monday, February 11, 2019

Dearest Review: Short Cuts 2019, Part 2: Oscar's Live Action Short Film Nominees


 

ShortsTV once again presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater or streaming service (starting February 19th) near you. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see all of these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the second of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Live Action Short Film.


To paraphrase Margo Channing: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a gloomy time". No doubt about it, the majority of the shorts nominated here are a bleak bunch. Subjects range from racial violence to infanticide to dying alone, so be prepared to shocked, sickened and really really bummed out. On the other hand, be prepared to be challenged with five thought-provoking mini-movies (all from first-time Oscar nominees) that may possibly be the best collection of contenders in any category this year.

In addition to my reviews and video links, I've suggested a similarly-themed Oscar nominated feature film to pair with each short film nominee to create our own Academy-sanctioned double feature. Bring on the popcorn!

And the nominees are...


Detainment, Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon (Ireland, 30 minutes).

Two 10-year old boys are interviewed by the police about their involvement in the kidnapping and brutal murder of a 2-year old child. With a script directly based on the interview transcripts from the James Bulger case, this dramatic reenactment has aroused controversy in England (where the tragic event took place in 1993) and drawn heavy condemnation from the victim's family, who was not contacted regarding its production. It is difficult to disassociate oneself from the ethical and moral questions that surround Detainment, and it is extremely unsettling to watch as it is played out; even though no actual violence is depicted, I couldn't help but to grow concerned for the welfare of the young actors in it (one spends the bulk of the film in abject hysterics, for example). However this raw realism does not make one feel sympathetic for the killers, as some criticisms against the film have claimed. Yes, it does show them as human, but humans who did a monstrous, unspeakable thing, and Detainment elicits no empathy towards them. And considering the facts of what happened, how could it?

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: Germany's Foreign Language Film contender Never Look Away is also based on a true story that has also been denounced by those who really lived it.



Fauve, Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon (Canada, 17 minutes).

Wrapped up in their adolescent game of one-upmanship, a pair of preteen boys stumble into a life-threatening situation. A grim and gritty exploration of young male machismo gone horribly wrong, this Sundance Special Jury Prize and Toronto International Film Festival Award winner is stunningly soul-stirring in several respects, from its growing sense of unease that slowly, chillingly intensifies as the chain of events unfold to a somber, sobering closing moment of fleeting innocence. Fauve (French translation: Wildcat) is a powerful, disconcerting examination of the consequences of unchecked masculine aggression.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 8/10
Pair it with: These characters would fit right in with the skateboarding guys in the Documentary Feature nominee Minding the Gap.



Marguerite, Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset (Canada, 19 minutes).

When an elderly woman learns that her home care nurse is a lesbian it stirs within her memories of an unrequited love from long ago. Even though its main character is terminally ill, this is the least depressing of the nominees, which may help it stand out with Oscar voters when they cast their final ballots for the winner; it's already won every other award its been up for, including several LGBTQ film festival prizes. With a beautifully nuanced performance from veteran Canadian actress Béatrice Picard at its center, Marguerite is a bittersweet tale; heartbreaking yes, but also heartwarming.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 8/10
Pair it with: The Favourite may seem the obvious choice, but its satirical tone would be wildly out of sync here; go with The Wife instead, another story of a woman looking back on her life choices.




Mother (a.k.a. Madre), Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado (Spain, 19 minutes).

A woman's life is turned upside down when her 6-year old son calls from his vacation with her ex-husband and says that his father has disappeared and he is alone on a beach somewhere in France. Already the winner of a Goya Award (Spain's Oscar) and the basis for a feature film adaptation (currently in post-production), Mother/Madre is an intimate, nerve-racking deep dive into a parent's worst nightmare. Taking place chiefly in one location, with long continuous shots to add to the swept-up-in-the-moment feel, this nominee will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and on your feet at its abrupt ending.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: Another tense nail-biter about a mother trying desperately to protect her children, A Quiet Place.



Skin, Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman (USA, 20 minutes)

An innocent smile between a black man and a white boy leads to a savage assault and a mind-blowing act of retaliation. Featuring familiar faces Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin', Bird Box) and Lonnie Chavis (young Randall on This Is Us), Skin closes out this year's nominees with another emotional roller coaster, one that takes you on a harrowing ride through redneck day trips, hate crime scenes and one very well-equipped garage/tattoo parlor. This one is very intense, and features an almost-too much to be believed payback scenario that nevertheless delivers a powerful payoff. Like Mother, this short has also already been turned into a feature, which premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: Of Fathers and Sons, a Documentary Feature nominee, explores further what leads a parent to raise a child to hate.

Coming soon: Reviews of the Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.

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

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: The Best LGBTQ Love Stories on Film


Maurice


With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, plenty of people are turning to romantic movies for entertainment, encouragement and/or solace. There have long been lots of straight love stories on film but, thankfully, there is now a growing number of memorable LGBTQ romances for us to indulge in.


Such movies geared toward our community are actually fairly recent, with few such films made before the 1990’s. Most previous films featuring LGBTQ characters typically saw them being killed, committing suicide, or otherwise being punished for their non-conformist yearnings. Pioneering early productions incorporating more positive depictions of LGBTQ protagonists include Midnight Cowboy (1969), Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Making Love (1982) and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). Big name stars including Dustin Hoffman, Glenda Jackson, Al Pacino, and Daniel Day-Lewis courageously headlined these movies, which helped boost their appeal to straight as well as LGBTQ audiences.

Desert Hearts

Gay cinematic love stories really started to take off with 1987’s sympathetic Maurice. This gorgeous Merchant-Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s autobiographical novel, which Forster refused to allow to be published while he was living, focuses on the repressed feelings shared between two young, upper-class British men (one of them played by a pre-stardom Hugh Grant). While their relationship doesn’t endure, the title character is more successful with a dark and handsome groundskeeper.

Pre-90’s romantic favorites among the ladies include the true story Silkwood (1983), in which Cher plays a lesbian power plant worker caring for her radiation-exposed friend (Meryl Streep, in an early Oscar-nominated performance); Desert Hearts (1986), a passionate, 1950’s-set love story between a divorcee and the Nevada ranch hand she meets; and Personal Best (1982), Robert Towne’s graphic-at-the-time exploration of love between two female athletes and the male coach who threatens to come between them.

Blue is the Warmest Color

More recent, admirably unapologetic additions to the lesbian love canon are Blue is the Warmest Color, the acclaimed and erotic 2013 film about a young French woman’s sexual awakening, and 2015’s award-winning Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as women having a secret affair in the closeted 1950’s. Last year’s Disobedience is another achingly sexy romance between two women (played by Rachel McAdams and current Oscar nominee Rachel Weisz) set against a backdrop of repressive, Orthodox Judaism.

For many LGBTQ people, the most cherished romantic movies are coming-of-age stories. Notable love stories in this genre include 1996’s Beautiful Thing, the British tale of tentative first love between two lonely high school boys (based on Jonathan Harvey’s hit play); the similar but lesbian-themed The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995); and Get Real (1998), in which a brainy gay boy crushes on his school’s star athlete and finds his attentions reciprocated, at least for a time. Two of my personal favorites in this subgenre are 1996’s Lilies, about a tortured love triangle in a Catholic school for boys, and Come Undone (2000), a no-holds-barred French drama about two toned and tanned young men who fall in love on the beach during summer vacation.

Call Me By Your Name

Two more recent additions here are 2017’s universally acclaimed Call Me By Your Name, in which a teenager unexpectedly falls in love with the dreamy but decidedly older graduate student-assistant employed by the boy’s father, as well as last year’s Love, Simon, about a gay high schooler’s struggle to come out and find first love. Fortunately, Simon is ultimately successful.

Love and loss often seem to go hand-in-hand in real life, so it isn’t surprising that a few gay-themed films considered the most romantic also involve death and dying. The Oscar-winning gay cowboy saga Brokeback Mountain (2005) is the undisputed champ in this regard, and the film has resonated even more strongly in the wake of co-star Heath Ledger’s tragic death just a few years after its release. Other lovably tragic love stories are the revolutionary AIDS dramas Parting Glances (1986) and Longtime Companion (1989), Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy (1988), the fact-based Soldier’s Girl (2003), A Home at the End of the World (2004) and the 2009 Peruvian gay ghost story Undertow.

Brokeback Mountain

I would add to these David Lewis’s 2009 film Redwoods, starring gay fave Matthew Montgomery and the beautiful Brendan Bradley as two men who embark on a life-changing relationship that endures beyond death, as well as Tom Ford’s exquisite A Single Man (also 2009). Colin Firth scored a deserved Academy Award nomination for the latter thanks to his moving yet frequently funny turn as a gay university professor grieving the sudden death of his partner.

As if being homosexual, bisexual or trans wasn’t considered unorthodox enough, a few recent movie gems feature unexpected romances between unusual pairings. From Beginning to End is a 2009 Brazilian film about an Olympics-bound swimmer in love with another man. The catch? The two are half-brothers who were raised together from a young age. So controversial it was never released theatrically in the US, it is worth seeking out on home video or streaming. And then there’s Plan B from Argentina, in which two heterosexual men bond as friends over one’s messy breakup with his girlfriend (whom the other man is now dating) but ultimately become lovers. I found this film refreshing in its disdain for sexual labels and very touching in the end.

The Danish Girl

2010’s Paulista, also from Brazil, boasts a male-to-female trans title character who knowingly has an affair with her initially in-the-dark but increasingly vulnerable father. It isn’t for everyone but some trans viewers may find their dilemma intriguing, to say the least. Meanwhile, 2015’s The Danish Girl recounts the story of the first man to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. This Oscar-winning biopic is unique in that it begins as a heterosexual romance between its married subjects but becomes more queer as the wife grows to support her transgender husband/wife.

The Circle (2014) is an even more factual, inspiring love story. Director Stefan Haupt employs a combination of documentary footage and dramatic recreations to relate the decades-spanning romance between Ernst Ostertag and Robi Rapp. They met as young men in the 1950’s and fought right-wing oppression in their native Switzerland. Both were still alive and together at the time of this remarkable film’s production.

Moonlight

2016’s Moonlight famously upended the Academy Awards telecast when it was proclaimed the actual Best Picture winner after La La Land was mistakenly announced. Based on an autobiographical play, this moving film depicts a neglected black boy’s coming of age including his first sexual experience as a teenager with his male best friend. They re-connect as adults in the film’s final, hopeful segment.

My new fave gay love story is last year’s A Moment in the Reeds. Little seen to date but now available for streaming, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough despite its bittersweet ending. It depicts the poignant romance between a Finnish man and the Syrian asylum-seeker his father hires to work on their house. It also proves to be the most sensual, soulful gay movie I've seen in years, even more so than Call Me By Your Name.

A Moment in the Reeds

If none of the aforementioned movies strike your fancy, don’t worry: there are more! Trick, Jeffrey, Fried Green Tomatoes, Yossi & Jagger and its 2012 sequel simply titled Yossi, The Wedding Banquet, Carrington, Wilde, The Pillow Book, Big Eden, Aimee & Jaguar, Latter Days, Ciao, Shelter, Weekend and Gods Own Country could all be worthy nominees for the most romantic LGBTQ film of all time. However or wherever you find inspiration, we here at Movie Dearest wish you a happy Valentine’s Day!

Click on titles in bold to stream on Amazon.

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Dearest Review: Short Cuts 2019, Part 1: Oscar's Animated Short Film Nominees


 

ShortsTV once again presents this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films at a theater (starting tomorrow in New York City, this Friday everywhere else) or streaming service (starting February 19th) near you. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see all of these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the first of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Animated Short Film.


Although it is highly likely that all three short film categories will be unceremoniously relegated to the commercial breaks during the Oscar telecast later this month, that doesn't diminish the quality of and the filmmaking talent displayed within all 15 of this year's nominees.

2018's slate of tiny toon contenders lean heavy toward personal stories, brought vividly to life through the power of animation; expect to get "the feels" with many of these. There is also a uniquely strong Asian influence in this year's nominees, with three of the five featuring Asian characters and themes.

In addition to my reviews and video links, I've suggested a similarly-themed Oscar nominated feature film to pair with each short film nominee to create your own Academy-sanctioned double feature. Bring on the popcorn!

And the nominees are...


Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden and David Fine (Canada, 14 minutes).

A collection of neurotic anthropomorphized animals gather for a group therapy session that is disrupted by the arrival of an apish new member. The most "cartoony" of the nominees, this National Film Board of Canada entry is filled with bits both clever (a leech named Lorraine who suffers from separation anxiety) and trite (a pig with eating issues). Unfortunately, there's more of the latter than the former, which makes it feel dated. This is somewhat not surprising when you learn that this is the first short film from Snowden and Fine since their charming Bob's Birthday won this category 25 years ago.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 6/10
Pair it with: Another motley menagerie of chatty critters, the canine cast of Isle of Dogs.



Bao, Domee Shi and Becky Neiman (USA, 8 minutes).

A Chinese-Canadian woman gets a second chance at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes to life. Not only is this Pixar's first short directed by a woman, it also contains the first really WTF moment in the studio's history. I won't spoil it here, but suffice to say it is weird, so much so that it took me a second viewing to warm up to Bao (which roughly translates as "precious", "baby" or "bun", so all bases are covered here). Even so, this allegorical tale of food and family and learning to let go suffers from a clumsy, muddled delivery that makes it all a little (ahem) hard to swallow.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 6/10
Pair it with: Since they both feature unusual offspring, stick with Incredibles 2, which it screened with in theaters.



Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco (Ireland, 10 minutes).

An elderly woman (voiced by Fionnula Flanagan) finds herself lost in her fading memories, drifting between her vibrant past and mundane present. This Tribeca Film Festival Award winner is the first nomination for the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon in this category following three straight Best Animated Feature nods (including last year's The Breadwinner). A beautifully realized reverie, Late Afternoon is an emotionally rich yet simply told meditation on the sometimes generous, oft cruel capriciousness of memory. One of the best films, feature or short, nominated in any category this year.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 9/10
Pair it with: The similarly time-bending animation Mirai.



One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas (China/USA, 8 minutes).

Meet Luna, a Chinese-American girl with a doting father and the dream of being an astronaut. The first project from Taiko Studios (founded by a group of former Disney artists in 2017) is an impressive, polished debut, boding well for their future as an independent (an Oscar nod right out of the gate doesn't hurt either). Granted, the story isn't anything groundbreaking, but it is lovingly told and it handles it weightier moments a lot smoother than Bao, its closest competitor thematically. Plus, it has an enthusiastic "girl power" spirit that will more than likely prove inspirational for any budding Sally Rides or Katherine Johnsons out there.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 8/10
Pair it with: Considering the title is a direct nod to the famous Neil Armstrong quote, how could it be anything but First Man?



Weekends, Trevor Jimenez (USA, 16 minutes).

The son of a divorced couple splits his time living at home with his mother during the week and spending the weekend in the big city with his father. An autobiographical rumination on the director's childhood, this short is the second one from the Pixar "co-op program" to make it to the Oscars (following Borrowed Time two years ago), and it won the Annie Award just this past weekend (it was actually the only Oscar finalist to even be nominated there). Like its young protagonist, Weekends drifts back and forth, between concrete remembrances and surrealistic memories, capturing effectively the unnaturally nomadic existence forced upon children of divorce.

Watch trailer.
Dearest Rating: 7/10
Pair it with: That other dysfunctional Asian "family" in Shoplifters.

Coming soon: Reviews of the Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Documentary Short Subject.

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