Oscar Preview

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Oscar Preview

In a fairly dull movie year, five go straight to audience hearts and stay there. Here they are in case you want to see them before the Oscar nominations come out.

Green Book, a true story from 1962, is a rare blend of comedy and tragedy delivered in very sophisticated ways. Concert pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) lives in splendor atop Carnegie Hall and hires a man to drive him on a concert tour that will end in the deep south. The driver is tough guy Tony Lip (Viggo Mortenson). Watching their trust grow as they drive through the tragedy of Southern racism is truly a piece of art.

The Wife gives us Joan (Glen Close) and Joe (Jonathan Pryce) as they leave for Sweden where Joe will accept the Nobel Prize. Joan has spoon fed him for years (he’s a man of the ‘50s and she is a wife of the ‘50s). She is a writer too, but he has won the prize. Her anger at her position boils over and spurs Glen Close to a performance that delivers the isolation of a deeply intelligent woman. The audience is absolutely silent, stunned by her performance.

Bohemian Rhapsody is an original piece of magic that captures hearts. All four bandmembers pour their originality, talent, and energy into performances that swell as they sing around the world. In an astonishing performance, Rami Malek creates Freddie Mercury as a superb musical explosion. Writers and directors concentrate on Malek’s extraordinary performance rather than lingering on problems that surface. The band’s chaotic musical brilliance captures its audiences.

A Private War is surely the surprise stunner of the year. Rosamund Pike creates a portrait of Marie Colvin, a dedicated reporter determined to deliver to the world the tragedy of the erasure of millions of people in the Middle Eastern wars. Pike studied Colvin’s voice and way of moving on TV recordings and creates the reporter in a way so compelling that audiences are stunned. Both reporter Colvin and her interpreter Rosamund Pike – one who lived it, one who captures her experience – are a compelling piece of history.

RBG is an intricate portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that lets us follow her from high school to the Supreme Court. This documentary becomes a rare capture of a public person because of Ginsburg’s willingness to play herself, in her 80s, in the film. Carrying Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law Review, and distinction in all she does, she fights for the recognition of women and their rights and changes the world for women as she does it.

All five of these true stories give us the substance of some remarkable people living in the culture of their time who had the courage to do something about their beliefs. Intelligent in deep ways and willing to put themselves on the cultural battlefield they are the ones in our country who did something about their passions. Is there anything more exciting than watching strong people create change?

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Title: Oscar Preview
Word Count: 501


On the Basis of Sex

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

On the Basis of Sex

1956. Please let this movie take you back there. On the Basis of Sex is our chance to understand how the freedom women now enjoy is rooted in the early work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG -the other recent movie about this remarkable woman – deals with her years as a Supreme Court justice. This one tackles her journey through Harvard Law School, marriage, motherhood, and her belief in the rights of women.

In spite of standing first in her class at Harvard, no law firm would hire a woman. Awash in rejection by the existing rules of the male world, she had good support from a strong marriage and her children. She fought to escape the world of bake sales and bridge in a culture that said women were too emotional and fragile to be lawyers. Rejected by every law firm she approached with repeated statements of male superiority, she moved through years of frustration until she broke through the barriers to take on a case at the more tolerant ACLU that men thought could never be won. Her brilliance was submerged for years in a world of scorn.

In the ‘70s, Ginsburg spotted a case that could overturn sexual discrimination and she fought to be the lawyer who used it. At the core was a male, Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey), who was taking care of his elderly mother and was denied a tax deduction because only women were supposed to be caregivers. Soaked in male derision from all sides, Ginsburg won the case that finally allowed women to become equal competitors on all levels.

This film could easily have become a joke in the wrong hands. That never happens here. Felicity Jones plays Justice Ginsburg with extraordinary wisdom and restraint in the grim battle of one woman fighting the male legal establishment. Encouraged at times, sick at heart at others, but driven by bullet proof determination, Jones never overplays this emotionally demanding role. She is teamed with Armie Hammer who plays her lawyer husband beautifully. Supportive of his wife in all ways, he listens and learns from her while helping her through the legal tangle. He’s far ahead of his time.

The men who play Ginsburg’s opposition are brutally effective as they hurl at her the words and actions of the men of the time. These are tough roles for actors of today. Credit Justin Theroux, Sam Waterson, Jack Reynor, Stephen Root, Caley Spaeny, and Kathy Bates in the strong cast. With a steady hand, director Mimi Leder leads actors and audience through the now impossible thinking of the time.

For anyone who was an adult then, the reality of the ‘50s can tie you in knots long after leaving the theater. You will take this exchange with you: Judge: The word ‘woman’ does not appear even once in the U.S. Constitution. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Nor does the word ‘freedom’, Your Honor. Once again, the Constitution brought change through words, not weapons.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : On the Basis of Sex
Word Count : 496
Running Time : 2:00
Rating : PG-13
Date : January 10, 2019