Oscars 2019

Oscars 2019

This was a year of creeping apprehension for movie lovers. Theaters were often lucky to have ten people in the audience. Theaters are closing while Netflix releases new movies to people watching in their living rooms. The feel of change is overwhelming. Let’s look with final pleasure at three Oscar nominees from this year when the movie culture began to plunge into change.

Marriage Story opens beautifully as a husband and wife describe each other on the path of their marriage from day one to now. As each finishes his/her personal tale, we have become captives in the problems they are trying so hard to solve without anger.
The story unfolds with fine acting by the whole cast. Scarlett Johansson and Azhy Robertson as mother and son are quietly and consistently good which allows us to become thoroughly drawn to Adam Driver’s gradual collapse in a riveting performance. This is a superb story not of a marital war but of two people working together toward a resolution.

Ford v Ferrari. How can anyone be held in suspense while watching a deafening soundtrack for two and a half hours? Matt Damon’s Ford designer leads a cast that takes a theater bursting with roaring sound into a deep well of caring for all the characters. This film is a magical creation of racing as an assortment of men, car parts, money, driving genius, and obsession. It is delivered with such skill that we non-racers finally understand what it is like to move through space and time at 7000 RPM. That happens because there is not one mediocre acting performance in the whole story.

Little Women, don’t skip this one just because you think it’s from long ago. Greta Gerwig (best director) has brought this story into the present in an astonishing way. With superb casting and some clever script changing, she has made this classic as relevant now as it was in 1868. Saoirse Ronan is my pick for this year’s acting Oscar. A cast without any weakness enriches the original. Louisa May Alcott’s book became universal 150 years ago and Greta Gerwig’s film is becoming just that right now. This movie has that rare magic of pulling us so deeply into the film that we feel we’re up there on the screen in the story. We may all wonder how Alcott herself created a family that citizens of so many generations have come to love.

As different as each is from the others, all three of these films build characters who hold us. What’s more fun than a final result that gets everything right? Each of these movies gets a plus for acting, directing, photography, and emotional suspense. As always, I loved the fun of being part of a movie loving audience held in quality suspense in a dark theater. Am I alone in not wanting to see movies in my living room? At least see these Oscar nominees while you can.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Oscars 2019
Word Count : 495
Date : January 19, 2020

Monmouth Film Festival 2019

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Monmouth Film Festival 2019

This year’s Monmouth Film Festival opened with two complex films that kicked off the annual weekend celebration created by founder and president Nick Marchese. The festival unfurled nearly constant screenings in the Two River Theater while other parts of the theater offered celebrity talks, industry film panels, and editing workshops along with a stream of film professionals from New York.

One thing you can count on is the Marchese family’s determination to bring films that both rattle and expand our pre-existing understanding of contemporary subjects. This year he opened the packed weekend with Changing the Game, a look at the many sides of the contemporary transgender culture and 17 Blocks, the personal story of a black family’s journey through their own culture. Each of these films steps into deeply personal experiences that bring an audience right into the center of what unfolds.

Changing the Game takes us immediately into a family that respects the decision of their son to become their daughter. They add the complication that has proven so difficult in the real world: their son is a wrestler who loves his sport and will now be wrestling girls. We are left not with the usual complication of parents/child but of parents and their child/the community of other parents resentful of the boy they believe is posing as a girl in order to get ahead in his sport.

We also meet a highly intelligent sports official who defends the public lives of transgender people as they move into our society that was split for so long into male and female. It is the right of everyone, she believes, to choose who they really are. The film explores the inherent questions from both sides and asks us to do the same.

17 Blocks takes us right into the Sanford family where the mother struggles with addiction and gun violence while her children just want to love school and lead normal lives. The chaotic interior mess of the house coupled with ma’s unpredictability deny her family any sense of coming home to normalcy and peace. We follow them with deep hope that they will manage to survive their surroundings and get to the education they want so much.

As openers to the festival, these two films were an invitation to think about contemporary problems in a deep way without prejudice. When they come your way, do go.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Title : Monmouth Film Festival 2019
Word Count : 500
Date : August 11, 2019