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

Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems

It is my great pleasure today to write a review of the worst movie I have ever seen. This will be a special challenge because the actors, the directing, and even the premise are all good. Here’s the problem. For the first half hour, we watch Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) as he runs through streets, buildings, and underground tunnels. Yes, the photography is good and no, we learn little about who he is or what he is doing.

At long last, a box containing rare opals embedded in a rock arrives. From this point forward, that small rock is the trigger for all the action that unfolds. As the movie goes on, impatience becomes the ruling emotion for the audience. What unfolds is a constant battle among various men who want the jewels as they chase each other through underground passages while screaming obscenities.

It’s not an exaggeration to report that the F-word and the S-word are shouted in nearly every sentence that comes forth from every man and woman. I have no problem with those words, using them in my own impatient moments, but in this movie, they drown out all conversation and obliterate the possibility of our learning what the movie is supposed to be about. When I asked audience members afterward how many times those words were shouted, they replied between 200 and 400 times in two and a half hours. It’s the constant screaming of these words that prevents us from understanding who the characters are in relation to each other. All yelled at high pitch, those words obliterate the plot.

Then there’s the problem of a hideous string of racial insults that flow through the swearing. We know already that all the men in the plot are selfish, cruel, and criminal. What we don’t understand is why there is no counter force at all. Is there one man with a decent motivation? No. One man who isn’t a criminal? No. They are so alike in language and behavior that we can never figure out which men have what intentions.

The material destruction of people and buildings occurs throughout the noise. Who are the good guys? There aren’t any. Are all these men and two women fighting, killing, and screaming over that one rock? Yes. If you go because of the host of positive reviews, ask yourself if you can find one speck of decency in the entire movie.

Who to blame? Writers Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie? Directors Benny and Josh Safdie? Actors Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel and a host of others who create the crowd of villains who yell throughout the movie to create what can only be called a nightmare? Soak up the jewelry store where a lot of this unfolds and you will understand what’s coming in the final scenes.

Over two hours of unrelieved swearing and brutality await you and rumor has it that Adam Sandler will be an Oscar nominee for this role. Ouch.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Uncut Gems
Word Count : 502
Running Time : 2:15
Rating : R
Date : 12 January 2020