Tag Archive: oscars 2019


A day of a Beatles playlist, and rehashing old stories with the homies that made me laugh myself to tears three different times, and now I’m out of tears.

In a ‘We Are the Champions’ mood.

So let me go backward one more time for this one. Very smart producing choice to get the people in the crowd warmed up to open the show. And maybe this year was the anomaly with so many good movies people liked but…

(Not sure if the Oscars really need a host now…)

Anyway, enjoy!

Happy for my KU professor, Kevin Wilmott.

Happy for Mahershala.

Happy for the Black Panther crew.

Happy for Ruth E. Carter.

Happy for Regina.

And of course, I’m happy for the Godfather.

Anything can happen a month from now, but today we celebrate.

Melissa McCarthy as “Lee Israel” and Richard E. Grant as “Jack Hock” in the film CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Three quick notes about the SAG Award nominated, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

Not all, but most artists, after they establish they can throw fastballs in one genre, want to branch out and prove they do other things. Especially actors. Melissa McCarthy is one of our best working comediennes, of course she wants to prove she can do dramatic stuff. Even the comedic undertones here are toned way down so you have to focus on the acting. McCarthy carries the film without relying on over the top theatrics, can’t take that away from her.

Everyone wants to play the villain, but most people want to play the ‘cool vilain.’ Playing someone a little skeevy, and completely self-centered, and very unlikable: everyone doesn’t have the right ego to play that. So give Richard E. Grant credit for just going all in to play someone, not really evil, but just one of those completely self-centered types who knows how to play on other people’s sympathies to get over.

Finally, this whole film takes place in the NYC literary world. Doesn’t scream cinema, but beyond that as I was watching this, as a film geek, I thought that whole genre of films and TV shows that speak to ‘upper class Manhattan’ that a lot of us grew up on. No need to name names, but how much of that good work can we still just watch without thinking too hard about the people who created them? I say all of this to say, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ isn’t a Hall of Fame movie by any means, but I can just watch it without thinking twice about any conflicting feelings about the author.

For that reason alone, recommend.

I think all the outside stories (Viggo using the n word, Mahershala apologizing to Don Shirley’s family) have already killed any gold ‘Green Book’ might have been up for. I’ll just pick out a few things I thought about while watching this one.

While this exact true story is new, the formula (black guy and white guy start at odds in ‘the old racist days’ and learn to appreciate each other) is very familiar. That’s not to say the film doesn’t work (I think it does), but I do think, in this exact moment in time, the people just weren’t going to be feeling it. The hostility and distrust and hyper politics are too raw right now for this type of entertainment.

On a lighter note,and I completely blame Eddie Murphy for this, ‘Moulignan’ is still my number one ‘Wow, you despise us so much you can’t even use the go to word. I might be more astonished than offended.’ Calling us shines ranks a distant second in this category.

Finally, and I feel like I say this every award season now: Viggo Mortenson. I feel like a lot of character actors have figured this out (even if the opportunities aren’t the same): do one ‘Lord of the Rings’ to take care of your family financially, then every year find a completely different character to dive into. ‘Eastern Promises’. ‘Captain Fantastic’. ‘A History of Violence.’ This year, ‘Green Book’. Must be nice.

Anyway, ‘Green Book’ isn’t a game changer but it’s not a bad film. Nice two hander for Viggo and Mahershala.

I don’t know if this particular film needed the help, but first off let me say Netflix is getting better at playing to the eyes and ears of the film geek community.  I got to see ‘Roma’ at the Directors Guild over Thanksgiving weekend, on the big screen the way I’m sure Alfonso Cuaron (and traditionalists in the nominating committees for awards season) prefer to see films.

I had no preconceptions on what this would be, or really, what it was about. (So I’ll try to be deliberately a little more vague than normal here.)  But here’s the setting: a year in the life of an upper middle class Mexican family, and their maid/nanny, set in the not too distant past.  Language, setting and political dynamics of the country are very specific.  Shifting family relationships, sibling rivalries, falling in and out of love – universal.  We all can relate to that.   

The narrative doesn’t point the audience to pass judgment on this family, one way or the other.  For some people, that will translate as the film being ‘slow’ (for not telling you what to think).  The artistic crowd I saw it with took well to it though.  Best Foreign Film nomination seems like a lock next year.  Maybe more depending on what else rises and falls over the next month.

A recommend here for when it starts streaming.

Does ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ reinvent the wheel for musical biopics? No.  

Could it have gone further in detailing why Freddie Mercury is an icon, to multiple communities?  Definitely.

But is it fun?  Does Rami Malek excel in the ‘every reason to fail’ role of making the audience believe he’s Freddie Mercury?  Absolutely.

The end of Mercury’s life coinciding with the beginning of mine, but I’m enough of a pop culture nerd to know that’s one of those parts, that, man, how do you recreate Freddie Mercury? But credit Rami (who credits the real and fictional band of people who made this film) for letting us suspend our disbelief for a couple hours.  

A few more notes I have to add in:

It’s been said but it’s true: the Mike Myers cameo is perfect, in its role and its tribute to one of his own signature roles.

I completely forgot ‘Bismillah’ was in the lyrics of the song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ but if you think I didn’t make sure I had that song in my digital library before the movie was over, then you don’t know me.

Along those lines, I had some Queen jams in the library (because how could you not?) But the film does a good job of reminding you how many classics they had over the years.  Strictly in terms of getting people to say ‘Oh yeah, do I have that one?’ this movie is already a massive success.

Recommend.

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So yes, to say Spike is ‘back’ is condescending.  He’s been working.  The word I thought of last night as I walking out of the theatre was ‘accessible.’  This is the most accessible Spike Lee joint in a little bit.  My parents have no interest in seeing (and probably don’t even know about) ‘Chi-raq’ and ‘Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’, but they already asked me if I have an awards screener for ‘BlackkKlansman’ (which makes me chuckle).

Co-written by my old KU professor Kevin Wilmott, this film dramatizes the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who ‘infiltrated’ the KKK in the 70s.  John David Washington does fine carrying the movie as the title character.

Adam Driver: hates doing press, says absolutely nothing about his personal life, just wants to work his craft (so naturally I like him) probably plays his most ‘likable’ character so far.  Minor spoiler but he has a mini monologue about ‘passing’ about halfway through I thought was really good.

Actually, the character acting across the board here is A+.  Corey Hawkins shows up near the beginning as Kwame Ture and sets the tone for the film with a great sermon.  Topher Grace is hilarious as the kindly, corporate Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke.

Anytime we (the audience) got too comfortable, there was always a subtle (or at the end an overt) reminder of how dangerous and scary things get when we don’t check extremism.

Definitely a film of ‘America 2018’.   High recommend.

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Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, Coming to America…Black Panther is in the pantheon of great black films, immediately.

So what can I say that hasn’t been hot taked to death already?  I picked a few things…

  • Stakes – Yes, I’m going to use ‘the Dark Knight’ as one of the best examples, but it’s true: even in Marvel movies, if it feels like the villain gets NO real wins or causes no real consequence…kind of takes you out of it a bit.  Taking over the world?  Ehhh…everything else better be perfect.  Beating the hero in a battle and genuinely creating a long term change in the protagonist and their world?  That’s how its done.
  •   Mike – I never doubted Michael B’s ability to play a villain.  But I loved, LOVED how this particular villain takes advantage of that vulnerability and sensitivity that Mike has done in everything from ‘the Wire’ to ‘Fruitvale Station’.  A lot of the love for Killmonger comes from him being a hurt, vindictive person pushing it to its extreme (as opposed to an asshole whose evil just for the sake of being evil).
  • Coogler – The ‘weakness’ of the film to me is the action sequences.  And they’re not remotely bad; it’s just we’ve all been conditioned at this point to turn our brains off a bit when it’s ‘super CGI time’ in superhero movies.

Then my boy Ben sent this to me.  I don’t want to anoint Ryan as ‘our Spielberg/Scorsese’, even after a weekend like this…but…LISTEN TO HOW MUCH THOUGHT AND DETAIL WENT INTO THIS…

So yeah, enter your superlative here.  Looking forward to seeing it again.