The shortlists for this year's Academy Awards were released just over a week ago, which means I'm already in prime mode, trying to clear off as many potential nominees as possible before the official finalists are declared in just about four weeks' time. As ever, that includes the goal of clearing the shortlist for Documentary … Continue reading DownStream – Doc Stuffin’
A good crime procedural requires basically two things to work. One, a compelling cast of believable characters, and two, a case/mystery that can intrigue the audience enough to invest in the step-by-step process of figuring everything out. Now, there are only so many of these types of stories to tell, so naturally over the years … Continue reading CS-Sigh – The Little Things
There's a strange, yet telling line in Hong Kong's Oscar submission, Better Days, that seeps deeper than anything else in the film. "You're either a bully, or you're the one being bullied." Essentially, it means that there are no innocent bystanders, but it sticks out because there's a disturbing wisdom to it. Even if you … Continue reading Disabusing Yourself – Better Days
We've already had one highly creative documentary for 2020 dealing with the aging process and dementia, in the form of the wonderful Dick Johnson is Dead. It was kind, heartfelt, and led by an absolutely charming central figure. It helped me deal with the grief and stress that I've been processing over the last year … Continue reading Espion-Age – The Mole Agent
Now elevated to the shortlist for International Feature, Russia's submission, Dear Comrades! succeeds in large part because of the intimacy of the main characters within the larger context of a brutal act of state-sponsored terrorism from the Soviet era. The film is best when concentrating on the core relationship between mother and daughter that spurs … Continue reading Not With My Daughter – Dear Comrades!
A year ago today, Parasite shocked the world by winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. For a lot of film lovers out there, that was the last pleasant memory before the world went to Hell. Today, in the slimmest sign of a return to normalcy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced … Continue reading The First Cuts – 93rd Oscars Shortlists Announced!
Relationship drama is about as basic as it gets when it comes to cinematic storytelling. After more than a century of film, it's not whether the story's been told before, but how one goes about telling it. Austria's submission to the Academy, What We Wanted, begins with an interesting spin on the prospect, but unfortunately … Continue reading Insert “Vienna Sausage” Joke Here – What We Wanted
Of all the International Feature submissions I've seen so far, Bangladesh definitely takes the crown for most unique, as it's strictly speaking not a feature. Instead, Sincerely Yours, Dhaka is an anthology of shorts directed by 11 up-and-coming filmmakers from the small South Asian country. Each has its own style, but like the Pulp Fiction-inspired … Continue reading 11 Short Films About Bangladesh – Sincerely Yours, Dhaka
It is appropriate that the protagonist of Mexico's Oscar entry, I'm No Longer Here, is named Ulises. Played admirably by Juan Daniel Garcia Trevino, the stoic lead of the story serves as a modern day Odysseus (Ulysses being the Latinized equivalent), on a solo journey to find himself a home thanks to a momentary lapse … Continue reading Follow My Feet – I’m No Longer Here
Every once in a while you come across a completely shameless tearjerker and are actually happy for the maudlin treacle. This is the case with Naomi Kawase's True Mothers, the official Oscar entry from Japan. Over the course of a deliberately paced two and a half hours, the film makes no illusions and no apologies … Continue reading Are You My Mommy? – True Mothers