The 2019 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Live Action (Various, 2017-2018)

Detainment (Lambe, 2018) Good Lord, how am I supposed to review this thing? Tasteless as it is aesthetically, it also seems callous to force people to relive a national tragedy as the Jamie Bulger killing all over again. I get there are still unanswered questions and all, but is that really enough reason to reenact…

Border (Abbasi, 2018)

This is quite the mish-mash. A heaping of Scandinavian folklore here, a sprinkle of gritty police procedural there. It ping-pongs between the two genres with intriguing results. Its feet are firmly planted in reality, but the folklore elements give it a sense of atemporality. It seems to exist in one time and in no time,…

Free Solo (Vasarhelyi & Chin, 2018)

I spent a good portion of Free Solo loudly swearing at my walls. Not a heights guy, I’m afraid. Watching someone scale a rock formation without a rope or harness is the kind of cinematic event I can’t put myself through more than once, even if I know the outcome in advance. Not good for the blood…

The 2019 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Documentary (Various, 2017-2018)

Black Sheep (Perkins, 2018) I could definitely feel the Moonlight influences in this short documentary about a black boy’s desperate drive to survive after moving to a racist neighbourhood in Essex. The direct address to the camera, and the sustained close-up of his face is one noticeable feature, as is the shot of his younger self in…

The 2019 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animated (Various, 2017-2018)

Animal Behaviour (Snowden & Fine, 2018) This starts off cute enough, as much as the pairing of disorders with animals is painfully on-the-nose. The leech has separation anxiety! The praying mantis is bad at relationships! Et cetera. There’s not much of an attempt to be clever, which is what I was hoping for. Unfortunately, the…

Of Fathers and Sons (Derki, 2017)

Kudos to the Academy’s documentary branch for plucking this lesser-known choice out of its shortlist and giving it a top five berth over something more mainstream like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I’m sure it pissed off a mighty contingent of moviegoers (and maybe even the Academy at large, who I’m sure would have coasted Neville’s film…

Mirai (Mamoru, 2018)

This is quite the shocking development for me, since I truly thought Mirai was going to be my deserving underdog for the Oscar this year. It’s hard not to root for Japanese anime whenever it’s nominated. It’s usually of much better quality than what the American studios have to offer. But all those nominees were from Studio…

RBG (West & Cohen, 2018)

I shall play the role of sober judge while writing this review, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg would want me to do nothing less. And so, while I admit RBG is highly entertaining and teeming with warmth for its subject, it’s also one of those documentaries that turns a Wikipedia entry into an audiovisual presentation. When it’s done…

High Flying Bird (Soderbergh, 2019)

Steven Soderbergh’s iPhone rush is not over. With Unsane, he made it possible to make an effective thriller with minimal fuss, and now with High Flying Bird, he’s clamped down on his values and refuses to budge an inch. This is, in a way, his revenge against the system that once pushed him aside. This is his Moneyball and,…

Velvet Buzzsaw (Gilroy, 2019)

If Velvet Buzzsaw was going for incisive critique of the art world’s myriad frivolities, it doesn’t work well. The best it can do is to emulate the kind of dead air that’s generated by those who equate premium connoisseurship with maximum pretension. And even then it can only go so far without looking incompetently cartoonish—and oftentimes it…

At Eternity’s Gate (Schnabel, 2018)

Another year, another Vincent van Gogh film. Hot on the heels of last year’s Loving Vincent (a film animated in the style of van Gogh’s paintings), At Eternity’s Gate looks at the final years of the artist’s short life, when he moved to the small villages of Arles and Auvers sur-Oise to paint the natural landscapes. It was in…

Predicting the 91st Academy Awards: The Nominations

Best Picture Gwilym Lee & Rami Malek in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY — courtesy of 20th Century Fox LOCKS: BlacKkKlansman; The Favourite; Green Book; Roma; A Star is Born. LIKELY: Black Panther; Bohemian Rhapsody; Vice. COIN-TOSS: Cold War; First Man; If Beale Street Could Talk; Mary Poppins Returns. DOUBT IT: At Eternity’s Gate; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Boy Erased;…

The Wild Boys (Mandico, 2017)

What if Guy Maddin remade The Island of Dr. Moreau and it made it super gay? It’d probably be something like Bertrand Mandico’s The Wild Boys, which is an all-out unusual experience. Part coming-of-age narrative, part gay fantasia, part ripping sea yarn, the film follows a group of five boys who get out of hand and commit a…

Incredibles 2 (Bird, 2018)

I’m very fond of the first Incredibles film, and by and large, its sequel is a welcome return. The characters are much the same as we’ve left them, as are their voice actors. Their personalities continue to shine through. Bird’s action sets remain dazzling, full of force and verve that keeps you entertained. And, in a bit…