Oscar History

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Entries in Reviews (591)


Review: "Bright" on Netflix

by Ben Miller

Will Smith misses the good ole days.  He has been trying to reclaim his blockbuster status since 2008’s Hancock.  In between, Smith has been featured in a string of weird melodramatic dramas (Seven Pounds, Collateral Beauty), traditional action genre vehicles (Men in Black 3, After Earth, Suicide Squad) and films that sink or swim on the charisma of the stars (Focus, Concussion).  None of these have worked.

Reuniting with Suicide Squad director David Ayer, Smith tries to make it work again in action/sci-fi with Netflix’s Bright.  This also doesn’t really work...

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Review: The Last Jedi

Lynn Lee looks at the new Star Wars film. Warning: Minor SPOILERS ahead...

It’s hard to put my finger on why I remain resistant to the recent Star Wars resurgence despite being a lifelong fan of the original trilogy.  So far the new movies have been solid pieces of entertainment, meticulously crafted to capture the scrappy, underdog-hero ethos that made Episodes IV-VI so appealing and the prequels feel so stilted and airless by comparison.  Maybe a bit too meticulously – and therein lies my ambivalence.  There’s a fine line between homage and recycling, and The Force Awakens, in particular, was a skillful exercise in the latter.  (Rogue One was superior in this regard, perhaps by virtue of being a spin-off that had to be able to stand on its own.)  On the other hand, TFA also introduced new protagonists who were so engaging you could almost overlook the fact that they were moving through the same beats as A New Hope.  I hoped that Episode VIII would give them a bit freer rein to move in new directions.

Does The Last Jedi do that?  Yes and no.  It makes a point of subverting certain narrative expectations, although this has the unfortunate side effect of making some of the subplots feel like unnecessary detours and/or dead ends.  But the overall arc remains a highly familiar one, albeit with some tweaks...

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The 2017 Animated Contenders: "Birdboy: The Forgotten Children"

by Tim Brayton

For the finale of our five-part tour of some of the more obscure films competing for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, we turn to a film that premiered over two years ago, but has only just opened in the U.S. this very weekend: the Spanish psychological horror cartoon Birdboy: The Forgotten Chidlren. The film is based on the comic Psiconautas by Alberto Vázquez, who co-writes and co-directs with Pedro Rivero; it's the duo's second film based on these characters, following the 2011 short Birdman, which serves as the new feature's backstory (the short is available online).

The basic hook here couldn't be any more direct or nasty-minded. This is a silly talking animal film warped into a portrait of the world as bleak, hopeless hell. "Psychological horror," I called it, because I'd be hard pressed to name any better category, but that's not really enough to communicate the sheer, visceral nastiness of this film. It's a mere 76 minutes long, and even that's almost too long to spend with the film's altogether putrescent depiction of a world that has died, with the survivors still tottering around in the corpse of that world, forced to confront some truly cruel moments. Also, they're fuzzy critters.

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You're Tearing Me Apart, Franco!: "The Disaster Artist"

By Spencer Coile 

Tommy Wiseau's The Room is a train-wreck. This is not a unique statement to make. Ask anyone who has seen it, and you'll surely be met with a healthy mix of laughter and endless quoting from 2003's "so bad it's good" disasterpiece. For years, fans have flocked to midnight showings at local theaters or gathered with friends around their TV to enjoy the messy writing, acting, and directing -- just three of the many hats Wiseau wore throughout filming.

What many fail to address, however, is that The Room was not always comedy; it began as a labor of love -- a melodrama with strong connections to Wiseau's personal (but very private) life. Adapted from the memoir by The Room co-star Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell, James Franco dramatizes Wiseau's journey from obscurity to cult stardom in The Disaster Artist. But is his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau given the same loving treatment as Wiseau intended for The Room...? 

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The (Truly) Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 

By Spencer Coile 

The year is 1958, and Miriam "Midge" Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) lives on the Upper West Side with her wealthy husband (Michael Zegen) and two children. Her parents (Tony Shaloub and Marin Hinkle) live in the same apartment complex to watch the kids for her. She is dressed to the nines for all occasions, supports her husband's (flailing) career in stand-up comedy, and still has time to whip up a mean brisket. Why would she ever want her life to change? 

Which is to say, of course, that it will and does.

When her husband leaves her for his secretary, Midge angrily (and drunkenly) takes to the stage of the Gaslight, a downtown bar her husband frequently played at, to rant to her audience about this sudden shift. Her improvised venting, though, has the crowd in stitches. And it soon becomes clear that not only is she performing a stand-up routine, she is also quite good at it... 

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Doc Corner: DOC NYC Wrap Up

By Glenn Dunks

The massive DOC NYC festival wrapped up in New York City last week, having showcased over 250 films and events. We have already looked at a documentary about a David Lynch classic as well as a series of films about the cities around us. We conclude with a wrap-up diving into some of the human portraits that will hopefully be making their way to cinemas, festivals and VOD over the next year.

Barbara Kopple won an Academy Award for her first two films. That those two documentaries, Harlan County USA and American Dream were made 14 years apart becomes an even more impressive statistic when you consider just how prolific she has become since the late 1990s, often averaging two projects a year. This year is no different as she follows This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous with A Murder in Mansfield. YouTube stars and true crime - Kopple certainly knows how to pick zeitgeist themes...

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Wrapping Up: Stranger Things 2 

By Spencer Coile 

Stranger Things 2 dropped to Netflix three weeks ago, and already, most fans have consumed it in its entirety. In fact, many people finished it within the first weekend. I covered the first half of the season shortly after watching it, but because I choose not to binge the series in one sitting (just not my style of viewing), I was able to let the story and characters really sink in. 

Now, having finally finished Stranger Things 2, I can safely say that the second half of the season eclipses the first half -- making it a solid addition to the cultural phenomenon that is Stranger Things. After the jump, take a look at some brief thoughts about the season as a whole: what works, what doesn't, and what season three will hopefully bring... 

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The 2017 Animated Contenders: "Loving Vincent"

by Tim Brayton

Last week, we got word of the 26 films declared eligible for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards. That means it's time for the Film Experience's not-quite-annual look at some of the animated contenders that don't have the high profile and financial backing of a big studio affair like Coco or Despicable Me 3. Some of these might possibly be within hunting distance of an Oscar nomination; some, sad to say, won't have a chance in hell. But they're all worthy of attention.

I picked our first subject, Loving Vincent, for no particular reason other than because it's been one of my most-anticipated and because it's done quite well at arthouse theaters suggesting a good deal of interest. As such, it's with some qualified disappointment that I come to tell you all that it's... definitely not great.

 I certainly won't say it's bad. But it's kind of startlingly uninteresting as a narrative. So let's not start by talking about it as a narrative...

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