When I started this blog, I imagined that, in addition to promoting my writing, I’d also write the occasional review of a movie, book, TV show, or album. In college, I had a movie review column in the school newspaper that always received good notices from students and faculty alike. I have tried to write full-length reviews for this site before. The only problem is that, for some reason, my enthusiasm for the endeavor tends to wear off quickly.
Most recently, I tried constructing a review for Matt Reeves’ take on The Batman. I wrote two paragraphs before saving it into my drafts. It has languished there ever since. Same can be said for reviews I wanted to write for A Quiet Place II, Bo Burnham: Inside, and The New Abnormal by the Strokes. I can’t quite pinpoint why, but I seem to have lost the knack and the desire to write full-length reviews. (That being said: The Batman is very entertaining and contains a noteworthy performance from Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman, along with a thoroughly unrecognizable Colin Farrell chewing up scenery as the Penguin. I will note that, for those who complained that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies were overstuffed with narrative, this makes them look downright minimalist in comparison. There’s a lot going on in its 3-hour time frame, but the pace rarely lets up.)
So, like I did last year, I’m going to offer capsule reviews of some of the movies up for Oscars this coming Sunday. As always, I won’t be watching the ceremony. I just don’t have the patience for that spectacle anymore, though I will check in on the winners throughout the night.
Being the Ricardos – I have to admit, I was skeptical when I heard Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem were cast as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Well, I’m here to say that I was wrong. Kidman channels Lucy in an almost scary way. Bardem, who has only played heavy dramatic roles up until now, acquits himself well as the famed Cuban band leader. The supporting cast is strong as well, with JK Simmons a stand-out as the famously cantankerous drunk William Frawley. The movie around these performances is interesting but never quite gets to the heights it wants to attain. Still, it’s an interesting movie with excellent performances.
Coda – This is the very definition of a hidden gem. Now that more people have Apple+ TV so they can take in the rightly loved Ted Lasso, hopefully, more people will discover this. The story is quiet yet powerful, and the cast is uniformly great. Do yourself a favor and search this one out.
Don’t Look Up – This is a mixed bag of a movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence were both good, but Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill were bad. It has some funny moments, but as it goes on, the snarky tone becomes tougher to digest. The storyline is interesting, but certain bits in the middle and near the end (especially what inspired the film’s title) stretch credulity to its breaking point. Overall, a good movie that should’ve gotten out of its own way more often.
Dune – Epic filmmaking at its finest. Villeneuve crafts a stirring adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel. He shapes it into a sci-fi action thriller with much more on its mind than most of its ilk. Chalamet is a formidable Paul Atriedes and Rebecca Ferguson is stunning as his mother. Zendaya gives just the right amount of mystery to her character to make you want to find out more about her (which I’m sure we will see in the sequel, which I hope to see in the theater, since I had to watch this on my TV at home).
King Richard – Will Smith is a lock for Best Actor this year. This is one of those rare times where he’s not just playing a variation on the Will Smith persona he’s successfully crafted since the late 80s. This owes more to his dramatic turns in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness. He immerses himself in the character of the driven father of Venus and Serena Williams, who, as we all know, did rather well for themselves in the tennis world. The movie itself is a fine fable about the results of remaining determined and going after what you want, but this is Will Smith’s movie, and I’m sure he’ll have Oscar gold as a result of it.
The Power of the Dog – This features very good performances, especially from Kirsten Dunst, and has some very lovely cinematography, but overall, it left me cold. I really didn’t care for the characters, and while I wouldn’t call it boring, at a certain point, I realized I was watching it just to finish it, not because I had any real investment in it. The film has an impenetrable wall that won’t let you in. It forces you to watch it from a distance, and that’s to the story’s detriment. Not a fan of this one.
Spiderman: No Way Home – I’m including this because I feel very strongly that this should’ve gotten a Best Picture nomination. Unfortunately, the snobbery of the Academy held it back from getting a nomination, which is a shame because this did what I feel is the main function of movies: it brought people together, told a compelling story featuring characters we loved, and gave us all a rousing time at the movies, which is what we all needed after how the last two years have been. It was amazing seeing Holland, Maguire, and Garfield occupying the screen together, not to mention hearing the audience go nuts when the latter two Spidermen appeared. Marvel really needed this one to be a success, since Black Widow and Shang-Chi were good but not great and Eternals was a poorly acted, lazily written, and badly directed dud. Spiderman more than made up for it all.
Tick, Tick…Boom! – Speaking of Garfield, had this not been Will Smith’s year, I think Garfield could’ve scored his first Oscar for his energetic performance as Jonathan Larson, the creator of Rent, while he was a struggling playwright. Garfield hits all the right notes, dramatically and musically, and continues to show a depth in range in his acting. Everyone else around him is good, and the film is ably directed by the seemingly ubiquitous Lin-Manuel Miranda, but Garfield tap-dances his way off with this movie.