Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hamlet The Rock Musical

This is a change of pace for the site, this is a live stage event rather than a movie, but this is a venue that allows me to share with a variety of people who might find this worthwhile so please indulge me for this post.

Hamlet The Rock Musical has actually existed since the early 1970s. It is being revived for a run in North Hollywood by Concert Promoter David Carver, who saw it a dozen times as a kid and has dreamed of mounting it for the stage again for decades.

An abbreviated version of Shakespeare's longest play, it does not run five plus hours but rather a brisk two with a nicely placed intermission. If you are a theater buff, a fan of 70s style rock music, or a passionate fan of William Shakespeare, you really need to see this production.

The set design is cleverly minimalist, using an elaborate parapet that images are projected on to create an interior of a palace or an exterior graveyard. As with many stage productions, the cleverness of the set is simple with a couple of walls that open and close and a retractable set of stairs that can be used in multiple scenes. The atmospheric projections help set the mood from even before the play itself begins.

From the first strains of music I was set to really like this piece, The rock score starts out as strictly background music and it is stirring. Once the actors start singing however, it feels even more familiar, even though we don't really know the lyrics. This Musical is clearly influenced by the greatest Rock Opera of all time "Jesus Christ Superstar". All of the featured actors have spotlight moments and the songs range from metal style growling to R & B inflected pop. The voices of the actors are solid all around. My daughter who was with me thought that Fatima El-Bashir , who plays Ophelia, was fine but the weak link in the cast, which was exactly the opposite of my impression. She was soulful and emotionally on key for "Hello, Hello" and "If Not to You".

Hamlet, as played by Payson Lewis is stronger than he is usually portrayed in films, more Mel Gibson than Olivier or Branaugh. He has a strong voice and was athletic in the dance moves without becoming a ballet performer. Ian Littleworth is a good match in performance and voice as Laertes and the climax of the musical depends on the by-play between them during the duel/joust. Kevin Bailey as Claudis has to do a lot of the heavy lifting of the narrative in the songs but he pulls it off very effectively. Carly Thomas Smith as Gertrude was overshadowed for most of the play, as the character usually is, but there is a spotlight moment in the back half of the second act that gives her a chance to make the character more meaningful.

As usual with stage musicals, there are specialty players that steal moments and make the experience the thing that is so memorable about the play. Rozencrantz and Guildenstern have a delightful duo playing them and their introduction provides some sparkle to the first act. Kudos to Justin Michael Wilcox and Alli Miller for their amusing dance routine and comic timing. Another audience favorite will be the scenes with the Players. All of them were excellent but Bruce Merkle who is not credited as the Player King but who basically has that part, gets a lot of mileage out of his vocal range and the audience laughed loud.

This is clearly a labor of love, the cast of twenty make the production feel bigger than it really is. The offstage musicians play the music  with gusto and a bigger audience would probably help but even the moderate sized audience we saw it with was engaged and made it a theatrical experience. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Best Picture Showcase Day Two

Four films are on tap today, including the one I have not yet seen, Parasite. I'll have comments about all/of the films as we go along, but I will try to have more in depth commentary on Parasite when we get to it. I sat in the same seat that I had last week and again visited with Gary and his son Bradley.  They had remembered taking with Amanda a couple of years ago and they recognized me as one of the frequent trivia winners.  So although I was without my usual crew, I did have fans to talk with about the films.

All of the films in this years showcase are pretty heavy in some emotional way. While there are comedic moments in most of them, there is not one film nominated who has as it's principle focus, making us laugh. The closest we get to that was the first film of this Saturday'

JoJo Rabbit

There is a lot to laugh at in this fantasy film about the waning days of World War Two. It is told from the perspective of a ten year old boy who has made Adolph Hitler his imaginary friend. The film mocks the notion of radical nationalism and it shows fanaticism in some pretty silly ways. The preposterous claims about Jews made by the Nazis come in for some pretty funny exaggeration, and the hopelessness of the war is told through the story of two kids, a teenager and a mother who struggles to be supportive to her child while remaining true to her ethics. The movie takes a pretty dramatic turn and I could hear the whole audience respond to it as we were watching in the dark. This provides another reason to enjoy theatrical exhibition of movies where the collective experience adds to the power of the film.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

This has been my go to film this last year. I've seen it twice on the big screen in it's summer release, I watched it on a plane and once on home video, so today marks the fifth time I saw the film since it came out last July. I was hot on the film before it opened, warm after the first viewing, but heated up substantially with each subsequent visit. Leonardo DiCaprio is the lead, nominated for Best Actor, but the movie belongs to the guy carrying his load, Brad Pitt as stuntman/gofer Cliff Booth. Pitt gets three big fight scenes and excels in all of them. He makes Cliff a laconic throwback to old school Hollywood stuntmen and at the same time a transition to the new Hollywood. Leo's Rick Dalton will have a harder time adjusting to the new ways but the film gives them both a little hope at the conclusion. The revisionist history of this film is the most compelling thing about it. If you don't stick around for the last fifteen minutes, you are missing one of the most violent and joyful conclusions of a fairy tale ever told.


This is the one that I had not yet seen and about which there has been so much talk. Director Bong Joon Ho is the toast of the film world and the movie won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It is the top rated film of 2019 on the LAMB, and I saw several on-line rankings that said it was the best film of the decade. Okay, here is the thing, it is great, extremely well written and acted, it however is being overcooked and it will be endangered of having a backlash if people keep pushing the greatest ever narrative.

Somehow, this became a film that is about income inequity, and I think a lot of social warriors want to jump on that to do a little virtue signalling.  That seems like a bad idea to me because the have nots appear to not have from bad choices. They all have talents but in a cliche worthy of a superhero movie, "if only they used their talent for good rather than evil". The Kims ingratiate themselves into the Park household by being the kinds of employees that you would want. Mr. Kim knows the roads and learns a Mercedes well enough to be a good driver, his wife is the kind of housekeeper for the Parks that she never is at home. The daughter may be faking the art therapy thing, but she is having a positive effect on the Parks son. Ki-Woo, the son,  is a capable tutor but his lack of University status might hold him back. It's not really clear why the two offspring who are so gifted are not at university. This may be a place where the implication is poverty, but that is subtle at best.

What is clear is that the Kims delight in taking advantage of the Parks. They maneuver two people out of jobs in devious ways and they congratulate themselves for doing so. The only fault that the Parks seem to have that might justify the audience sympathy for the Kims, is a not very realistic olfactory failing. The Kims smell like poverty. When that becomes the trigger for an unfortunate event later in the film, it certainly seems to be overblown.

The movie reminded me of a cross between "The Sting" and "Fargo". There is a confidence game being played that runs out of control by unanticipated events. Those surprises are the kinds of things that provoked the violence in the Coen Brothers movie. From the beginning however, in Fargo we have two low lifes that we know are killers, so the explosions of violence seem reasonable to the characters. The twist in this film turns people who were not particularly nice but who were not killers, into potentially violent actors. The sort of stuff that we might have laughed at as innocuous petty crime becomes something very dark, very quickly. A new layer of social class is being brought in and it is even more inequitable. So the metaphor begins again. The metaphor even becomes a theme in the story and that is a little obvious as well.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the film. There may be something wrong with the folks who are over analyzing it as social commentary, and that is something that put me off a bit. I'm reacting to the reaction rather than the movie. 


This continued to be my favorite film of the year, even after viewing all the others. Several people in the audience as I was walking out at the end of a long day were overheard saying "well, they saved the best for last". I think that was true.   The gimmick of the film, being shot as if one continuous take, is a technical marvel but it also works for dramatic purposes. This was an intensely dangerous and stress filled day in the lives of two ordinary soldiers. When we see that they are part of a large army and we get hints about the equally dangerous days that each of those other soldiers that we see our two leads passing are having, it is even more compelling.

If Roger Deakins doesn't win for cinematography, something is just wrong. The complexity of the shots is hard to believe given how smoothly the images float in front of us. The expertise required to handle the night time scenes is also worthy of an award all on it's own. The composition and lighting of those sequences are both beautiful and nightmarish.

I did mention the two leads in my previous review but I'm not sure I gave them as much credit as they deserve. Dean-Charles Chapman as the determined younger brother who is given this mission because he will be motivated to carry it out, is a stand in for all of us who are naive enough to think that mere will alone is enough to accomplish a task. He of course does show that he has more than will, but his naivete is frustrating to us emotionally and another victim of the horrors that war is. George MacKay as the slightly more weary companion, imbues the film with the valor that an ignoble soldier finds in trying to do right by his commanders and friends. Either of them would have been valid choices for awards consideration despite their lack of star status.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

If ever a film announced itself as a feminist battle cry for comic book respect, "Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn" is the title they would probably choose. The idea here is to liberate not only Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, but every woman in the world from the patriarchal culture that they are being choked to death in. I think it's great that there is a comic book figure that is empowering to women, I just am a little concerned that they have to be murdering sociopaths. "Deadpool" seems like a caricature of super heroes, with his nihilistic humor and snarky social commentary. "Harley Quinn" is supposed to be taken differently, but I'm not sure how, and we may have skipped the part that is being parodied. 

I thought the quick telling of her backstory and the break up with her relationship to the Joker was clever. There is a combination of flashbacks, cartoons and first person narration that gets us through this relatively quickly and with some efficiency. The same efficiency does not apply to the secondary women in the story who need to be liberated as well. Detective Montoya gets ignored by the idiot men around her, multiple times, and it is only when she is egregiously second-guessed and suspended, in the mode of every movie cop trope you can find except the partner who dies, that she sees the need for some liberation. "The Huntress" is an assassin with a mission, who is saved as a child by a bad man who deposits her with other bad men to make her badass, but those men  disappear twenty seconds after her story is recounted. She has always been alone except for the gangster father she wants to avenge. So I guess what she needs to be liberated from is the family stricture that requires her to operate on a blood debt. "Black Canary" need to be liberated from the clutches of a man who sees her as a possession and doesn't recognize her worth. He treats her as a slave and she acts the part really well.

The other female character in the story is a neighborhood girl who has parents that argue while she hones her skills as a thief and pick-pocket. She is already liberated from any sense of right or wrong, so I guess she is supposed to be a role model for the suppressed women in the story and a chip off of the Harley Block. The reality is that the film stacks up so many straw men [that is an intentional double meaning] that the films sense of justice feels manufactured and that undermines the main point. I'm probably taking this too seriously, some of you are muttering to yourselves right now "it's just a comic book movie". It is just a comic book movie which is why all the other stuff is standing in the way.

Margot Robbie made this character her own in "Suicide Squad" back in 2016, and it is no surprise here that she is the main draw. The problem is that a little of the character goes a long way, but we get a lot of the character and it makes her distinctiveness feel littler. From an action point of view, the fight scenes and shootouts are staged in a visually arresting manner but sometimes there is a little too much layered on top, For instance, every scene depicting women kicking men's asses, is accompanied by an empowering hard rock song about the power of bad ass women. It underlines, puts it in bold and points at it in such an obvious way that the action sometimes feels less organic to the events in the story and simply one more place to pump up the girl power.

In addition to overselling Harley, the make her antagonist feckless. He is a villain who is so narcissistic, that much like Kylo Ren, he has a superfluous mask simply to draw attention to himself. It literally serves no other function, since everyone including the police know that he is "Black Mask". Ewan McGregor squawks and screams through the role as if he is Al Pacino playing the Joker. His only super power appears to be reckless inflated opinion of himself. What value is there in a heroine who takes down this pile of nothingness?

I like the production design when the characters are on the streets battling it out, and there is a funky set that is the location for the climax confrontation which was fun. I probably sound silly complaining about the cartoonish characters when we are talking about a movie that is a cartoon, but there was never a time I thought the women leads were in jeopardy. Harley by herself repeatedly takes out squads of hulking henchmen, so why would we worry about the outcome when she has four backup players to fight a small army?

Truth be told, I found the movie entertaining on a simplistic level. If we have to choose between the sets of characters on the screen, of course we are going to root for the women. It just lacks the kind of balance that would make the film feel substantive, and you can tell that it wears its ideology on it's sleeve. That detracts a little from the fun, but it also makes the value of that ideology feel cheap. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020 Oscar Nominated Shorts Live Action/Animation

The Documentary shorts were not playing at my theater so I will have to look for them, but here are just some brief comments on the two sets of Oscar Nominated Shorts that I did get a chance to see.

A Sister

This was a dramatic short based on a call to emergency services by a woman who is being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance and is being driven around by her assailant. She has to make the call seem as if it is innocuous because she is in danger. It was quite taught and we never see anyone except the Emergency Services dispatcher clearly. It was quite tense.


I can't say it is an apology for the ISIS fighters in Syria but it is a different perspective which is certainly it's intent. The lives of a family in Tunisia are affected by the choices made by one of the sons. The narrative takes a couple of twists that would be more meaningful to someone with knowledge of the internal legal system of that Middle Eastern nation. The whole experience has got to be miserable, lucky us we get to share it.

The Neighbors Window

This one starts off slightly salacious and then it's tone shifts. The perspective we see for most of the story is not the only one and that is the point. In the end it was quite moving. As a story it is very clever and the lead Actress was very effective, especially at the end.


Maybe the most depressing of the short films on the program. Particularly since it based on rel world events. An orphanage in Guatemala is more prison camp than home for teen girls. The young actresses are solid with very little backstory to inform their characters. You will be infuriated at the end of the movie, it is an advocacy docudrama that is only barely a fictional narrative.

Nefta Football Club

There is an element of danger is this second short film set in the Middle East. In the end however it turns out to be the most comedic of the films and the one that you can enjoy on a pure entertainment level.

Instead of posting the individual Trailers, let me direct you to the site where you can see all of those trailers and find information about where they are screening near your location. Click Here. 

Animated Shorts

This program included the five nominated films plus four or five others that I neglected to write down so my memory will be hit or miss on those.


This was done in an interesting medium but not necessarily one that is attractive. The abstract nature of the story makes it somewhat hard to relate to despite the universal themes that it appears to be drawing on. Obviously done with meticulous care because each frame looks like stop motion although I can't say for sure that it is not a combination of computer and hand drawn work. 

Hair Love

This was a Kickstarter funded project and the animation looks very traditional. There is a twist at the end that will tug on the heartstrings a bit, and it ends up being one of the least depressing of the animated shorts on the program. There is a good chance this will be the winner because of it's take on the complicated relationship of those with African heritage and their hair in Western Culture. 


This was my personal favorite although it is unlikely to win. This was done by some of the folks at Pixar and it is as usual, a perfect blend of sentiment and art told without words. I am a sucker for animal stories and this features two animals that I found charming and well personified by the artists. 


This French entry may be the most depressing animated film I have seen in a long time. It is a Twelve minute mediation on the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, told using a form of claymation. It looks odd at times but it is very effective at conveying the confusion and desperation of those suffering from the disease and those who love them. It is sad to think about the number of people who will experience some of the things depicted here. 


This one was the most surprising of the animated shorts. It comes from China and there is a reason that is the source of the story. The animation is stop motion with fuzz covered figures that look like stuffed versions of people. The relationship of a brother to his sister in this ultimately sad story is explored with some humor but a lot of pathos.  


Henrietta Bulkowski

A young woman with a severe back deformity, which forces her to always look down, seeks to become a pilot, even if she has to build her own plane. It features a vocal performance by Actor Chris Cooper. The animation is odd, it looks like stop motion using dolls. I'm not sure why it would not have made the cut against some of the other films that were included.

Hors Piste

The most clearly comic film included in the animated shorts. It is reminiscent of a Looney Tunes Roadrunner cartoon, with a series of unfortunate incidents befuddling a mountain rescue team. The computer animation is excellent, and you will cringe and laugh simultaneously. 


The shortest of the short films, it is basically a musical interlude performed by a number of critters that you might find in the backyard or nearby woods. The animation is very detailed computer work. I guess I'm just a sucker for the animal tales because I loved this one as well. 

There was at least one other short that played in this mini-festival, but I can't remember it at the moment. If it comes to me I will come back and share it.

I can include at least two of the animated films here for you to watch, as they are available on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Lamb Devours the Oscars [Best Supporting Actor]

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We here at the LAMB love Oscar talk, not so much because the Awards are so meaningful, they often are not, but because they focus our attention on all kinds of details. We get five or more nominees in twenty four categories, many of which would not normally be the subject of our usual discussions. This category is one of the big eight so you might have had a little discussion on these choices, so get prepared for a little more.

This year, in this group, there are no first time nominees. In fact, everyone in this classification already had an Academy Award. They all have multiple nominations in the past, and two of the nominees have multiple awards for acting. So this is old hands time and not really a place to make up for a past injustice. Only Brad Pitt has not won an acting award from the Academy, but he has the comfort of a Best Picture Oscar as a producer on "12 Years a Slave".
The range of characters represented here is impressive. A Union boss, a gangster, a TV Icon, a Pope and a down at the heals Stuntman. All of these characters come alive in a variety of ways and probably deserve the nominations they received. Looking around, I don't see any significant Snubs in this division. So let's celebrate each of the nominated performances with some gusto.

Anthony Hopkins-The Two Popes/Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Anthony

It's been 22 years since Sir Anthony Hopkins was a nominee, which seems hard to believe. His performance as Benedict is quiet and confounding at times. We are never quite clear on what motivates this man of high intellect and deeply held religious convictions to surrender his papacy, especially to a man with whom he has significant doctrinal disagreements. We can however see the humanity in the man and his desire to advance the church in troubling times. His nomination may in part be a reflection of mastering Latin and a little bit of German. At the end of his trail, is a warm relationship with his successor and a sense of relief on his mind which we can see in the actors face. Hopkins does indulge in what I have always seen as his most obvious acting tic frequently. He has a particular way of saying the word "Yes" that he falls back on three or four times in this film.

Joe Pesci-The Irishman/Russell Bufalino

Gangster Pesci

Mr. Pesci is batting .500 in this classification up to this point. His previous nominations came in Martin Scorsese projects, and surprise, he gets a third nomination after coming out of retirement for another Scorsese film. Again he is a gangster, but this time a more mellow and thoughtful hood than the volatile Tommy DeVito of Goodfellas. This role is not particularity showy and in fact, I thought it could have been played by a number of other actors. What he brings is the gravitas of his past performances to pump up a character who is largely peripheral to the main plot. He does have some nice scenes with DeNiro as he nudges the Irish thug into his crime family so there is something here, I would be surprised if this was his second win.   

Tom Hanks- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood/Fred Rogers

Mr. Hanks Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers was such a culturally recognized figure that it takes a pretty delicate performance to avoid doing an impression that would end up as a parody. There have been plenty of those over the years. Tom Hanks uses his quiet distinctive voice very effectively in bringing Rogers into the story. His deliberate pacing and even modulation are pitch perfect. It helps that the lines are also so well written. The most brilliant aspect of the performance is the recognition that Fred Rogers is not really the protagonist in the story, he is a critical secondary character.  Rogers was known for being famously kind and polite, so it made perfect sense to have the man that many would say is the nicest guy in Hollywood portray him. Hanks is not a doppelganger for Rogers, but hair, makeup and costumes also go a long way in making this a truly credible performance.

Al Pacino-The Irishman/Jimmy Hoffa


I grew up in a world where Jimmy Hoffa was as famous a public figure as any President or Senator or Governor. He was a powerful man who had a loyal union and he was not shy about battling the government over his authority. Al Pacino has been frequently bellicose in his performances since winning the Best Actor Oscar for being just that in "Scent of a Woman" in 1992. This is his first nomination since then, maybe it is a sign that he needs to adjust his style, because when he did so in "The Irishman", he was so much more effective. He still plays a tough guy but he is disarmingly quiet in many of the big moments in the film. The way he seems to connect with the main characters daughter, effortlessly is a good example of that. Pacino conveys the pig headed nature of the Union Boss, and the obtuse way in which he responds to the gangster partners he has made is demonstrated in many scenes in the film.  He is the standout in this his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese.

Brad Pitt-Once Upon a Time in Hollywood/Cliff Booth


This character is one of the most appealing features in a film stacked with actors doing great work and Tarantino moments that will stick with us for a lifetime. Pitt takes this detached, knockabout companion of TV star Rick Dalton, and turns him into a charming, sharp and ultimately lethal character.  It is never clear to me, how the line between Leading Actor and Supporting Actor is drawn. Pitt uses his magnetic smile and aw shucks demeanor to great effect when he faces down Bruce Lee, the Manson Family and his own dog. Cliff holds his posture in a manner that suggests he is casual, but in any situation we can see he is really the alpha, even if he is willing to pretend otherwise. He takes many of the essential qualities of Kurt Russell, and underplays them, especially in his few scenes with Kurt himself. The clincher of Pitt's performance however is the stop at the Spahn Ranch where he deals with those damn hippies. This is my pick for the winner in this group. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words

He is not known by a clever turn of an Acronym like "the Notorious RBG", and it is unlikely that he will be a bobble-head available at Hot Topic or Spenser's Gifts, but he certainly is a well know and controversial figure. I'd guess that he was one of the Justices that the average American would be able to name from the Supreme Court, and that may not always be for good reasons. Regardless of how you feel about his judicial perspective and role  on the court, I think you would find this film interesting in the way many biographical documentaries are. This one also has the benefit of his personal narration.

Maybe narration is the wrong term, exposition might be more appropriate. The sub-title of the film is incredibly accurate, this is Justice Thomas as he sees himself. The director and producer had thirty hours of first hand, single camera interviews with him and they have culled the story down to a manageable two hour narrative of the Justices life. It can basically be broken down into a three act structure, with a bit of an epilogue. He describes his childhood, being raised mostly by his grandfather up through the seminary school he dropped out of angry over the indifference of his class mates and the Catholic church to the assassination of Martin Luther King. The middle section describes his political evolution in college and then as a law student and young lawyer. He falls into public service with a Republican, which was the last thing he ever expected. Finally, there is the professional career that should be crowned by his appointment to the highest court in the land but was overshadowed by accusations of sexual harassment.

The first half of the story is told in much the same way that Ken Burns tells his stories. There are archival pictures and film clips used to create the exposition as Thomas speaks. In some places there are simple filmed segments of places that Thomas grew up in or simulations of the viewpoint he might have had. There are no actors in the film however so it never feels like a docudrama. There are some musical underscores but none of them has any heavy drama to them, this is not a film about recreating the emotional experiences that he went through.

The photographs and archival material gives way as Thomas becomes a public figure in the Reagan administration and there is video and film footage that can be plugged in to provide historical context. Of course the greatest amount of that material comes during the hearings on his nomination in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired at the time by Senator Joe Biden. The Vice President and now candidate for President, does not come off very well in the few minutes he is on screen. The rogue's gallery of Senators in the hearing also seem slightly sinister, whether they were advocates or opponents of his nomination. The other narrator that we hear from extensively in this section is Mrs. Thomas, who aggressively defends her husband as he is being grilled by the panel and raked over the coals by the media.

Justice Thomas explains the basis of his judicial temperament and the originalism that drives that perspective. There is a bit of a coda that tells us a bit more about him as a person in this day. He is a Nebraska Cornhusker Fan, and an RV enthusiast who likes to travel the backroads of America. If you admire the Justice, you will certainly appreciate the film, but even if you are a critic and opponent of his views, I think you will find it an interesting and even handed telling of his story, and that story is important.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Best Picture Showcase Day One

This year there are only seven of the nine films nominated because Netflix did not make The Irishman and Marriage Story available for exhibition.  Day one of the Showcase features Ford v Ferrari,  Joker and Little Women.

Ford v Ferrari

I loved this movie when I first saw it and my opinion has not changed.  This is a great story with several terrific performances.  Matt Damon literally chews the screen because he is either eating or working a piece of gum in 90% of the scenes he is in. Christian Bale is the real star, the physicality of his performance is amazing in those shots set in the cars he is driving. There are several racing scenes and he manages to match the tension in each of them with just enough to not oversell it. It's a shame the Academy could not find room for him among this year's lead actors.

Two other things impressed me even more as I was rewatching the film. The editing of the movie is very effective at showing the characters and building excitement into the story. The music was also a strong asset to the storytelling,  I liked how it created an aura of the 1960s without using source music.


This film gave me conflicting reactions when I first saw it. The story bravely confronts the stigma of mental illness and shows that society is Ill equipped to manage it. It is also a bit of a cheat since we can never be sure that what we are seeing isn't just the mental machinations of a disturbed mind. That bothered me far less on a second viewing,  I had an idea this time about how the inconsistency might work , so when an incident is shown I could look at it two ways more readily.

I've seen some criticism of Todd Phillips directing nomination, but he is the one responsible for the composition of the shots, some of which mirror traditional comic book iconography,  but there are others that subvert them in various ways. This is a patient film that doesn't rush to simply get to the thrilling parts. The performance by Joaquin Phoenix is even more impressive on a second viewing because you can get past the physical transformation and watch the emotional wreck that Arthur Fleck is, and see the stewing eruptions with nice subtlety. The music for this movie is also hauntingly disturbing,  as it should be.

Little Women

For the life of me I have a hard time understanding how Greta Gerwig isn't nominated as director, this film looks great,  the performances are top notch and it is emotionally satisfyingly. She did a retooling of the story to make the three love stories work better than they have in the earlier versions.  The final sequences also allow the film to have it both ways in regards to Jo and her Independence.

The only problems I had were a couple of tin eared woke lines that drew attention to themselves.  The interactions with the Mr. Dashwood character worked well enough on its own to convey the frustrating perspective that women Submitted to a century and a half ago.

These were all fine films but I suspect that the big contenders will be in next week's line-up.