The Grouch’s Oscar Ballot

OscarBallotGrouch.png

Explanations

I DON’T OWE YOU PEOPLE ANYTHING.

Also, the Academy Awards are complete crap.

Advertisements

Joker’s Oscar Ballot

 

OscarBallotJoker.png

Explanations

Best Picture: Blackkklansman

Spike Lee has been snubbed too many times, so the Academy probably feel like they owe him, with the added bonus that it gives them the most direct way to show off their dislike of a current public figure. Also, it was a really well-done movie.

Best Director: Spike Lee

He’s literally never been nominated for this award before. He’s never had a nomination for Best Picture before. Meanwhile, they actually were against screenings of Do The Right Thing, because they were worried it would lead black people to riot. This was in 1989. Again, they are gonna feel like they owe him.

Best Actress: Olivia Colman

Look, I want it to be Glenn Close. I’ll be pretty happy if it’s Glenn Close. But Olivia Colman’s performance in The Favourite contains so many wonderful levels that you could spend hours dissecting it. She could have made Anne an ancillary character in the rivalry between two women, but no, she made her a focus.

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King

I think this is going to happen because the people who like the two nominees from The Favourite are going to split the ballot. That said, Regina King freaking nailed this performance, and she totally deserves the award.

Actor in a Leading Role: Christian Bale

I didn’t even like this movie that much, but damn, that’s a performance for the ages. Bale probably can’t mutilate his body with impunity for much longer, so this is a good chance to get an award for his particular brand of weigh shifting.

Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant

If you haven’t seen Can You Ever Forgive Me, you’ll know that Richard E. Grant’s performance is one of the more amazing parts of a film that, for the most part, is fairly predictable. Yes, he has great dialogue, but his character could so easily have been much worse that it’s amazing how well he carries it.

Best Costume Design: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

I know a lot of people probably think it’s going to be a period piece, but I think it was amazing how many costumes they put in this movie, and how varied and elaborate the costumes were. Liam Neeson’s coat alone took days to make.

Best Film Editing: The Favourite

Okay, all the people in Editing probably want it to be Blackkklansman because there was some pretty awesome tricks involving overlaying faces during shots, but if you’re a regular person, I think you vote for The Favourite. I’m a regular Joker, I pick that.

Best Sound Editing: A Quiet Place

Okay, this is one of the two Oscars where I’ll actually be pissed if I’m wrong. This movie was amazing and it was the completely perfect use of silence and sound that really makes it work.

Best Sound Mixing: A Star Is Born

This was, for me, one of the best parts of the film. If I can sit in a movie and go “wow, they really did a great job mixing this,” then that probably means at least a few other people did the same.

Best Documentary – Short Subject: Lifeboat

It’s a short film about refugees and it goes out of its way to humanize all of them, as well as the people who try to help them. It’s a great short film if you haven’t seen it.

Best Documentary – Feature Length: RBG

This category is bullsh*t as the best Documentary of last year was Won’t You Be My Neighbor and all other movies are lesser to that. But RBG was also a good movie.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman

This was an amazing true story that is amazingly well-adapted in this script. Some of the dialogue was among the best of last year.

Best Original Screenplay: Green Book

As I pointed out in my review, this is the only one that really generated controversy and I think that generally helps rather than hurts.

Original Score: Black Panther

 I think they’re going to give Black Panther something, and this was definitely one of the more stand-out parts of the film. It has an amazing score and it combines a lot of elements not seen in many films before it.

Best Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This is the second award that I will actually be p*ssed off about if I’m wrong. This was the best animated movie and just flat-out one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a work of art with amazing dialogue and a great message.

Best Foreign Language Film: Roma

Like with Toy Story 3, I think the fact that this one was nominated for Best Picture means that it has a massive advantage. Also, this could win Best Picture and I would not be at all surprised, because this movie is a beautiful thematic tale with a lot of amazing shots.

Original Song: Shallow (A Star is Born)

This scene was the best scene in the movie, and the music video of it is hauntingly beautiful. It’s a great song, Bradley Cooper blew me away, and IT’S LADY FREAKING GAGA. Just accept that it’s amazing and let it make you happy.

Best Animated Short Film: Late Afternoon

This is basically a short-film about dementia that is told through some of the best animation transitions I’ve seen in a while. I almost picked Bao because everyone saw it since it was attached to a feature, but this film hit me so hard I can’t not pick it.

Best Production Design: Black Panther

Again, this was one of the best parts of the film, and had so much more thought put into it that I would ever have expected. It combined African Cultural History with Sci-fi perfectly.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice

This movie ages almost every character over several decades and does it so well it rarely looks like makeup and prosthetics.

Best Live-Action Short Film: Skin

First of all, why are all of the films about killing kids? Seriously, I think all of the shorts were about child-murder. Second, this was a short film about racism that kind of screws up the message. That seems like Oscar Bait to me.

Best Cinematography: Roma

Alfonso Cuaron is a freaking genius when it comes to cinematography and the fact that the film is in Black-and-white only makes this more obvious.

Best Visual Effects: Ready Player One

I actually don’t know that these were the best visual effects, but they were definitely the MOST visual effects.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Oscar Review – Vice: Being Evil Is Bad and Stuff

Adam McKay brings us an off-kilter movie about the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

SUMMARY

The movie is narrated by Kurt (Jesse Plemons), a soldier, as he discusses the life of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) as well as the impact his presence had on the Bush administration.

The film starts with an alcoholic Dick Cheney getting a DUI and being told to clean up his life by his wife, Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams). Later, Cheney works for the Nixon administration and discovers that the US secretly bombed Cambodia under the advice of Henry Kissinger (Kirk Bovill). Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) ends up being distanced from Nixon, and Cheney, his intern, starts to fall out of grace, but then Nixon resigns and Rumsfeld is the Secretary of Defense and Cheney becomes White House Chief of Staff, due to them being the only members not really connected with the fallout.

Vice - 1Younger
Behold, the face of… not Richard Nixon.

After the Ford administration ends, Cheney has a heart attack and becomes a Congressman from Wyoming, mostly with his wife’s help, and starts to support a bunch of policies that blatantly help corrupt corporations gain lucrative positions and greater control over industries. Cheney serves as Secretary of Defense during the first Bush Administration, but then decides to retire from public life after finding out that his youngest daughter, Mary (Alison Pill), is a lesbian. He then becomes the head of Halliburton and becomes fabulously wealthy.

Vice - 2LynneDick.jpg
I have avoided a single joke about his name. I want that on the record.

Cheney gets asked to be the running mate for George W. Bush (Sam “Regular or Extra Menthol” Rockwell) during the 2000 Presidential Election, which Cheney agrees to on the condition that he be allowed to have more power than a typical Vice President. Bush, not particularly caring about actually being President, agrees. As VP, Cheney brings Rumsfeld in as Secretary of Defense, David Addington (Don McManus) as legal counsel, and Scooter Libby (Justin Kirk) as Chief of Staff. Together, they make all of the actual foreign policy and defense decisions in the administration. Then, 9/11 happens.

Vice - 3Sept11.jpg
Again, this is mostly a comedy film.

The movie depicts Cheney as using the attacks as a way to preside over the U.S. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in numerous deaths and the rise of ISIS. Kurt, the narrator, served in the military during both of these invasions and witnessed killing of civilians and extrajudicial torture of prisoners.  Meanwhile, Cheney has multiple heart issues which eventually put him on his deathbed. He says a tearful goodbye to his family, but Kurt is killed while jogging and his heart saves Cheney’s life.

Vice - 4Older
He’s not in great health.

At the end of the movie, Liz Cheney (Lily Rabe) wins her father’s seat in Congress after speaking out against gay marriage, leading Mary Cheney to leave the family. The film then breaks the fourth wall and has an angry Cheney state that he has no regrets about anything he’s done. A mid-credits scene depicts a focus group where a right-wing viewer calls the film biased and violently attacks a panelist who disagrees while most of the other panelists focus on upcoming action movies.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, this was the movie that I least imagined would get nominated for an Oscar out of all of the nominees, even Black Panther. I didn’t think super highly of A Star Is Born, but I thought it was Oscar bait. BlacKkKlansman seemed like a shoo-in, same with Roma. Bohemian Rhapsody wowed me with spectacle in the theater, so it wasn’t until later that I realized “oh, this dialogue is actually kind of lousy.” Green Book had Mahershala Ali’s performance in a film that makes Hollywood feel good. The Favourite was a period piece with great costumes and three amazing leads and artistic angles, so that’s basically a gimme. This movie, though…

Vice - 6Sorry
But Boots Riley gets nothing.

Adam McKay is a very talented director, ranging from Anchorman and Talladega Nights to The Big Short. He’s great at doing very stylized movies that have lots of solid comic elements, as well as occasional sudden shifts in tone or focus, like the “Afternoon Delight” scene in Anchorman or the multiple fourth-wall breaks to explain concepts in The Big Short. This movie has devices similar to those, but I think it went a little overboard on them while trying to handle a subject that it simultaneously wants to mock and also to take seriously. You have the framing device of the narrator, but also false endings, fourth wall breaks, the focus group, the double time shift from 9/11… it’s just a little too much structural mutation within a film that isn’t exactly sure what tone it wants to take. This film portrays horrible events and wants you to think about how horrible they are… but then makes a few one-liners about how ignorant Americans are. It’s not impossible to do both of these tones in one film, but I don’t think they quite pulled it off here.

Vice - 7McKay
Those glasses are reserved for directors.

The film presents Dick Cheney as both a wasted dropout who lucked into a job and also a brilliant schemer who essentially uses Machiavellian tactics to gain power and wealth, but it never really connects with how he can be both. Yes, people are multifaceted, that’s the beauty of dealing with real people rather than archetypes, but even with Bale’s great performance (and it is absolutely fantastic), Cheney only seems to be a series of shifting characters, not one man that is all of these things. It clearly says that he’s a bad person, and the film takes the stance that everything he does is pretty much awful, but saying “oh, hey, this humorously over-the-top villain is bad” is a little less subtle than Bale’s performance merited.

Vice - 8SideBySide.jpg
Again, the guy on the right is BATMAN.

That said, every performance in this is amazing. Bale’s so good you wouldn’t even believe he’s the same guy who played Batman or Patrick Bateman, while Rockwell reminds us once again that he is an almost unbelievable talent. If you haven’t watched Moon or Seven Psychopaths, you’re missing out. Amy Adams is a national freaking treasure and should be treated as such. Steve Carell, Lily Rabe, Alison Pill, Tyler Perry, all of them did amazing work. If there is one thing to be said about this, everyone was giving 110%.

Vice - 5Kurt.jpg
Jesse Plemons’ performance was heart-taking. I REFUSE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THIS DAD JOKE.

My biggest complaint, though, and it’s a very personal one to me, is that this movie breaks one of my cardinal rules of filmmaking: It tells the audience that you’re wrong to not like it. It presents all the people who aren’t excited about the film as either vapid idiots who don’t care enough about the world to pay attention or angry idiots who are going to be pissed about the liberalism of Hollywood. Even if you were to believe both of those things, and you very well might, just acknowledging these people to mock them doesn’t ever do anything positive. If you believe that what you’re saying, even if it will be criticized, is still worth saying, THEN F*CKING SAY IT. Don’t try to pre-defend yourself by taking shots at your detractors, just say what you believe and stand by it. 

Overall, I don’t dislike the movie, in fact I thought a lot of parts of it were good and inventive, but the structure was a little too messy for me to really think it was going to be an Oscar nominee. But maybe that’s why I only write for a few hundred people on the internet, rather than Time Magazine.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

 

Oscar Review – Green Book: Race Relations Are (Still) Complicated

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen take us through this true (or mostly true) story about an extremely unlikely friendship.

SUMMARY

Classical Pianist “Doc” Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is set to go on an 8-week concert tour of the Mid-Western and the Southern United States. He hires Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to be his driver and bodyguard. Don’s management gives Tony a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book so that he will be able to find motels, restaurants, and gas stations that will allow Don inside.

GreenBook - 1Cast.jpg
Tony Lip always dressed like a mobster.

As the tour starts, the two do not get along very well. Tony dislikes anything refined, or acting like a subordinate to Don, while Don thinks Tony is an uncouth lout. However, as they go on, Don’s talent starts to impress Tony and Tony becomes increasingly disturbed by how everyone treats Don in the South, from managers and venue owners to random white people. Don helps Tony write letters to his wife (Linda Cardellini), with Don’s sophisticated language and talent for creative composition punching up Tony’s less than amazing style. Tony tries to get Don to connect with his family, but Don feels isolated by his lifestyle, both because he’s a classical pianist and also because he’s a homosexual. When Don is caught in a YMCA pool with another (white) man, Tony bribes the officers to release Don. When the two are arrested for Don being black in a town that bars black people after curfew, Don calls his lawyer, revealed to be Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who has them released. These experiences further humiliate Don, but Tony uses them to point out that, by being rich and connected, Tony feels like he’s “blacker” than Don. Don points out how false that statement is, by saying being rich and connected has made him feel disconnected to his black community, being black keeps him disconnected from the white community, and being gay means that pretty much everyone in 1963 hates him. He’s essentially alone in the world.

GreenBook - 2Piano
So talented, he could get into clubs that he literally couldn’t get into.

On one of the last stops of the tour, Don refuses to play at the club because the owner refuses to allow Don to be served inside the very venue that he’s been booked to play. Instead, Don plays at a black club and wows the audience. Heading back North, Tony invites Don to join his family for Christmas Eve Dinner, which Don eventually accepts. Tony’s wife thanks Don for the letters, revealing that she figured out Tony wasn’t writing them alone.

END SUMMARY

One of the most interesting things about this movie was the response by Don Shirley’s family and the counter-response by Mahershala Ali and the film’s main author Nick Vallelonga. Shirley’s family insisted that Vallelonga and Shirley were never friends and that the point of their relationship was that Shirley had to employ subordinates of a different race in order to deal with racism. Mahershala Ali apologized profusely for not consulting with the family to add nuance. However, Nick Vallelonga, Tony Lip’s real-life son, revealed that the movie was based on a series of interviews he conducted with Shirley and his father, and that Shirley had specifically asked Vallelonga not to consult other people. So, ultimately, the accuracy of this movie now seems somewhat in dispute.

GreenBook - 4Laughter
 Probably wasn’t this informal, though.

The best part of this film are the two leads, although, I’m not going to lie, I think Mahershala Ali did most of the heavy lifting. I do admit that I might not think as highly of Viggo’s performance because I conflate Tony Lip with all of the characters that Tony Lip portrayed throughout the years (mostly mobsters), but I also just don’t think he made Tony nearly as complex as Ali made Shirley. I acknowledge that might be partially because Shirley was just a more interesting character within the film, although I think Tony actually had the more complete character arc. This isn’t to say that I thought Viggo Mortensen’s performance was bad, in fact it was very good, I just thought Ali delivered a little more.

GreenBook - 3RealLife
… I might be biased based on the “real life” comparison photos I’ve seen.

My biggest problem with this movie is probably that it falls into some of the same traps that most films run into when dealing with race. First, it just has to copy some of the traditional scenes, like a white man being shocked at how a black man is treated, or a black man having to remind a white man that he has an advantage that’s completely unearned. It’s just not new, and it takes a lot to make it interesting. Second, when you’re making a movie and you have a conflict, at the end of the film you like to feel like that conflict is resolved. What do you do, then, when your conflict isn’t really between your two leads, but between your lead and a societal injustice? If you’re The Hunger Games or The Matrix or even Fight Club, you can end your film on a note that hey, these problems are actually going to be solved. But when your injustice is racism, something that is still pervasive to this day, how can you even try to pretend that it’s solved? Well, you have your main characters learn to get past their natural biases and bond and that’s just as good, right? Not really, but it lets us feel like something has been accomplished, so we can walk out feeling like everything’s not hopeless. I’m not saying you should end every movie with a nihilistic point of view saying that nothing ever gets better, but I also think that most films about racism make you feel “oh hey, this is over now” at the end, and we don’t need to do that, either. The movie does make us feel better about the fact that we’ve come a long way, and it should, but it shouldn’t allow us to forget that we still have a ways to go.

GreenBook - 5Actors.jpg
Granted, the fact that it’s not a benchmark for a black actor to be nominated anymore IS a sign of advancement.

I do think that the film does a good job of adding in the elements that were unique to Don Shirley’s story, particularly his disconnect with traditional black culture in the 60s arising from his wealth and connections and his disconnect with almost everyone arising from being a gay man in the 1960s. It’s interesting to be reminded that even a perceived advantage, and wealth is generally always an advantages, can actually serve to limit the number of people you can relate to. The film even reminds us that while Don Shirley worked to combine classical and jazz music, those two styles still remain fairly distinct, even within most of his performances.

Overall, it’s a solid film, even one that is probably worthy of the nomination it’s received (and definitely worthy of the two acting nominations), but I still feel like it just wasted a little bit of its potential by retreading what other films have already done in the past. Definitely worth seeing, though.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Oscar Review – Bohemian Rhapsody: The Secret is the Soundtrack

Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury in this musical biopic which covers for a lot of its sins by using the music of freakin’ Queen.

SUMMARY

It’s the early 70s and Farrokh Bulsara, AKA the future Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), goes out to see a band called Smile, whose lead singer quits that night. Mercury takes his place in the band, joining Guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), who are soon joined by Bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello). At the same time, Mercury begins dating Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). Based on Mercury’s suggestion, they change the band name to Queen and record a debut album which garners attention, and their single “Killer Queen” gets them an appearance on Top of the Pops. The band goes on a tour of the USA where Freddie starts to begin sexual relations with men.

BohemianRhapsody - 1YoungFreddie.png
Someone write this into an episode of Mr. Robot. Please.

Queen records their hit album “A Night at the Opera” including the track “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which the record label insists can’t be played on the radio. Eventually, Freddie gets it on the air and it becomes a smash hit. He also begins an affair with Paul (Allen Leech), the band’s manager and Mary breaks up with him over it, though they remain in contact and on friendly terms.

BohemianRhapsody - 2Singers.jpg
This might be accurate, but it kind of lacks the grandeur of what you’d imagine created the song.

Freddie starts to descend into depression and hedonism, though he meets a very attractive waiter named Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), who tells Freddie to call him when he learns to like himself. During a press conference for one of the albums, “Hot Space,” the press keeps asking Freddie about his sexuality, which makes him uncomfortable. Paul convinces one of the band managers, John Reid (Aidan Gillen), to offer Mercury a solo career, but Mercury responds by firing Reid. However, he does end up working on a solo album, “Mr. Bad Guy,” while Paul tries to isolate him from the world. Mary tells Freddie that he should rejoin the band to do Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. At the same time, Freddie is diagnosed with AIDS, leading him to decide to help people through Live Aid, and the band is given a last-minute spot. He reveals to the band that he has AIDS and they are supportive.

BohemianRhapsody - 3Crown
I fully believe Freddie wore this crown.

On the day of Live Aid, he comes out to his family with Jim, tells Mary she is the love of his life, and tries to reconcile with his father. The band performs at Live Aid, rocking the entire world for 21 minutes, resulting in a massive number of donations. Mercury died at age 45.

BohemianRhapsody - 4LiveAid
This was a big moment, admittedly.

END SUMMARY

Let’s get a few things out of the way: A lot of the events in the end of Freddie Mercury’s life were re-arranged so that the big climax of the film was the performance at Wembley. He didn’t likely know that he had AIDS at that point and he definitely hadn’t told the band about it. The band wasn’t broken up, they’d been touring for at least a year before this. Also, while Queen’s performance at Wembley is listed as one of, if not THE, greatest live shows in history, Queen was not the only major name at Live Aid. In fact, they took the stage after Sting, Phil Collins, U2, and Dire Straits and right before David Bowie, the Who, and Elton John. While they rocked the hell out of the stadium, they definitely weren’t the only stars. It’s a biopic, so I have to give them a little leeway, but I still thought that some of this stuff might have been going a bit far.

BohemianRhapsody - 5Bowie.jpg
Sure, no one was there to see Bowie in *checks notes* 1985, 2 years after “Let’s Dance.”

This movie is interesting to me because when I first saw it I was blown away by it. Then I rewatched it to do this review, and I was shocked at how little it was impressing me. That’s when it hit me: It was the soundtrack. When I was in the theater, with the soundtrack, which, naturally, is Queen’s greatest hits, everything was so pleasant and coated in a layer of awesome nostalgia that it was inherently more fun. Without the great speaker setup the effect was muted. I watched it again with the sound down to try and focus just on the dialogue and the effect was basically broken. And then, in the cold light of day, it hit me: This is an okay movie with one amazing performance and a fantastic soundtrack, though it’s not the first movie to use Queen well…

The dialogue in this movie is pretty bad, the structure consists of a lot of hurrying to try and capture the entire ~20 year career of Queen in one film, and the climax, while amazing, is rushed and disorganized, with a lot of “emotional” moments feeling unearned. That said, Rami Malek is a f*cking fantastic Freddie Mercury in this and since he’s the focus of the film, that means a lot. Every motion, every look, every note he sings, all of it convey a complex level of emotional depth. You see him as the boy who is worried about what his family thinks, the rocker who just wants to party, the artist who just wants the beautiful music inside of him to get out, the performer who wants to see everyone under his sway, and the broken man who just wants to avoid the loneliness within him. Often, you get scenes in which you can see all of them at once, which is a sign that you’ve truly captured a character. Malek nailed this hard.

BohemianRhapsody - 6SideBySide
I mean… come on. He did a great job.

The rest of the movie is sadly fairly mediocre, but it feels amazing because it has a soundtrack that consists of the best songs by Queen. That’s not really a small thing, to be sure, since music can be a powerful force on a scene, but the thing is that this movie is using it to do most of the heavy emotional lifting and to get people in a mindset more accepting of the mediocrity of the dialogue. That’s not great filmmaking, that’s just making a movie about great music with a great focal performance that keeps you from being able to realize it immediately.

Overall, I do still think this movie is worth seeing, if only for Rami Malek’s performance, but ultimately it just had so much potential that it failed to take advantage of.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Oscar/Netflix Review – Roma: An Intensely Personal Film About Someone Else

Alfonso Cuarón brings us the life of a maid in 1970s Mexico and the family that she is a part of.

SUMMARY

Cleo Gutierrez (Yalitza Aparicio) is a maid for a moderately wealthy family in Colonia Roma, a neighborhood in Mexico City. The father of the family, Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), regularly leaves for conferences in other countries, leaving his wife, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), to raise their four children with the help of her mother Teresa (Veronica Garcia), Cleo, and another maid Adela (Nancy Garcia).

Roma - 1Cleo.jpg
It’s not the most glamorous life, but it’s amazing.

Adela and Cleo go to the movies with their boyfriends Ramon (José Manuel Guerrero Mendoza) and Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), respectively. Cleo tells Fermin that she’s possibly pregnant and he promptly abandons her. A doctor confirms Cleo’s pregnancy. Meanwhile, around the area, racial tensions are rising, as are tensions between students and the government, as part of the Mexican Dirty War.

Roma - 2NYE
This scene is bizarre, but so beautiful that you will become weepy.

Several months later, Cleo and the children see a movie, only to see Antonio leave the theater with a young woman. It’s revealed that Sofia is aware of her husband’s philandering, but she tries to hide it from her children. Cleo finally manages to track down Fermin at a massive outdoors martial arts class, but he responds by saying he isn’t sure the child is his and threatening to beat Cleo if she contacts him again.

Roma - 3Army.jpg
A Mexican army learning a Japanese martial art encouraged by the US. So very weird.

Teresa takes Cleo to buy a crib, but they are caught in the store during the Corpus Christi Massacre. They witness two people gunned down by angry young people, only to find out that one of the killers is Fermin. It’s then that Cleo’s water breaks, but her baby is stillborn. Back with the family, Sofia announces to the children that she’s going to be divorcing Antonio and takes the children to the beach. At the beach, two of the kids are nearly carried off by the current, but Cleo saves them. Sofia and the children all affirm that they love Cleo as a part of the family, but Cleo reveals that she never wanted the baby. They return home to find that Antonio has moved his belongings out of the house, and life goes on.

Roma - 4Beach
She can’t swim, but she doesn’t hesitate.

END SUMMARY

This movie is Oscar gold. Even though it wasn’t my favorite film nominated for Best Picture this year, it wouldn’t shock me at all if it won. The acting is great, despite the fact that the lead wasn’t a professional actress. The cinematography is as good as exists in film, with great, meaningful, match cuts and perfect control of the imagery. The characters are all interesting and very human. Hell, it’s in black and white, that’s like 10 points on the “is this artsy” scale right there.

Roma - 6Dong.png
And full frontal male nudity opposite this scene is another 10 points for “avant garde.”

The problem with analyzing a movie like this is that much of what makes it amazing is all of the little scenes that seem to have come straight from the memory of Alfonso Cuaron, because they’re so genuine and so unusual that they just don’t feel like they could have come from fiction. It’s not particularly a secret that the family in this is based on Cuaron’s, and the film is even dedicated to the memory of the inspiration for Cleo. One scene from the beginning of the movie that stands out is where one of the sons lies on the roof telling Cleo that he can’t move, because he’s dead. Cleo ends up laying next to him until he can’t resist talking to her, only for her to tell him that she’s dead. There are a number of these small, unusual scenes throughout the film that really seem to represent the tiny moments that bring a level of authenticity to the characters that most films don’t really achieve. It’s doubly impressive because the main character isn’t the surrogate for the author. 

Roma - 5Dead.jpg
This scene is amazing.

Cuaron’s skill in cinematography and editing shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since it’s pretty much the thing that set the film Gravity apart from other space films, nor should we be surprised at his skill in characterization, given that he wrote Y Tu Mama Tambien and helped adapt Children of Men. However, those movies didn’t really get the level of parallel narrative that this film develops through the great use of the structure of the shots in the film. Themes of classism, of eradication of native cultures, of suppression of the masses, all are interwoven with the much tighter family themes. This all culminates with Cleo’s water breaking during the Corpus Christi Massacre. This was a brutal paramilitary (and military) attack on protesting students demanding greater educational freedom which was notable for ending at hospitals, where Los Halcones, a shock group trained partially by the US, would kill off the wounded, including in surgical suites. We see Fermin sew death directly at the massacre, and also symbolically, with his abandoned child being stillborn. While a lot of other symbols are more blatant (there’s a cut to three crosses that will make you hear the words “meaningful imagery” shout in your head), the film is still emotionally captivating even if you aren’t looking for something deeper. I think that’s probably the hallmark of a truly great film: It doesn’t require a ton of investment, but the more you give it, the more you get.

Roma - 7Car.jpg
Even this car is massively meaningful. Damn, man, that’s awesome.

Overall, I can’t really do this movie that much justice in a review, since it’s so visual and subjective. It’s available on Netflix and I highly recommend watching it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Oscar Review – The Favourite: Or The Wonderful Cycle of Suffering

Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) brings us a historical fiction about a rivalry for the ages.

SUMMARY

It’s the early 1700s and Queen Anne’s War (or, in Europe, the War of Spanish Succession) has been going for nearly a decade. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is not in good health and most of the ruling decisions are made by her friend and secret lover Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). While Sarah favors taxing the landowners to continue the war, the head of the Tories, Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), opposes taxation and seeks to convince the Queen to end the war.

Favourite - 1Blindfold
Oddly, this scene’s not sexual.

Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), Sarah’s cousin, arrives to seek employment, her father having squandered her family’s wealth (and having lost Abigail previously in a card game to a German). Abigail becomes a maid, but after she puts some healing herbs on the Queen’s gout-ridden leg, she is promoted to Lady-in-Waiting. Abigail soon discovers that Sarah and the Queen have sex, but does not tell Harley, even after he threatens her to be his spy.

Favourite - 2Harley
America needs more big fluffy wigs and fake moles in our legislature.

Abigail and Sarah develop a friendship, but as Abigail becomes closer to the Queen, it becomes a rivalry. Abigail first talks to the Queen about her rabbits, which she discovers represent each of Anne’s 17 unsuccessful pregnancies, something Sarah clearly never cared to ask about. Eventually, Abigail uses her position to sleep with the Queen, which Sarah finds out immediately and dismisses her. However, Queen Anne hires her back. With Sarah now actively trying to curry back the Queen’s favour to get rid of Abigail, Abigail poisons Sarah’s tea, resulting in her being dragged for days on a horse and nearly forced into sex slavery. While she’s gone, Abigail convinces the Queen to allow her to marry Baron Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn), regaining her title and wealth. When Sarah returns, she threatens the Queen to either send Abigail away or have their sexual relationship revealed. Sarah eventually destroys the evidence of their relationship, but this has ended her friendship with the Queen. Sarah is sent away and then framed for theft by Abigail, resulting in her exile from Britain.

Favourite - 3OneEye.jpg
She also looks like a Victorian Supervillain.

At the end of the film, Abigail has now become cruel and egotistical, and the Queen dislikes her because of how she forced Sarah out. After going one step too far and hurting one of the Queen’s rabbits, the Queen forces Abigail to rub her legs like a common servant.

Favourite - 4Constipated.png
It’s tough to stare someone down while looking up, Abigail.

END SUMMARY

The general story behind this movie isn’t exactly original (whether in fiction or history). It’s the powerful being corrupted and overthrown by the downtrodden… only for the downtrodden to now become the powerful and corrupted. When we see Sarah in the film, she mostly takes Queen Anne for granted and talking to her like a child, despite the fact that Anne, being, you know, QUEEN is actually much more powerful. She also antagonizes almost everyone, from the Tories to Abigail (who she pretends to shoot as a threat when Abigail learns her secret love life). The only advantage she really has is that she’s the Queen’s only lover and confidant. She also risks her husband’s (Mark Gatiss) life, seemingly with only a moderate amount of concern, by continuing a war that he is fighting. Despite that, she is trying to do what she thinks is best for the country, not necessarily just herself.

Favourite - 5Sarah.png
She also knows how to work a room.

When we first see Abigail, she is ostensibly fairly honorable, but has dealt with a lot of hardship because of her father, including having to be the sex slave of a German man to honor her father’s wager. She’s basically a classic tragic figure. While she sees the merit in gaining the Queen’s favor, she does also seem to be genuinely interested in helping her and being friendly towards her and Sarah. However, as the movie progresses, we see her scheme more and more and with less and less concern for the morality of her actions. She even says at one point that her honor won’t be much comfort if she’s forced to become a prostitute to survive. Eventually, she stops caring about anyone besides herself, becoming even more antagonizing to everyone than Sarah was.

Favourite - 6Crying.png
Sarah would never have resorted to the fake cry.

Anne is the most sympathetic character, because she’s constantly in a position that she doesn’t want, is in physical pain, is dealing with a number of traumas, and her closest friends are constantly taking vengeance upon each other. However, she also is someone who could have prevented many of the issues in the movie had she just been more assertive. That’s part of why it’s satisfying in the end to see her take control over Abigail and diminish her feeling of invincibility.

Favourite - 7Comparison
It’s tough to be the queen. 

Neither Sarah nor Abigail ever chooses to end the cycle of escalating attacks between them, even though either one could end it. Abigail even points this out to Sarah after she becomes a Baroness again, but neither can stand the other one having the last strike at them. Sarah does finally try to stop, choosing to burn the letters between her and the Queen for Anne’s sake, but by this time it’s too late, and Abigail realizes that she has to remove Sarah forever to ensure her power, which cements her as truly corrupted.

Favourite - 8Blood
It gets really rough.

The costuming and sets in the movie are excellent, as expected for a period piece like this. They’re not exactly accurate (I’m told), but the outfits do a good job of conveying how the characters are trying to present themselves in a scene, particularly the more masculine shooting outfits that Sarah adopts to try and show dominance over Abigail.

Favourite - 9Outfit
I don’t know period accuracy, but I know what Queen Anne likes.

The cinematography is interesting, with a lot of the film using wide-angle fisheye lenses. From a practical standpoint, this shot shows the entirety of a room, something that shows off the setting rather than just the character, but from a narrative standpoint it tends to isolate the characters, showing how they are trapped within the rooms because of their choices. It’s definitely the easiest Yorgos Lanthimos film to watch, but it will still throw some people off.

Favourite - AParty
It also serves to give distance between the characters… and create this neat mirror effect.

The performances are all amazing, and I think Olivia Colman’s performance as a stroke-ravaged Anne is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. Given how much of the communication between characters relies on what is being intended rather than what is being said, anything less from the actors might have wrecked the film.

Overall, it’s a great movie and practically screams “Oscar Bait.” I don’t know that it’ll win, but it’s definitely worth seeing and Olivia Colman is the only person who might take the Oscar from Glenn Close this year.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.