My Predictions For the 2022 Academy Awards

The date of this year’s Oscars have been moved up an extra two weeks from the 2021 awards. The pandemic is in the midst of dying down and more people are heading back to the theatres. This year was better for me for movie watching. I saw enough films to make up 93 of this year’s 125 nominations! I only streamed one contender this year and it was just yesterday!

This year’s Oscars are to be held on Sunday March 12th. Jimmy Kimmel returns to host for the first time in five years. What’s your guess the Will Smith slap will be in many of the jokes? Yes, it was a shocker last year, but I know the Will Smith/Chris Rock rivalry is something that goes way back! We can’t get enough of these Hollywood feuds, can we? The show promises to be good. Hope it’s not as long as last year’s. And to think last year they did all sorts.of tricks in an attempt to shorten it! Boy did it fail! Anyways this year’s Oscars should be enjoyable and those attending Oscar parties should have fun. So without further ado, here are my picks for the winners of the 2022 Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

The annual tradition for Olly Gibbs to do an image of the ten Best Picture nominees is back for the tenth and last time! What can I say? All good things must come to an end! Great stuff with this year’s ten! And thanks for the great images over the years. I’m happy to have seen nine of the Best Picture nominees on the big screen. It always looks better on the big screen. I wrote two sets of reviews of the Best Picture nominees: one from All Quiet to Everything Everywhere; the other from The Fabelmans to Women Talking. In the meantime here are my opinions of the Oscar chances of the ten Best Picture nominees:

All Quiet On The Western Front  Last year, West Side Story was the reboot of a former Best Picture winner to get nominated. This year, it’s All Quiet On The Western Front. It does seem odd for a World War I drama to get a reboot but after you see it, it makes sense. We live in a time of great cynicism of our leaders. Often we wonder what the point of war is all about. Is it about the people? Or the leaders’ egos? It comes at a good time now as Ukraine is undergoing a war all for the sake of a President’s lust for power. This is a film that is deserving to win Best Picture but there are others that have better chances.

Avatar: The Way Of Water –  The first Avatar movie was worthy of winning Best Picture, and it almost did! The sequel faced a challenge of bringing back the magic of the first Avatar while creating a story that differs from the first. The film succeeds in delivering a new story and returning the audience to the world they experienced watching the first. The thing is the film has a lot of technical nominations but is the only Best Picture nominee without a single acting, directing or writing nomination. It’s because of that I don’t consider it a favorite to win Best Picture.

The Banshees Of Inisherin– Normally the Academy turns up their nose to comedies. I find that funny because if you ask any actor, they will say comedy is the hardest thing to do! This year, there are two comedies that are frontrunners to win Best Picture. Additionally, both of the heavily-favored comedies have four acting nominations to boot! First up is The Banshees Of Inisherin. It starts as a story that seems boring; a lifelong friendship ended because one thinks the other is dull. As the story develops, the rivalry gets more intense and bizarre. Like why would someone with a grudge want to cut their fingers off? Its twists and turns and surprises all around make this a bizarre tragicomedy and the film I predict to be the Most Likely Upsetter to my pick to win.

Elvis – Is it possible.to make a movie about The King that looks like material that belongs on the big screen? Baz Luhrmann answers that with a big fat “Yes!” A lot of the best material of the film comes from the direction and creativity of Luhrmann. Top highlight, however, is the dead-on performance of Austin Butler. His performance of Elvis through the various stages of his life was eye-catching and would keep your attention. This film was loaded with Oscar buzz from the start but just like Power Of The Dog last year, its buzz faded fast.

Everything Everywhere All At Once –  I know I mentioned it’s very hard for comedies to get Oscar love. Well try a movie that involves going through various alternating universes. Doesn’t sound like a top Oscar contender, does it? Well, that’s what Everything Everywhere All At Once is! It’s a ‘film of the absurd,’ but a very entertaining one as Evelyn goes through her various alternate lives in entertaining style. Very well done and very entertaining. That’s why I give it my Should Win and Will Win pick!

The Fabelmans- Normally a film about a filmmaker as a child directed by that very filmmaker would first come across as egotistical. However we’re talking Steven Spielberg. For those whoever wondered what inspired his most thrilling and most remarkable works, there’s your answer. At a time when people have been so down about so many things happening in the world and even near where they live, the film is a reminder that the dream is worth shooting for. That having a great imagination can still go far. Even in a time of great pessimism right now.. Even during the most difficult times. A film like this would normally be considered worthy of Best Picture and it was a heavy favorite at one point, but it tuned out to be the biggest fader thanks to low box office results.

Tár – This is an accomplishment for director Todd Field. It seemed like he was bound to have a major Oscar contender any time soon, but it was a matter of waiting. Finally he does it with Tár. The cornerstone of the film is the performance of Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár. It’s through her performance we’re drawn to a story of a musical conductor’s rise to the top and sudden downfall. It’s also Field’s direction that makes the film on of the best of the year. Despite it being great, there are other films that have better chances to win Best Picture.

Top Gun: Maverick – The norm for Hollywood sequels for big hits is to wait two years, possibly three. There have been other films with longer waits, but they’ve mostly been flops. Now a sequel for Top Gun 36 years after the original seems hard to buy. I know there’s a lot of rebooting happening, especially of entertainment from the 80’s, but would a sequel for Top Gun work after this much time? Tom Cruise, director Eric Kosinski and the dream team of writers proved that it can. It can create a believable story set in the present and bring back the excitement of the first with adding new flares. Exciting film to watch and may have good chances of winning Best Picture, but normally the Academy doesn’t reward a film like this Best Picture.

Triangle Of Sadness- This is a film that caught a lot of people by surprise. A shocking story of a young model/influencer couple on a cruise with the mega-rich and they get lost at sea. The film consists of a lot of bizarre humor from the food choices of the rich to their behavior to the bizarre sinking of the ship to even the death of the donkey on the island. One can say this film is the crowning achievement for director Ruben Ostlund. It’s a dark comedy that comes as more entertaining than one would expect. It has a lot of Best Picture qualities, but its chances are slim compared to many others.

Women Talking –  This is another film that will catch one by surprise. This is a well-directed story that touches on a topic that’s rarely talked about. It’s also a shocking reminder that even is these times of modernization, there are still these religious communities that have their own society and own rules separate from the outside world and a clearly dominated by the patriarchy. This story also shows how women who had been denied so much are able to achieve their own empowerment when they band together. It’s a slow story that catches your intrigue over time. Despite it, I feel it’s the film with some of the least chances of winning Best Picture.

BEST DIRECTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything, Everywhere All At Once

The Academy has been known to have interesting picks for their Award winners. Sometimes they will give it to the legends with a lengthy career and sometimes they’ll give it to newcomers with a fresh unique idea. This year, it looks like the favorite to win the Best Director Oscar is a duo of directors known as “The Daniels.” Kwan and Scheinert have had their start with doing music videos and short films that caught a lot of eyes. They’ve only had one other feature-length film they directed together. This film is not only the best they directed together, but also an excellent film-of-the-absurd that people will find very entertaining. Even if most won’t understand it, they will love the comedy of it. This is a very complex story which must have been difficult to put all together, but The Daniels mastered it! Deserving Oscar winners.

BEST ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Brendan Fraser – The Whale

The most interesting thing about this year’s nominees is that sixteen of the twenty acting nominations are for first-time nominees: the most ever! The Best Actor category, which is normally the most veteran-friendly category and has the least first-time nominations, is completely filled with first-time nominees! For this category I pick Brendan Fraser’s performance to win. Many people were not up for seeing The Whale. I can understand because it is a depressing story based on a stage play. Fraser does an excellent performance of a 600 lb. man who’s coming close to the end of his life and comes to terms with a lot of hard truths in his life while attempting to make peace with the people around him. He also plays his role as an oversized person with sensitivity and with respect. Usually the Best Actor category is one of the most decisive categories, but this has been a tough battle between Fraser and Austin Butler in Elvis. The Oscar year began with Butler the heavy favorite as Elvis but I feel it’s Fraser’s turn on Oscar night.

BEST ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All At Once

This year achieved a feat of four Asian actors receiving Oscar nominations for the first time! Three of them are from Everything Everywhere All At Once. Michelle Yeoh herself made history as the first Asian actress to be nominated in the Best Actress category! It’s easy to see why she is nominated. Her story is very complex going from a simple business owner to travelling through so many universes as she contemplates the life she could have had. Those who’ve seen the movie will know this is a very complex thing to do to deliver a performance with so many complex characters and put it all together. Michelle is very deserving of the win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once is not only the story of Evelyn. It’s also of her family in the many universes, including her husband Waymond in the Alphaverse. Quan delivers a performance that adds to the story and is also able to steal the show from Evelyn at times. This role is also the role Ke Huy has been waiting a long time for. Until now, he’s been mostly remembered as a child actor for roles like Short Round in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom and Richard “Data” Wang in The Goonies. Over time, he took on a career in film production but only recently returned to acting. It was Crazy Rich Asians, the film that starred his co-star Michelle Yeoh, that made him want to return! The timing couldn’t have been better because this performance is worthy of the Oscar win!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Should Win: Angela Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Will Win: Kerry Condon – The Banshees Of Inisherin

Very often the major Oscar category that’s hardest to predict is the Supporting Actress category. Favorites often do win in this category, but this is a category with some of the most shocking upsets. This year still leaves many undecided. Angela Bassett won the Golden Globe. Jamie Lee Curtis of Everything Everywhere All At Once won the SAG Award. Kerry Condon won the BAFTA (British Academy Award). Those three are the biggest favorites. I myself feel Angela Bassett deserves to win because of how well she played Queen Ramonda. I feel it will go to Kerry Condon. Even though I don’t have her as my Should Win pick, I feel she’s still deserving as the sister who is helpful to Padraic and his friends and seeks a life outside of Inisherin.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Should Win and Will Win: Sarah Polley – Women Talking

This is the film with the most Canadian content.The film is based off a novel from Manitoba-writer Miriam Toews. The writer/director is Sarah Polley. Most Canadians still remember her as Sarah Stanley from Road To Avonlea, but she’s grown into a major force in directing and writing. This is a powerful story where most of the action takes place in a single room and is involved in making a tense decision. The story is full of fear, anger, hurt, frustration and hope. This is a film with an important message to send and it does so with a story that’s full of depth and human emotion. That’s why I feel Polley will be a deserving Oscar winner tomorrow.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Should Win and Will Win: The Daniels – Everything Everywhere All At Once

This is another tight category as it’s the Daniels against Martin McDonagh’s script for The Banshees Of Inisherin. I predict that to be the script most likely to upset. I still have a feeling that Everything Everywhere All At Once will be the script that wins. It’s a complex story that goes over so many universes and yet still manages to pull it all together at the end. It’s because of this complexity that I predict the Daniels to take the Oscar in this category.

ADDITIONAL CATEGORIES:

Alright. Now that I’m done speaking my mind on the major categories, I will be straightforward and give straight predictions of the technical categories. Only in very few categories where I feel I’m qualified to make such a judgement will you see me give a Should Win pick. So here goes:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Should Win and Will Win: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Should Win: Roger Deakins – Empire of Light
Will Win: Mandy Walker – Elvis

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Should Win: Ruth E. Carter – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Will Win: Catherine Martin – Elvis

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: Navalny

BEST FILM EDITING

Should Win and Will Win: Paul Rogers – Everything Everywhere All At Once

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Will Win: All Quiet On The Western Front (Germany)

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Will Win: Mark Coulier, Jason Baird and Aldo Signnoretti – Elvis

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Should Win: Volker Bertelman – All Quiet On The Western Front
Will Win: Justin Hurwitz – Babylon

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Should Win: “Hold My Hand” – Top Gun: Maverick
Will Win: “Naatu Naatu” – RRR

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: Florencia Martin and Anthony Carlino – Babylon

BEST SOUND

Will Win: Top Gun: Maverick

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Should Win and Will Win: Avatar: The Way Of Water

BEST AMINATED SHORT FILM and BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

Predictions can be seen in this blog. Click here.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Prediction can be seen in this blog. Click here.

JUST ONE MORE – MOST LIKELY OSCAR UPSETTERS

Sometimes I like predicting which upsets will happen to my main predictions for wins. I know I predict Dune to clean up in all of its technical categories but the Oscars have always had a surprise or two and I’m expecting surprises for this year. Here are the six biggest surprises I anticipate, and they’re listed in category order:

  • Austin Butler for Best Actor in Elvis
  • Jamie Lee Curtis for Best Supporting Actress in Everything Everywhere All At Once
  • Martin McDonagh for Best Original Screenplay for The Banshees Of Inisherin
  • James Friend for Best Cinematography for All Quiet On The Western Front
  • Top Gun: Maverick for Best Visual Effects
  • Ice Merchants for Best Animated Short Film

And there you have it! Those are my predictions for the 95th Academy Awards. Tune in tomorrow night where you can see the winners and maybe a spontaneous shocker!

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2022 Academy Awards: Best Picture Reviews – Part Two

It’s something that if you see all ten Best Picture nominees, that means you would have seen 65 of the 125 Oscar nominations! Possibly more than most Academy members!

A single blog having all the Best Picture nominees reviewed would be too exhausting to the eyes. Makes sense to split the ten Best Picture nominees over two blogs. You read the first. Here is the second review of this year’s Best Picture nominees:

The Fabelmans – “Movies are dreams that you never forget.”

After I saw this film, I’ve been telling people this is a reminder that for every big-name director, there was a child with a dream. We’ve seen films before of children being enchanted by film. This is Spielberg’s chance to tell his own story. Essentially that story of Sammy Fabelman is the story of ‘Stevie Spielberg!’ It all started when Sammy’s parents Mitzi and Saul took him to see The Greatest Show On Earth and they told them of the magic of movies: from both the scientific and artistic side. Sammy tries to remake the train crash scene with his toy train set and film it with an 8mm camera… and that was the making! One thing I have to say is that what’s missing in the theatres nowadays are films that make people want to chase their dream. I don’t know about you but if I saw this film as a child, it would make me want to be a film maker. Even adults who grew up with Steven Spielberg movies and have been blown away by them would want to see the story of how it all started.

There are many scenes where one can see that this is how it all started for Spielberg. The scene with Sam biking will remind many of E.T. The scene where he does his war films will remind many of Saving Private Ryan and other war-themed films he’s done. The scenes where he experiences anti-Semitism will tell people of what inspired Schindler’s List. Speaking of which, it’s not to say the dream doesn’t have its rocky moments. We are reminded of times when the dream faced some bumpy paths. There was how his filming exposed Mitzi’s concealed love for Bennie and would lead to the friction in her marriage to Burt. There’s the anti-Semitism Sammy went through being the only Jew in his Northern California town. There’s that time Sam did not want to shoot a movie for years because it would mean using the camera Bennie gave him. It’s funny how when he was young, he insisted to his father “It’s not a hobby,” and as a teen Sam wanted nothing to do with it. I guess the message the film tries to give the audience is that if the skill is in you, the dream can’t die no matter how hard you try to end it.

Top admiration to go to Steven Spielberg. It’s not easy to do a semi-autobiographic story of the director without it getting egotistical. Instead of something egotistical, we get an inspiring story. On top of it, this isn’t any director we’re talking about. We’re talking Spielberg. His films have thrilled us since the late-70’s to now. The film showed he was the type who went that extra mile in adding affects to his films even when he was young. Sometimes I think this film is Spielberg’s gift to us.

Young actor Gabriel Labelle was great in his performance of Sam Fabelman. It was not an easy task playing a boy with film dreams but going through the frustrations of teenagerhood. He did an impressive job. Michelle Williams was also excellent in playing the troubled mother. It was not easy playing the mother that supports her son’s dream but going through a troubling marriage. Also great was Paul Dano in playing the father caught in the middle. Judd Hirsch was also great in the brief scene he played the eccentric uncle. In addition, John Williams gives a great score to go with the film.

Tár – This is a story that we often see of a toxic personality falling from the top of their game. If there’s one thing we all learn as we get older, it’s that if we want to excel and be among the top, we need to have some amount of arrogance and some amount of ruthlessness to get there. Lydia Tár is exactly that case. Yes, she’s condescending to those that think differently. Yes, she does get this feeling that she owns the show when she really doesn’t. And yes, her controlling personality does not leave her when she’s with the women she loves. One thing we often forget is that Lydia Tár’s toxic control-freak persona is something very common in show business. We see it time and time again. Most commonly from the men in show business. This film shows it’s even possible for a woman to be this controlling and manipulative. It’s very easy to try and go from the top of your game and then face the comeuppance of a downfall as your actions catch up to you. That’s the story of Lydia Tár. It got to the point everyone had to turn on her. The suicide of Krista Taylor was the beginning of the end.

The film is a straightforward story of a conductor on top of her game who faces a downfall and then finds new life in the aftermath. Despite that, it still has to capture the essence of the conductor and their music. Despite Lydia Tár being a control freak of a person, like most people at the top in arts and entertainment are, it also has to capture Lydia’s passion for music. The film itself has not forgotten about Lydia’s passion for music as it shows itself throughout the film. Music is a common theme throughout the film and it captures the essence excellently.

The brains behind this piece is Todd Field. Todd has had other films that looked like potential Best Picture nominees like 2002’s Far From Heaven and 2015’s Carol (which Blanchett also plays lead) that have “missed by that much.” This time, he finally gets it! While the two aforementioned films are timepieces, this takes place in modern times. It’s an excellent work about a toxic musician facing their comeuppance in modern times. Also making the film soar is Cate Blanchett. Her performance as a prima donna conductor owns the film from start to finish. She keeps her character interesting and helps the audiences into sharing her passions. Although Blanchett practically owns the film, supporting performances from Nina Hoss as her wife and Noemie Merlant as her angry assistant also add to the film.

Top Gun: Maverick – I’m sure the idea of a sequel to the original Top Gun had been an idea ever since the film became a hit. It was possible one could be out two or three years after the first. Most sequels are out in that time, and it’s mostly duds in such cases. A sequel thirty-six years after its original release seems like quite the gamble. Sure, there has been a lot of this retro-80’s stuff coming back and yes, there has been a lot of rebooting and remaking, but a sequel? Can a Top Gun sequel work with a sixtysomething Tom Cruise?

Peter Craig and Justin Marks were able to write a story to serve as the catharsis for the Top Gun sequel. The story ended up being a believable story of Maverick who’s on the verge of moving from pilot to teacher, but was born to fly. In the meantime, he has to teach a new generation which includes the son of Bradshaw. It’s a story that makes sense to have. In addition, it’s a story that gives the effects of flying a fighter jet. Most of us will never fly in one. The first Top Gun film was a hit because it gave the thrill of flying a fighter jet. This film continues to give us that feel without making us forget the physical toll flying such a jet can take on the passenger.

Top marks go to director Joseph Kosinsky. It was no easy task to direct this sequel; a sequel to a film that came out when he was 12. A director with proven work in science fiction was needed for a film like this an Kosinsky was the right one. He delivers a sequel that has a sensible story and keeps the action active and dazzling. The dream team of scriptwriters also did a very good job in delivering a story that’s believable and a story that isn’t too similar to the original film, like most film sequels are.

Tom Cruise returns to give his best acting in many years. Maverick was the role that made him a superstar in 1986. To play Maverick 36 years later was no easy task. It was not easy playing a man who has aged over time, but still had that young love for flying big. Tom did it very well. Jennifer Connelly was also good as Penny, but her role was not as developed. The set of young actors to play the new recruits were also very good. Miles Teller was not only good as Rooster, but he was able to steal the show from Maverick many times. Glen Powell was easily dislikeable as Hangman, Nevertheless the main attraction to a film like this is the effects. Again, this film delivers in its effect to give the audient the feel of what it’s like behind a fighter jet at supersonic speed. It’s what makes a movie like this!

Triangle Of Sadness – This is a rare case of a comedy with a message to deliver. There are a lot of themes in this film to take note of. One is social status. The story goes from the young model/influencer couple who debate about paying for a date to the various business people and socialites. They flaunt their riches, they enjoy their time without a care in the world, they all have their dinners of choice. The workers on the ship are just there to do their job. All that changes after the heavy rocking of the ship and its shooting down. The scene of the ship rocking is especially key as we see the Russian oligarch not only share control of the ship with the American captain, but also them shouting both anti-capitalist and anti-socialist sayings on the intercom.

In the aftermath, the eight surviving passengers are on an island with nothing. There’s also the theme of power. On the ship, the rich had it all while the workers did what they wer told and has basic living conditions. After the sinking the Filipino woman who was a cleaner on the ship is now the leader because of her survival skills. Power going from the bottom to the top. It also shows how even she can use her power to get what she wants and how power can even be an addiction for her.

The film doesn’t just deliver a message about classism and superficiality. It does so in a unique fashion. First it starts with a male model who makes less than his influencer girlfriend. Then it’s an argument at a restaurant which then leads them to this cruise with the mega wealthy. The cruise introduces us to them and their mindsets. Then the ship rocks furiously with everyone getting sick on board. Then the ship is torpedoed which leads to the eight survivors on what appears to be a deserted island. The time on the island gives a new structure with the former cleaning lady leading and the other survivors co-existing. It’s a clever arrangement of a story mixed with the bizarre and the disgusting to go along with it. Nevertheless the message doesn’t get lost. Nor does the story of the model/influencer couple lose its status as the prime story.

Top accolades to go to director/writer Ruben Ostlund. This is a unique tragicomedy that lampoons the rich but also reminds us how addictive power can be for even the smallest of the small. It has a lot of bizarre humor and even treads on the disgusting, but it all works when you look back on it. It’s actually a smart edgy comedy. Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean were also very good playing the couple. Their roles weren’t too deep, but they did well in playing the young and superficial pair. There were scene-stealers in this film. The most notable being Dolly de Leon as the cleaner-turned-leader. She was excellent in going from just a cleaning lady to becoming the leader with all the unfairness that comes with it! Also a scene stealer is Zlatko Buric as the Russian oligarch who helps endanger the ship with the captain.

Women Talking – If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2022, it’s about how religion is often used to control women. That is one world issue felt big in 2022 with the loss of Roe v. Wade and also with the Women’s Revolution in Iran. Here we’re presented a story of a community whose religious beliefs create a community separate from the rest of secular society. It’s a community with strict values unchanged for centuries. This strictness causes a problem as there’s a rapist in the community threatening the women. The men have not made any effort to protect the women from this madman so they have to organize things themselves. It’s in this conversation that they have to decide, to stay and fight or to leave all at once before the men return? Even though leaving seems like the best choice, how will they do it? How will the children be raised properly? Will the boys be raised to treat women with respect? There is a lot to think about in this film. August, the university-educated token male in the discussion, serves as the image of hope for the women. He’s the one man in the community they can trust to raise the boys right.

The film is done very smartly. It presents the issue and the vote which leads to the discussion. It’s fair to say 85-90% of the film involves the women meeting in the hall for the discussion. That’s possibly the most critical part of it. While the men who dominate the community are away, the women finally get their moment to discuss things and make the choice to do something of their own choosing. When you hear them talk, it’s not simple common blabbing. These are the women speaking their fears, their anger, the hurts they’s endured, their passions and their families who mean so much to them. The discussions get very heated with all that’s happen, but they all have a bond that’s like a sisterhood that they show near the end. Even though it is primarily about the women, it’s also about August as he is their sense of hope to make the community better. He does it at the sacrifice of having to lose the woman he loves. It hurts him, but he knows it’s worth it.

The biggest praise of this film should go to writer/director Sarah Polley. Those of us living in Canada have seen Sarah develop over the years first when she was a child actor in the Road To Avonlea TV series, then seen as the next “it girl” in films like The Sweet Hereafter, Go and Existenz, only to drop acting and move in the field of writing and directing. She has come of age greatly over the years and one could call this film her crowning achievement so far. She does an excellent adaptation of the novel into a film that will get one intrigued of what will happen, what will be decided upon. I’ve often felt since the story is mostly in the same room, it can be adapted into a stage play. We’ll see. As for the acting, it’s hard to pick a standout. All the women here did an excellent almost-unselfish job of portraying their characters well. If I could pick the standouts, they would have to be Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy. A tough call. Ben Whitshaw also did an excellent job as playing the man watching, observing, and providing both wisdom and hope.

And there you go. There’s my second blog of my review of the Best Picture nominees. My predictions for the Oscar wins I anticipate to have by Saturday.

2022 Academy Awards: Best Picture Reviews – Part One

The 95th Academy Awards are coming soon. Once again, I saw all ten Best Picture nominees. For the first time in three years, I didn’t need a streaming service to see any one of them. Elvis was the only one I saw outside of a theatre; on an airplane divided by two flights. The other nine I was lucky to see in theatres. There is your mix of enjoyable and unenjoyable. A mix of common popcorn fare and serious topics.

This year’s batch have some notable details. For the second straight year, a film directed by Steven Spielberg is nominated. For the second straight year, a remake of a Best Picture winner is nominated. Two of the nominated films are sequels to legendary sci-fi or action films. Two of the nominated films have four acting nominations each. On the contrary, half the films have no acting nominations. Also interesting that comedies, which normally get the sort end of the stick at Oscar time, are this year’s toast as two of the heavy favorites are comedic films.

The purpose of my reviews are to give a summary of the Best Picture nominees. I will be saving my predictions for a separate prediction blog. In the meantime, here is the first of my reviews of the Best Picture nominees of the 2022 Academy Awards:

All Quiet On The Western Front – Just like the 1930 film, this is an angry film. This film makes it look like World War I was a vanity effort. Like all the war was where it was all about the egos of those in power. While the young men fought and many died, these leaders with the power only cared about themselves and the power they wanted to hold onto. Even those who worked in the military seemed to take the losses of life very lightly. Seemingly not caring that a generation of young men were being lost. The last 20 minutes of the film would especially enrage many. Armistice had been declared for November 11, 1918. Germany was the losing side, but the German leader wanted one last battle. Another bunch of young men dead, just shortly before the war finally ended. Will definitely have you leaving the theatre asking what was it all for?

I’m planning on doing a comparison of this film to the 1930 original for after the Oscars. So in looking at this film, I won’t compare it to the original. I won’t even call it a remake because even the original was adapted from a novel. It’s possible this film is a re-adaptation. I will say the film is an excellent work. The film does a good job in telling the story from the point of view from the young soldiers and the meetings with the leaders. It shows the two different worlds between the two very well. The battle scenes are also intense to look at. Of course, war is ugly. There’s no compromise in the story here. Most surprising is how they slowed down the last 24 hours of World War I over a period of just over twenty minutes. That paves the way for the final dramatic scenes that would make the viewer angry at the end.

Top credits go to director/writer Edward Berger. He brings back the horrors of World War I in grand style and delivers a film that has a big message to send even now as Ukraine is going through a war of its own. The acting from newcomer Felix Kammerer was also excellent, even if his part didn’t have that much depth. Albrecht Schuch was also very good at Kalczinsky. The film also had excellent technical elements like the music of Volker Bertelmann, the cinematography of James Friend and some of the best production design and visual effects of the year. The visual effects really did a good job for the battle scenes.

Avatar: The Way Of Water – Usually when a sequel comes out, the freshness of the original seems lost and the rehash seems to be too similar to the original. Nevertheless the story does aim to have some notable differences from the first. One of which is Jake’s new family on Pandora, including his relationship with his oldest son. The other is facing rivalries both from Earth and his world. The best thing about this film is that the first Avatar took the audience to a new world. This film is also successful in taking people to a new world. Although it feels there may be something missing in this film, it’s still very spectacular and gives the audience the escape they’re looking for. The new twists in the story will also give people the drama they’re looking for and the action scenes they all enjoy.

James Cameron does it again. Not only does he bring back the world of Pandora successfully, but he does it so in breaking box-office records! To think James Cameron films have knocked each other out in setting the record for the highest-grossing ever! First Titanic, then the first Avatar, and now this! However it’s not simply box-office numbers. Cameron succeeds in creating a world where people can escape and be enchanted by. Pandora dazzled people back in 2009 and 2010 and it does it again here. Cameron also wrote an excellent story with four other writers and compiled the official script with two of the writers. They had to make it a believable story, especially since this film is thirteen years since the first. It does a story that works for the film. There was very good acting from returning actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana. Also excellent was newcomer Jamie Flatters in playing Jake’s oldest son. The film’s best qualities, nevertheless, are its visual effects. It’s these effects that give people the escape to Pandora they’re looking for and keep their attention on the drama as it unfolds. Simon Franglen also does a good job in composing a good score for the film.

The Banshees Of Inisherin – This is a film not everyone can understand at first. Even after one sees the film, they can only guess what the film is about. Some say it’s about human weaknesses, or about men and their inability to relate, or even about Irish pride as seen through the eyes of McDonagh. I’ve often felt the story is as much about the island town of Inisherin as it is about the central story. Inisherin is a town away from the mainland and lucky to be out of the range of fighting during the Irish civil war. However Inisherin comes across as a town where nothing really happens or nothing really improves. Anybody who wants to get anywhere have to be like Siobhan and leave the island. Sometimes it seems like the dead friendship of Padraic and Colm is symbolic of how dead the town of Inisherin is. In addition Inisherin being a small town, it’s often a case where word easily gets around about what’s happening. The feud between the two soon becomes the talk of the town.

This film is unique as it attempts to make a comedy out of something intense and dramatic. It’s a story of a drama that is slow, but the slowness is its quality. A story about a man deciding to end a friendship because his friend is ‘dull’ and spend the rest of his years composing music seems odd and pointless. Nevertheless the film allows for the intensity to build over time. It also has its ugly surprises, but the surprises become important to the drama. The different characters also add to the story. They help provide for the environment of the story almost as if the film is based on a classic Irish fable. In addition, the scenery adds to the story. The film is as much about the scenery and the landscapes as it is about the town and its drama. Its addition to the film help builds the story.

Top credit should go to director Martin McDonagh. McDonagh infrequently shells out works. It seems like almost once every four to five years. In fact his last film before Banshees, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was five years ago! This is quite possibly his best work. It’s a story that gives you the unexpected and Martin did an excellent job with it. Also when you see the ending, you easily forget that this film is a comedy. Once again, a case of a film that mixes comedy with tragedy, and it does a memorable job here.

Additionally, the story came alive from the excellent acting. Colin Farrell did a great job making Padraic to be kind and loyal and always trying, but pushed to his limits near the end. Brendan Gleeson was also great as the stubborn Colm. He captured his hardness very well. Kerry Condon was also great as Siobhan, the sister who tries to find a way out. Also great was Barry Keoghan, the troubled son of the policeman Padraic and Siobhan try to help out. The supporting characters like the Garda, the banshee and the priest also added to the story. There were also additional technical feats with this film like the cinematography of Ben Davis and the score from Carter Burwell.

Elvis – It’s not easy doing a musical biography and making it into something different. On top of it, you can be sure there have been countless made-for-TV movies made about Elvis. So how can you make an Elvis movie for the big screen of 2023? One ingredient that makes it different is the story being told from the point of view of Colonel Tom Parker. Those of us who know a lot about Elvis may have overlooked his relationship with the Colonel, especially the rocky moments. Another is to add some creative flares. Those that remember Moulin Rouge will remember how that film has creative flares. Luhrmann applies similar creative flairs from Moulin Rouge here. Another ingredient is to have the best songs of a musician’s career as well as their career’s most significant moments. You can’t pack everything about Elvis into 159 minutes of story. This film does showcase the most famous moments of his career.

Another excellent work from Baz Luhrmann. Just when you thought you couldn’t bring Elvis back to the big screen, Luhrmann does it, and in a stylish winning way. He pulls the right moves to deliver an Elvis film people of today will want to see at the theatres. Of course it’s the performance of Austin Butler that has to be the biggest quality. A thirtysomething of today able to epitomize Elvis? The answer is Yes! Butler does an excellent job in playing The King in with a performance with dimension and doesn’t go cartoonish, as one can risk doing performing Elvis. Tom Hanks is also quite good as the colonel. It’s hard to picture him with a Dutch accent, and there were a few times when I questioned if it was off or not, but he did a good job with his role. The technical details also make the film excel. The cinematography, production design, makeup and costuming are all some of the best of this past year.

Everything Everywhere All At Once – Now there have been some absurdist films that have been nominated for Best Picture or other major categories. What makes this film-of-the-absurd is that this takes place in a multitude of worlds. Thanks to technology, Evelyn is able to make many trips of the mind to many different universes and assume many different personas: past, present and future. Even the persona of a rock somewhere in the desert is possible! Usually most people look at stories like these and ask “What the hell?” This is one absurd story that many people found enjoyable. The kung fu fighting scenes also helped a lot too. And to think this all started as Evelyn’s taxes were to be done and she was to get some bad news!

To think it’s the magic of the directing/writing team of the Daniels (Kwan and Scheinert) that delivered this gem. The two have not had a lot of directing experience. Until this film, they’ve only directed some short films together and their only feature was Swiss Army Man from back in 2016! Here they have the perfect breakthrough film for them, and boy is it unforgettable. It’s a fun, thrilling story that comes off as weird and bizarre at first, but starts making more sense as time goes on.

Also excellent is the combined acting. Michelle Yeoh shines as Evelyn. When I first saw her in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I had a feeling she would go far. She had a lot of grace with her. Although this role is way more multidimensional, she still does excellently here and delivers one of the best performances of the year. Ke Huy Quan is also excellent as the meek Waymond. Quan is also this year’s former child actor comeback story. He is best remembered as Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom and Data from The Goonies. Here he gets the adult actor breakthrough he was waiting for, and what a scene-stealing performance! Additional scene stealers are an unrecognizable Jamie Lee Curtis as the IRS agent and Stephanie Hsu as the daughter whose nihilism threatens the multiverse. All the aforementioned actors had a lot to do with their main role and their various roles in the many worlds of the multiverse. That’s a lot of work! Additional technical credits go to Shirley Kurata for the costuming and the band Son Lux for the score that fits the film well.

And there’s the first of it. This is the first half of my review of this year’s Best Picture nominees. Second half coming in a day or two.

2022 Oscars Shorts Reviews: Documentaries

Once again, the nominated documentary shorts had a long combined running time. A time too long to be in a single film reel. I saw one set of shorts one day and another set the other day. All five documentary shorts are unique in their own subjects and in the themes they were trying to convey. Here are my reviews of this year’s films nominated in the category Best Documentary Short Subject:

The Elephant Whisperers (dirs. Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga) – It’s Mudumulai National Park in the Tamil Nadu area of south India. The park consists of mostly tribal people and many wildlife. In recent decades many species have become endangered. One couple of the Kattunayakan tribe named Bomman and Bellie are known to care for baby elephants. One of the elephants they care for is a baby elephant they named Raghu. Raghu was found badly injured and his mother was killed by electrocution. The couple nursed it, took care of it and raised Raghu as a pet until he can be of juvenile age. Soon they come across another baby elephant that was left behind as the elephants did their seasonal migrating. The elephant, who’s a female, is also tended to by Bomman and Bellie and Raghu treats her like a little sister. Over time, the government takes Raghu before the couple is ready to let him free. They still take care of the female.

This Netflix documentary is a story of an environmental theme. It’s as much about the tribal people taking care of the elephants as it is about the actual elephant itself. Both the species and the tribal people are both threatened with modernization and of climate change. The threats are made obvious, but the story does not get too heavy. In fact the story takes on an enjoyable feel to it. We see as the couple form a bond with the elephants and love them as if they were their own human child. They show as they put colors on the elephants as part of a religious ritual. The film is as much colorful and enjoyable in spectacle as it is good on its environmental topic. In addition, this film consists of five years of footage with the elephants and the couple. That’s why I place it as my Will Win pick.

Haulout (dirs. Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev) – A man is sent to the Chukotka region of Russia; the area of Asian Russia that’s a close distance to Alaska. He’s a marine biologist in a remote uninhabited area who’s given instructions through radio and enough food to last the season. One day, he notices a huge flood of walruses have come to the coast. They threaten to intrude the place he’s residing in. For hours throughout the day, he has to find refuge on top of the roof. Nevertheless he has to study the populations and the temperatures. Over a hundred-thousand have migrated to the area. Then as the season pass, they swim back in the Chuchki Sea. He then studies the dead walruses left behind. We then learn at the end the biologist, Maxim Chakilev, is studying not only a species but also the effects of climate change as the huge migration is a result of the changes, as well as the record numbers of deaths from the high temperatures.

This story is good as it comes without narration. It’s a series of events that happen and the story tells itself over the elapsed time. The directors, who are brother and sister, don’t just simply have a message to deliver. They have a message to show and let the story deliver that message. It’s as impressive as it is informative.

How Do You Measure A Year? (dir. Jay Rosenblatt) – From age one to age eighteen, film maker Jay Rosenblatt films his daughter Ella on each of her birthdays, or around them. With each film, he asks Ella the same questions, about her dreams, what she thinks power is, what she wants to be when she grows up, and her feelings toward her father. One of her goals is to be a singer and often she sings one of her favorite songs in the films. As she grows up, her answers go from playful to more serious. The questions about their relationship also have noticeable differences as there are times when it’s real serious. The final one at eighteen is tearful for Ella as she knows it will be the last one.

There are a lot of these films on social media where parents film their child as they grow. This film is not as complicated as the other films. This is one film a day for eighteen years. Nevertheless it tells a lot. You can see Ella grow and her mannerisms change. She goes from playful as a toddler to enjoying it as a child to being annoyed or disgusted with it as a teen to sad to see it all end at eighteen. These annual films also tell of a lot of her concerns and her deep hidden emotions. That’s what makes it unique from most chronological child films. It’s the depth of Ella’s answers and the relationship with her father that makes this set of films unique in its own way.

The Martha Mitchell Effect (dirs. Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison) – This documentary tells the story of Martha Mitchell, wife of John Mitchell. When Richard Nixon was elected president of the United States in 1968, he chose John to be his Attorney General. At the time, the White House was practically a male-dominated government. wives were supposed to be out of their husband’s business, just appearing aside them in public. Martha Mitchell was different. She was known to be unafraid to speak her mind. She’d even call in to radio shows and spill the beans of what’s happening. Things really became uncomfortable for the Nixon administration as she was not afraid to be critical of the system. We all know how much of a control freak Richard Nixon was. And for the wife of the Attorney General to blab all that, you could see how they could see her as a threat. She even became a celebrity with the public. Then around the time of the Watergate break-in, coincidentally or not, Martha was kidnapped at a hotel for three days. She was even injected by a member of the government. In the end, Watergate became Nixon’s downfall. John Mitchell was sentenced to prison and would eventually divorce Martha. Many people assume Martha paved the way for Nixon’s downfall.

This Netflix documentary is an important film to have right now. It focuses on a lot of things in politics that we see happening right now. First, it’s of political corruption. People are still encouraged to stay quiet and play the game. Those that spill the truth out are still punished. Second, it’s of a male-controlled environment. The whole political system in the US was male controlled and Martha’s husband was part of the people pulling the strings. So hearing of how a woman not afraid to tell it as she saw it would naturally make them comfortable. Third, it’s of control. Even though the US is to be seen as the “land of the free,” they have some hidden truths. There was a president who was a control freak and wanted everything done his way and feared opposition. In sure there were many times Nixon saw Martha as his top threat. That case where Martha was kidnapped and injected around the time of the Watergate break-in will leave you guessing. Was it an act of control from Nixon? This documentary will leave you with some unanswered questions. This documentary is very much a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Knowing how our system lies to us should make us glad for loudmouths like Martha.

Stranger At The Gate (dirs. Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones) – The film begins with family talking of former Marine Richard (Mac) McKinney. His daughter mentions of him being a mass murderer. The film then leads to an Afghani couple living in Muncie, Indiana. They talk of how they immigrated. The film then leads to Mac. He tells of when he was growing up and what led him to be a Marine. Footage of the WTC attack on September 11, 2001 changed everything. Mac was then to do service in Afghanistan and Iraq. His service ended in the mid-2000’s, but the war was not over in his head. He returned to Muncie to see Muslims. That, combined with the PTSD from the war, led him to see them as the enemy. He puts together a pipe bomb which he plans to detonate at the mosque in Muncie, without his wife and daughter knowing. One day, he goes to the mosque to see any particular areas where to put the bomb. Instead he sees a welcoming community. Members of the community talk of what it was like to meet Mac. Over time, Mac kept coming back. His desire to kill disappeared over time and he had a new desire to be part of this community. Then it’s exposed. His bomb is discovered. Everyone is in shock and Mac is interrogated to see if he’s a domestic terrorist. He served time, but eventually was welcomed back into Muncie’s Muslim community.

This is a remarkable story that forms itself well. As the story starts, the audience would first guess that Mac was responsible for a huge hate crime. As time passes, you would still think he committed that terrible act. Then as we progress on, you learn that Mac didn’t commit an act of domestic terrorism. He almost did, but it turned out to be a case that love won over. Those interviewed show the story from various angles from family to the Muslim community to the Afghan refugees to the police. They all have a lot to say and it leads to the overall message from the film. The message being hate is very often a state of mind. We see that as Mac was a soldier and was taught to hunt down the enemy during the war. His PTSD from fighting in the war mixed with his war-time mentality towards Muslims were the ingredients for his Islamophobia right there. The film also shows that hate can be defeated by love. It’s a message we need to hear right now, especially since we hear news about so many shootings and so many hate attacks. This is a remarkable story of how one such attack was prevented from happening when the almost-perpetrator allowed himself to heal. That’s why I decide this documentary to be my Should Win pick.

And there you go! That’s my focus on the nominees for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. Very rarely do I want to see documentaries. These five films made it worth watching.

2022 Oscar Shorts Review: Animation and Live-Action

Did you think with this being an Oscar year I would miss my chance to see the films nominated in the short films categories? The chance was there and I took it again. All the films had a unique style about them and all appeared worthy of their nominations. So here I go. Here are my reviews for the nominated films in the Animation and Live-Action categories.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse (dirs. Charles Mackesy and Matthew Freund) –

A boy is lost in the winter snows. A mole finds him. He hopes the mole will lead him home, a home he’s never had before, and wants to grow up to be kind. The two hope the river they find will lead them there, but they’re encountered by a fox. The fox wants to hunt them both down, but finds himself in a trap. The mole frees him and the fox runs away. The next day the mole falls into the river, but is saved by the fox. The fox joins the mole and the boy on the journey to the boy’s home. Along the journey, they encounter a white horse who is an outcast. The three welcome the horse along the journey. Soon they discover the horse has a special trait. He can fly like Pegasus! Soon they come to the village where the boy’s home is. The three animals say their good-byes, but the boy makes a surprising decision.

It seems like every year, there has to be at least one animated short from the UK that’s nominated. This is this year’s nomination. This is an adaptation o f a 2019 children’s book from Charlie Mackesy, who co-directs this short film. This is a 2D short that has been on Apple TV starting this Christmas. It has a quiet soft tone that’s more touching than sentimental. It makes the right moves and is able to be soft without getting too mushy or manipulative. This is one charmer that I give both my Should Win and Will Win pick.

The Flying Sailor (dirs. Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis) – It’s the morning of December 6, 1917 along the coast in Halifax. Two ships collide within each other with one catching on fire. A sailor thinks nothing of it and lights a cigarette. Only the burning ship soon explodes. The sailor goes flying naked in an out-of-body experience. His life flashes before his eyes from childhood to his life at sea as Halifax is engulfed by the blast. The blast sends him out of earth and even out of the galaxy. Then all of a sudden, he’s brought back down into the galaxy, then earth, then back into Halifax into a body of water. Miraculously he’s still alive. He even stares a shocked fish in the eyes.

As I was watching this, I asked myself “Is this about the Halifax Explosion?” Yes, it was. In fact the film makers dedicate the film to a sailor who flew 2 kilometers in the explosion and lived to tell! This film from the National Film Board of Canada is one of of two animated features from The New Yorker Screening Room to be nominated. It’s a clever story that doesn’t need any dialogue for us to get the message. It lets the images and the moments tell the story of a man who’s near a sudden death contemplate his existence. A fast film, but entertaining and even humorous from start to finish.

Ice Merchants (dirs. Joao Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano) – A widowed father and son run an ice selling business. The ice comes from a box they fill with water, let freeze overnight, and break up to sell the next day. They get their freezing temperature by being up on the very mountain they have their house upon. The house is thousands of feet above the ground hanging from ropes and requires a system of pulleys and ropes to get to. They have to skydive down together into the town to sell their wares. The flight always causes their hats to fall off. They use the money from sales to buy new hats. Then one day, the son notices the water in the box didn’t freeze. The temperature is above freezing. The high temperature of the snow is causing an avalanche and the house’s ropes are breaking. The parachute falls from the house. The father makes the decision to jump with his son. Fortunately a female skydiver finds the two in the air, grabs hold of them, and opens her parachute. The two survive, but in a surprising way!

This film from a Portuguese animation company is another film from The New Yorker Screening Room. It’s a good 2D film that is as much about its art as it is about telling its story. It uses only a few colors at a time for each of its scenes. It has the visuals and the music tell the story without having any dialogue. It also does a very good job in showing the drama of the climax. It also ends on a happy and humorous note that works well with the story.

My Year Of Dicks (dirs. Sara Gunnarsdottir and Pamela Ribon) – It’s 1991 in Houston and Pam seeks to lose her virginity as she is approaching womanhood. She, however, is undecided which boy she wants to lose her virginity with. She constantly trusts the opinions of her best friend Sam, who is male. The first boy she tries to lose it with is David, a skateboarder who thinks he’s a vampire. She’s attracted to his mystique, but soon learns what a jerk he is and of the little game he had with his guy friends. The second boy is Wally, who’s a theatre usher. They try to do it in a broom closet during work hours, but it doesn’t work out. Third boy is Robert, whom she finds as nice. She soon learns he’s gay and was interested in Sam. Pam tries a party hosted by her friend Karina. She meets a boy named Joey who appears to be orderly. The party comes to a sudden halt and Pam learns Joey is a Nazi! The story ends with a surprise that Pam learns what she was searching for was there all along.

It’s a story with both intrigue and humor. The rotoscope animation adds to the story and adds to the comedic elements of the story. Pam brings an intriguing story and Sara Gunnarsdottir does a great job of animating and directing it.

An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake And I Think I Believe It (dir. Lachlan Pendragon) – Neil is a telemarketer trying to sell toasters. His boss confronts him of his poor performance and threatens to fire him. As he continues working, he hallucinates and notices things missing from his cubicle. He wakes up and he sees an ostrich. The ostrich can speak and tells him this world is a ‘sham’ and advises him to get a better look at his surroundings. Neil soon finds his way out of the animation world and into a prop box full of his own mouths. The following day, Neil is shocked to see all the furniture removed. A co-worker named Gaven tells him it’s a corporate decision, but Neil rips his mouth off. The creator tries to intervene, but Neil falls off the set. With Neil’s body all broken up, the creator puts him back together and on the set. The next day, Neil is confronted by his boos, and quits.

This Australian short is an amusing stop-motion animated film. It goes from the animated story to the world of the production studio. It’s funny how the film knows it’s stop-motion and knows how to joke around about that fact. That adds to the humor of the story. It’s a funny film that goes from the animated story to the real world and back to the animated story. It seems odd at first, but it’s very likeable.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

An Irish Goodbye (dirs. Tom Berkely and Ross White) – Two brothers from Belfast, Turlough and Lorcan, have lost their mother. The priest gives the sons the ashes and attempts to give them their mother’s ‘bucket list,’ but Turlough thinks its useless. Turlough, who works in London, wants to sell the farm and have Lorcan, who has Down’s Syndrome, live with his aunt. Lorcan wants nothing to do with it. Lorcan says he has the bucket list and still believes they can fulfill his mother’s wishes with her urn. The two agree to try all 100. However it’s the 99th, skydiving, that her urn smashes. Turlough soon finds out the truth about Lorcan’s bucket list the priest. That leads to even bigger friction, but a resolution does occur after they proceed with the 100th item.

This Irish short film is a well-acted film that’s mixes both tragedy and comedy with the intensity of family drama. It also deals with the issue of Down’s Syndrome in a humorous manner that doesn’t tread on being insulting or having mockery. It’s a story you anticipate to be sad, but instead turns out to be humorous, enjoyable, and even heart-warming. It’s worth seeing.

Ivalu (dirs. Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan) – It’s morning in Greenland. The Queen of Denmark is to visit. Pipaluk is looking for her older sister Ivalu. Her father, who acts like he doesn’t care, says she ran away. Pipaluk tries looking for Ivalu. She sees a raven and thinks Ivalu’s spirit is in the bird. As she continues the search, she remembers the conversations she had with Ivalu. It’s then she faces the facts of a lot of ugly secrets about Ivalu and how her father treated her. Pipaluk feels she has to confront the awful truth. In the end Pipaluk wears Ivalu’s dress for the Queen’s visit.

This is a story that touches on a taboo rarely discussed but is well-known among indigenous peoples. Child sexual abuse is also very common in the Inuit populations of Canada. Although this is touchy subject matter, it does a good job in adapting a short story into a watchable film. The film has visuals that are both mystic and disturbing. It’s a sad story that does come as life-affirming at the end. Its imagery is the film’s best quality.

Le Pupille (dirs. Alive Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuaron) – The story revolves around a Roman Catholic boarding school in Italy during World War II. The central character of the story is a girl names Serafina. She’s an outcast at the school and the nuns are strict to all the girls, including Serafina. Mother Superior Fioralba is the strictest of them all. Christmas is fast approaching and the girls are to put on a Nativity play. The people in the town see the girls as darlings, but Fioralba always finds something to scold them about like singing a romantic song on the radio, which Fioralba describes as ‘filthy.’ She’s angry Serafina won’t admit to singing the lyrics and tells her what a bad girl she is. On Christmas, a rich socialite, who’s frustrated by her cheating boyfriend, gives the nuns a big red cake for the girls. Fiorabla thinks the cake is a bad thing as soldiers are starving. At the Christmas dinner, the girls are about to have dessert of the cake, but Fioralba tries to convince them not to have it. Serafina, shamed by her scolding, is able to get a slice. Fioralba hoped to use the cake for the Bishop’s visit. In the end a chimney sweep is given the cake which, thanks to him falling, is enough for everyone from the schoolgirls to his chimney sweep friends to the alley-way pets to have some of the cake.

It’s a charming story. I didn’t think Cuaron would be the type to do a short film for Disney. And in Italian. At first, you think with subject matter like this, it would be a dark story. Instead it turns out to be humorous and also turns out to be a good lesson in charity the girls and the chimney sweeps end up teaching a stern but dishonest nun like Fioralba. It’s also a story that shows how freeing yourself can even triumph over in a strict religious boarding school. And during World War II in Italy to boot! That’s why I give this film my Will Win pick.

Night Ride (dirs. Elrik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen) – In a town in Norway, a woman with dwarfism named Ebba is waiting for a tram on a cold night. A tram arrives, but the driver is taking a half-hour’s break. Impatiently, Ebba sneaks her way on the tram as he’s in the washroom. She plays along with the buttons in conductor’s controls and is able to get the tram moving. The conductor leaves the washroom shocked to find the tram moving, but Ebba moves on wit the runaway tram. Two rude males board the train along with a woman named Ariel. One of the males hits on Ariel, only to learn she’s trans. The two males get confrontational with Ariel, even threatening, but Ebba stops the tram to face up the men to stop. Even as the men are rude to her about her height, she doesn’t back down. She then tells the men to lead the tram and Ebba and Ariel get off. It’s just Ebba and Ariel on the bus bench as they watch a police car chase the runaway tram. They both laugh together.

It’s very rare that a film can take the topic of transphobia and make a comical situation. Here we have a case of a woman with dwarfism who steals the train and the trans woman whom the woman prevents from being attacked. It’s almost as if the runaway tram was a miracle for Ariel as it prevented physical abuse from happening. Not to mention the eventual comeuppance of the transphobes as both Ebba and Ariel see the police car chasing the tram on a bench. Both are cold, but they’re both safe, unlike the transphobes. And an unlikely friendship to boot!

The Red Suitcase (dir. Cyrus Neshvad) – Ariane, a young woman from Iran, has just arrived at the Luxembourg airport. She looks fearful. She has her red suitcase but refuses to leave past security. This causes suspicion among the guards and they check her suitcase. All that’s inside is clothes, pencil drawings. and art supplies. Nothing threatening. The true threat is past security. A middle-aged man her father arranged for her to marry. Her father even instructs her to approach the man through text message. Ariane has to escape and try to avoid catching his eye. She tries to get her money exchanged for Euros. It doesn’t exchange to much. She then tries to go out to look for an escape. She sees an airport bus and boards it, using her exchanged money to get on. Meanwhile the man is impatient as he has a big wedding planned that day. He received a message from Ariane’s father that her flight has arrived. He notices her money envelope so he knows she is outside. He searches in the bus area. He boards the very bus Ariane is on. Ariane finds an escape. He sees her suitcase but can’t find her. Ariane hides herself in the baggage area of the bus and won’t leave until it’s safe. Even a text from her father promising if she returns home, she can have anything won’t calm her. Then the bus drives off with the man on board and Ariane still at the airport.

The theme over here has to be the subject of arranged marriages. This is especially an important film as the Iranian feminist movement has been fighting for their freedoms since October. Those scenes where Ariane takes off her hijab and one where she cuts her hair are definitely part of the message. Even though the film is important because of its subject matter, the way the film plays out as we see one side of the subject matter and we learn more as it goes along is a creative element. Even the scenes of near-misses add to the intensity. We all wants Ariane to avoid being with the husband she doesn’t want, but we fear for her safety. We get the relief at the very end. Ariane is alone at the airport with all her money spent and without her suitcase, but she is free. It’s because of this that I designate this film as my Should Win pick.

And there you have it. That sums it up for the Animated and Live-Action short films nominated for this year’s Oscars. Those that aren’t normally film buffs, watching these shorts are more worth it than you think!