"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Vern’s Oscar Round-Up 2022

Ah shit, here we go again. Another Oscar Sunday coming up. As I’ve been doing for some years now, I scrambled to watch all of the best picture nominees that I hadn’t already seen anyway, plus as many as I could from other major categories. This year, for various reasons, I did not write reviews of most of the movies that were nominated, so I’ll kinda-sorta do that here.

No time for a monologue, let’s go straight to the best picture nominees, presented in alphabetical order for your organizational convenience.


BELFAST is one of the two I watched this year only because they were nominated for best picture. It’s not a “thank God the Oscars made me see that one” situation, but it’s a pretty good movie. I was hard on Kenneth Branagh (WILD WILD WEST) as both a director and actor when I rewatched DEAD AGAIN recently and started to think his filmmaking was silly and ego-driven. For him to do an openly autobiographical story, his first original screenplay, and dealing with the very serious issue of The Troubles, seems potentially unbearable, but I thought this was a well done memoir. One advantage is that he doesn’t appear in it as an actor, and his surrogate character is just a pre-teen, so he can more easily be forgiven any dumbassery.

Though the historical era and black and white cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos (LOCKE) make it an obvious choice for Oscar nominations, it’s not quite what the sounds like because it shows The Troubles from the perspective of this goofy kid (Jude Hill) who can’t really make sense of it. It’s kind of reckoning with things he saw in his neighborhood and in his parents’ marriage, but it’s also nostalgia for the comfort of being a kid and not really getting most of it.

The opening is particularly good because there’s this cheesy modern day drone shot establishing shot musical montage that almost made me think I put on the wrong movie, before it switches to black and white and shows the kid walking home and talking to various people on the street about little boy stuff, and then suddenly a violent mob comes around the corner to attack the Catholic families on the street, and he freezes there and the camera rotates around to really make it look momentous. But that corny opening really set me up to not be ready for it. Good stuff.

There are lots of scenes showing TV and movies as an escape from the world – sometimes the movies are in color – so I thought it would be funny if this obviously autobiographical character saw FRANKENSTEIN and started to get ideas about how it would be better if Dr. Frankenstein was shirtless, foreshadowing his future cinematic achievements. That did not happen. But I also thought it would be funny if he read a Thor comic book (Did you remember that Branagh directed THOR? Isn’t that weird?) and that actually did happen! Also we see an Agatha Christie book, though not either of the ones he made movies of. No Jack Ryan books and now Wild Wild West on TV (and the latter would actually be historically possible.)

It’s got a nice look to it, and I appreciate that it’s not very heavy-handed. It’s even quirky at times. This is weird but there were tiny moments that reminded me of Wes Anderson, and the very end kind of reminded me of a Spike Lee movie. I might be the only one to say that. It’s mostly set in the real world, but has these little artificial touches that fit with it being a boy’s-eye-view of the events – you know, like Tobe Hooper’s INVADERS FROM MARS. If it wins, I will consider it a makeup Oscar for Tobe Hooper.

CODA is one that I saw right before the nominations were announced, only because my wife wanted to see it, so I was able to have zero idea of what it was about. When it opened with its main character Ruby (Emilia Jones, HIGH-RISE) singing while working on a crab boat I wondered if she was annoying the shit out of the other people on the boat, because I didn’t know it was about her being the one hearing member of a deaf family. When it ended I still didn’t know that the title meant “Children of Deaf Adults.” So I came in with no expectations at all. I loved it, and it got some tears out of me at the end. (Positive tears.)

Since it got nominated, and especially since it won best ensemble at the SAG Awards, I’ve noticed a backlash against it. I can’t imagine being that cynical, but more power to you. It is not a movie designed to be monumental, it’s just a well made traditional crowdpleaser type of movie about Ruby trying to make it as a singer. It reminded me of FLASHDANCE at times! Yes, it takes place in and adjacent to Deaf culture, and that’s one thing that’s interesting about it, but it’s not some kind of message movie if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s just a good story about some people.

Since the song she keeps singing is “You’re All I Need” it would be cool if Mary J. Blige and Method Man show up to perform it with her on the broadcast. Just an idea for you, ABC.

Although I agree that this should not win best picture, it’s exactly the type of thing that should be nominated in a couple of those slots – a small, well-made movie that offers something a little different, that most people would enjoy if they saw it, but that had been almost completely buried on Apple TV+. Now specifically because of these awards more people will see it, the actor Troy Kotsur (“Tusken Raider Scout #1” in an episode of The Mandalorian) who’s so good as the dad will get some jobs and probly an Oscar, etc. All is well as long as it doesn’t win and rile up people like this critic I saw saying it would be as bad as when CRASH won.

If one of the nominees should be compared to CRASH I feel it’s obviously DON’T LOOK UP – an all star ensemble cast doing an unwieldy, well-meaning but self righteous message movie that takes too long to do too little while trying to do too much. To me this is “the bad one” this year that would be embarrassing if it won. I was thinking I reviewed it, but I guess I only did that on letterboxd – I went long for over there, but short compared to what I’d do here. Anyway, I probly said enough about it. I appreciate some of the comments where people talked about liking it, because I honestly can’t comprehend the idea of it being one of the better movies of the year, it just doesn’t compute for me at all. But as I said in the review, it was way better than director Adam McKay’s last film, VICE, which was also nominated for best picture by people far outside of my bubble.

DRIVE MY CAR, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY), is the other one I managed to see having no idea what it was gonna be about. I should have tried to review it, but I didn’t really know how to do it justice. It doesn’t have some big hook that I know how to make sound attractive. It’s about an acclaimed theater director (Hidetoshi Nishijima, SHIN ULTRAMAN) putting on a multilingual production of Uncle Vanya, and it’s clear that there’s more to be mined from it if you know that story. I don’t, but there was more than enough for me to dig into. It’s partly about grieving, because his wife (Reika Kirishima, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS) recently died, complicated by the fact that he’d seen her cheating with a young actor (Masaki Okada, JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE CHAPTER I) who is now in his play.

The story centers on his relationship with the young woman (Toko Miura, ORGAN) hired to drive him from where he’s staying to where they’re rehearsing, which starts out very cold. It’s a slow burn bonding movie! There’s a point where events lead to him sitting in the front seat with her, and then I was left in suspense as to whether he would continue to do that the next day or if he’d distance himself again after things cooled down. Sounds ridiculous, maybe, but when you’re watching it it’s sublime.

One of the only things I’d heard about it was that it was 3 hours long, and I know that will intimidate some people. I think it’s a case where cutting anything would weaken it, not because it’s necessarily filled with events, but because the rhythm of it is part of the appeal. It needs to take its time. You need to soak in it.

DRIVE MY CAR is the reason I follow awards. This is definitely one of the best movies I saw this year, but there’s no fuckin way I go to a movie like this without a push. Thank you for that, awards season.

I assume you all saw DUNE. It’s a movie I thought was very good, but it has mostly left my mind since (which was not the case with some of the previous Denis Villeneuve movies such as BLADE RUNNER 2049, SICARIO and PRISONERS). Being only the first half was known at the time and did not feel disappointing when I saw it, but it leaves it in sort of a limbo in my mind until we get the rest. Still, I hope to watch it again at some point and attempt to write a review. That said, I also intended to read the book, and got less then 200 pages in 2 years, so we’ll have to wait and see how the review plan pans out.

KING RICHARD, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (MONSTERS AND MEN) is the other one I watched only because it was nominated. I felt a little uncomfortable through much of it because you go in knowing that this guy Richard Williams (Will Smith, WILD WILD WEST) – who seems like a nut going to tennis courts and giving people zines about his daughters saying he wrote a 78 page plan before they were born about how to make them the greatest tennis players in the world – is right. We know who Venus and Serena Williams are today and what they have accomplished so we’re invited to be mad at these people for not wanting to be bothered and assuming that this weirdo asking them for money is one of the 99.999999999999999999999% (conservatively) who would do this shit and just be ruining his children’s lives for no reason.

Especially since we also saw Will Smith in the similar PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, KING RICHARD has the feeling of inspiration porn, or even inspiration propaganda. It’s an inspiring story until you picture Ted Cruz or Bill Cosby or somebody using it as an excuse to dismiss the majority of Black people who do not grow up to be legendary superstar multi-millionaire athlete role models. See, if you simply work your ass off all day every day, say your prayers, don’t curse and pull your pants up you too could be so extraordinary that they make a movie about your dad raising you. The rest of you are just lazy sponges asking for handouts.

That’s an unpleasant vibe I got, but it’s not entirely fair to the movie, which has much more to say than that. Richard Williams is at times portrayed as a an annoying person. He convinces a very famous tennis coach (Tony Goldwyn, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES) to train his daughter Venus (Saniyya Sidney, FAST COLOR) for free and then keeps yelling things from the sidelines and interfering when he disagrees. In the moment it lets us sympathize with these very patient people who have to deal with him, but since Richard does turn out to be correct about some of these things (unless the movie is full of shit – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tennis match in my life), it’s a reminder that sometimes going against the way things are always done is smart.

Or maybe he just got lucky and he was wrong but it worked out anyway. Like, he goes against every single person’s advice by making Venus go to school and not compete until she goes pro, and just as he predicted she ends up being the best anyway. But how do we know that having more competitive experience when she started wouldn’t have made her even better? Seems like it very well could’ve. In some sense this is a gambling movie that would have a different ending if the bet went the other way. We’re supposed to admire that they turn down a $3 million sponsorship before she’s even played professionally because they’re correctly confident that she will overcome the odds stacked against her and then be offered an even larger contract. But not much would’ve had to go wrong for this to be the tragic story of a brilliant tennis prodigy who almost had it all but is assistant manager at Albertson’s now because her meddling dad gave her such terrible fucking advice. It plays like some great wisdom, but maybe they just won the coin toss.

Venus does seem to make that choice on her own, though after pressure from her dad. It is a little stressful how much he puts on those kids and how much he goes over their and his wife (Aunjanue Ellis, UNDERCOVER BROTHER, GAME OF DEATH, GET ON UP, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK)’s heads with his wacky ideas. There is at least one point where he gets called out for it and lets them have their way, and one where he’s stopped from forcing them to watch CINDERELLA twice in a row just to make a small point that he could make by simply taking one minute to explain what the fuck is on his mind. (Possibly a reference to how Smith watches SHREK over and over again in I AM LEGEND.)

But one thing that’s crucial is that, at least according to Smith, the Williams sisters (who are credited as producers) did not agree to put their names on it until they saw the completed movie and knew they were happy with it. If they don’t think it gives their dad too much credit for their achievements then I don’t see how I could worry that it does.

And I think the more important point, and the one that balances out that respectability politics angle I mentioned earlier, is how much it shows a father recognizing that some of the choices he and his family have to make are different from others specifically because they’re Black people from Compton in a world of rich white people. The privilege the other players have is not only being able to afford elite training from childhood, and not having to worry about their dads getting repeatedly beat up by gangsters at the public tennis courts. It’s also a privilege to not have to worry about the how the other players will talk to them, how the media will portray them, or to have the pressure of feeling they have to represent their entire race every time they play or speak. When you see that it’s a little easier to see how some (not all) of Richard’s behavior that comes across as obnoxious might be advocacy for his daughters needed to get them the opportunities they deserve but won’t easily get access to.

Yes, there’s a subplot about Richard having run-ins with some gangsters at a public park in Compton, and there’s something very meta about The Fresh Prince getting beat up by dudes blasting N.W.A’s Efil4Zaggin from their car (although “Summertime” came out around the time the scene takes place, and who doesn’t like that song?) There’s also a pretty crazy scene where he takes his gun, follows one of the gangsters to a convenience store and is about to assassinate him, but then is saved by God and/or the guy with the uzi who happens to drive by right then and do it for him. I like to picture when this movie eventually plays on cable all the time and people will turn it on in the middle and wonder when Will Smith did a vigilante revenge movie.

Other things I liked about the movie: all the actors portraying the Williamses do a very good job. I do think Smith is good, and he’s playing a character who speaks in a goofy voice and who often lightens things with corny jokes, so it’s not too melodramatic. He has a really good chemistry with the girls and they all have a great chemistry with each other, running around and giggling and making you understand how their life might still be fun and not feel like they’re suffering the cruel tutelage of Pai Mei.

Goldwyn is also really good as exasperated coach #1, and even better we get national treasure Jon Bernthal (THE ACCOUNTANT) playing a really funny coach in the second half. When the fuck is he gonna get a supporting actor nomination? As I predicted out loud during the movie, this is one of those biopics that has footage of the real people during the end credits. It was interesting to see how dead on most of it was but that the guy Bernthal’s playing is actually even more cartoonish in real life!

I think this is a weird choice for a best picture nominee, but it was worth seeing.


LICORICE PIZZA directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (MONSTER HUNTER) doesn’t seem like it could win, but it would be cool if it did. I don’t know what it’s about except youth and friendship and filmmaking that’s so good it’s intoxicating. I saw the trailer a million times but still went in having no image of what these two characters were like, and they of course make the movie. This ridiculously confident kid Gary (Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour) who’s still pretty likable, and the older girl he crushes on, Alana (Alana Haim from the band Haim, who Anderson directed a whole bunch of videos for), who’s just so witty and likable, and messy in a relatable, not too stressful way. It’s kind of miraculous because it’s this big movie starring two first time actors – at least one of whom never tried to be an actor and had to be talked into it – and it’s completely carried by their chemistry and how naturally charming and funny they both are.

There are definitely RUSHMORE parallels, with this kid trying to be an adult within his world of children (starting a waterbed business and hiring all his friends, etc.) and thinking he’s in love with an older woman, but of course the directorial styles of these two Andersons are entirely different. Most discussion of the movie seems to focus on the age difference. He’s I believe 16 and she’s in her twenties. She acknowledges that their friendship is weird, but at the very end she tells him she loves him. I admit that it puzzled me, but I don’t find it offensive. If I was Alana’s age and friends with her I would wonder what was wrong with her, but I don’t think the relationship would be unhealthy for Gary. I’m still not sure why Anderson chose to end on that note, but it was illuminating to read that the seed of the story was seeing a teenager hit on an adult woman taking the school photos, as in the movie, and imagining what that kid was like. He based it largely on his friend Gary Goetzman, who was a child actor who appeared in YOURS, MINE AND OURS, the obvious inspiration for the fictional movie this Gary is in.

I was very surprised by the Lucille Ball character in the movie! They should’ve gotten Nicole Kidman to do it so it would’ve been like when Michael Keaton played Ray Nicolette in JACKIE BROWN and then OUT OF SIGHT.

The other thing is that Goetzman really did sell a waterbed to Jon Peters (played by THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN’s Bradley Cooper [THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN] in the movie), maniac hairdresser and future movie producer who I have been fascinated with since reading that he pinned a Warner Brothers executive to a wall and threatened him in order to allow the iconic bat-symbol-with-no-text BATMAN teaser poster. That answers my biggest question of why they fictionalized some characters but used Peters’ real name. Supposedly his only demand was that they had to show him using his favorite pickup line, which is the line that most seems like a Cooper improv (when he asks a passing woman if she wants a peanut butter sandwich).

Here’s a question: who has a better filmography – Jon Peters, or the kid who sold him a waterbed? Peters has to his name the 1976 version of A STAR IS BORN (I haven’t seen it), EYES OF LAURA MARS (pretty good), CADDYSHACK (people love it), AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (masterpiece), FLASHDANCE (I dig it), THE TOUGHEST MAN IN THE WORLD (he knows Mr. T), THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (good one), THE COLOR PURPLE (people love it), THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (George Miller rules), BATMAN, TANGO & CASH, ALI.

But Goetzman produced MIAMI BLUES, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, THE POLAR EXPRESS (and many other Tom Hanks joints), WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, RICKI AND THE FLASH. And as an actor he’s in CAGED HEAT and BUSTIN’ LOOSE. Okay, Peters wins, but it’s closer than you might’ve guessed!

Anyway, yeah, I loved LICORICE PIZZA.

I really believe that only using this trailer shot during the end credits cost Bradley Cooper a supporting actor nomination

NIGHTMARE ALLEY I also loved, and you can read my review that I posted yesterday. I think it’s much better than del Toro’s movie that already won best picture, but it’s not nearly as weird, so that’s okay that it’s not the one that wins. Getting best picture for the movie about fucking a fish man is an achievement whether I loved the movie or not. And that unlikely occurrence made this one possible.

I found THE POWER OF THE DOG interesting and well made all the way through, although at the end I wasn’t sure I got enough out of watching this motherfucker Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch, WAR HORSE) just be a total asshole to everybody and all of them give in to him over and over until finally one person takes care of him. It’s a pretty rough watch. I also felt a little weird that at the time people were calling it a takedown of toxic masculinity, because there’s a twist (SPOILER) that makes that reading kind of seem like “When men act macho and hate women it just means they’re secretly gay.” Which would be kind of a regressive message if that’s what this was about. But I recognize that it’s a story about repression, how horrible Phil has become because he’s been taught/forced to not be himself, and he’s trying to violently protect his false persona. He’s also jealous and angry to see Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee, DOLEMITE IS MY NAME) being supported in his mother doing “sissy” things that he never could’ve, so he strikes out at him. Also, it’s important to note that it’s from a book by Thomas Savage, who was married to a woman but considered himself gay.

Still, that remained my takeaway from it for months. But talking about the movie with friends who liked it kind of made me feel like I could appreciate it more, as did listening to the Blank Check episode about it, especially when they were discussing Peter and how he’s really the strongest person in the room at the beginning when he seems clueless about taking credit for the paper flowers on the table. Hearing people who have watched it multiple times analyze it makes it clear that there’s a whole lot more to pick up about the different characters when you know what’s going on from the beginning. However, the experience of watching it is unpleasant enough that I’m not really jonesing to jump into it again.

I do want to say that I think it’s misleading that everyone calls it a western. Obviously it depends on how you define western, but I think most people could list their top five favorite aspects of the western genre and none of them would be things that apply to this movie. It’s a drama with occasional horseback riding and some hats, but not much on gunfights, sheriffs, jails, journeys, codes of honor, train robberies, outlaws or any of those sorts of things. Not calling it a western would change people’s expectations and would’ve kept Sam Elliott out of trouble.

For those interested in that controversy about Elliott dissing the movie in a WTF interview, by far
the best take I’ve seen about it is this long Twitter thread

by David Lambert, an actual expert on westerns who disagrees with Elliott but has a convincing explanation of where he might’ve been coming from. (I think people should also keep in mind that it was just a dumb thing he said offhand in an interview when the topic of the movie happened to come up. I don’t like how these quotes get thrown around as clickbait and people start to act like he called a press conference to announce his opposition to THE POWER OF THE DOG.)

I think the arc of the Jesse Plemons (HOSTILES, ANTLERS) character George is kind of the most interesting. You see him trying to stand up to his brother, be sensitive toward Rose (Kirsten Dunst, SMALL SOLDIERS), and make peace. But after they get married he’s kind of neglectful and clueless about what she needs and you realize he’s not so great either. That scene where he makes her play piano for their guests is one of the most painful parts of the movie!

Another one is earlier when she’s practicing her song and having trouble with it, and Phil comes in and starts playing along on his banjo. It’s so harsh because for a minute there I thought he was actually being nice and they were going to bond over their shared talent as musicians. And then I realized nope, this is just another way for him to torment her.

Did you notice that Dunst always looks like her hair was wet and then dried without being brushed? I don’t know that I’ve seen that in a movie before. Historic times we’re living in here.

I’m not up on the works of director Jane Campion. I saw THE PIANO when I was definitely too young to appreciate it (and I did not) and I don’t think I’ve seen any of the other ones. So far I think maybe she’s not for me, but I know people love her and love this movie. So I don’t mean to minimize any of that, but let me just say that there is one director who I am absolutely positive could’ve made a better movie out of that book: Bronco Henry.

I kinda think WEST SIDE STORY (the other one I officially reviewed already) should win. You could make plenty of arguments for why its themes are important right now, but that’s not even the reason. Sometimes I think since they’re not usually gonna pick something that really challenges you and uses cinema in a new way (TITANE: zero nominations) they should go for the best old fashioned, let’s put on a show, this is what’s great about DA MOVIES spectacular, the one with all the craftsmanship and the giant cast of phenomenal talents, mostly new to movies, all able to act and dance and sing, and put a new spin on an old story, doing things you didn’t do in movies back when the original was made. Something that may not be the very best movie of the year, but then again maybe is, that shows one of our greatest ever movie directors directing the shit out of a movie.

I don’t think it’s gonna win. I think various people would be mad. But not me.









You got your Branagh, your Hamaguchi, your Anderson, your Campion, your Spielberg. All did good to excellent work. Mostly excellent. I think Campion will probly get it, and if she doesn’t it will be seen as an outrage, both due to people’s love for the movie and the unavoidable shame of the Academy’s almost complete lack of recognition for women directors throughout its entire history. If it was me I would vote for Spielberg, but he needs it the least. I don’t think he gives a shit.


The Best Actor category includes previously mentioned best picture nominees THE POWER OF THE DOG (Benedict Cumberbatch) and KING RICHARD (Will Smith). Javier Bardem was good, as always, in the pretty ridiculous BEING THE RICARDOS, but nothing revelatory (and probly horrible if you’re more familiar with the real guy than I am). I preferred him in PERDITA DURANGO.

The other two movies in the category I just watched this week, so I’ll tell you what I thought of them.

You would think TICK, TICK… BOOM! would not work for me, a guy who’s not into stage musicals, not even Hamilton. It’s directed by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, adapted from an autobiographical musical monologue by Jonathan Larson, the creator of Rent, telling a story about earlier in his life when he was a nobody working as a waiter and destroying all his relationships trying to produce a satirical dystopian musical called Superbia. That does not sound up my alley, and yet—

No, I’m just kidding, this was very much not for me. I don’t think this translates to somebody who is not into Broadway/off Broadway musicals, and that’s okay. I personally find this type of music and performance very grating, and it would take more to win me over to it than a story about a guy (Andrew Garfield, NEVER LET ME GO) being terrible to his girlfriend in order to achieve his dream of making this type of music. I find Miranda’s work to be almost impossibly corny, so obviously he’s gonna be inspired by a guy whose work is not my thing either, and that, again, is okay. The people who are into this sort of thing love these guys, and that’s who this movie is for. It’s even jam-packed with cameos of people famous from musicals, like a comic book movie going hog wild with the easter eggs. (The one that interested me was Roger Bart, who was friends with Larson and is a character in the musical, but I know him as the guy from HOSTEL PART II.)

Anyway, I got through it, it kept me engaged, and I liked his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp – Storm in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE) and his best friend (Robin de Jesus, CAMP). Garfield certainly throws himself into it, sings and if not dances at least does those very exaggerated flailing around type music movements. To me his performance in THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE seemed more layered, but I get why they would nominate him for this instead.

I was more excited for Joel Coen’s THE TRAGEDY OF THE MACBETH, which has a beautifully simple black and white look to it, some great croaky voices (including by the three witches, who sometimes are one witch), a pretty good sword fight, and yes, an outstanding performance by Denzel Washington (RICOCHET), who is probly my choice to win best actor, though I’m not gonna be upset if it goes another way. It’s just cool to see him saying the Shakespeare dialogue but still being 100% Denzel, not Shakespearing it up at all. No accent, speaking quietly at times, taking pauses to consider what he’s saying. What I like best is seeing him and Frances McDormand (AEON FLUX) thinking and listening, making these words that have been uttered by thousands of actors come alive in a different way, even when I can’t follow what they’re talking about. (There’s also a scene with Stephen Root [NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW] where he is absolutely being Stephen Root. Just… Shakespearean though.)

There’s no problem with the movie, only me. I’m one of the dummies who can’t follow Shakespeare well enough to get fully involved. Julie Taymor and Baz Luhrmann can pull me in pretty good, this one too, but not to the same extent. I didn’t think I’d seen any version of Macbeth since the Mel Gibson one came out, but right at the beginning of this I thought, “Oh yeah, this is THRONE OF BLOOD!” So that helped me understand it. But I enjoyed THRONE OF BLOOD more. Still, it’s pretty good.


As I said in the review of BEING THE RICARDOS, Nicole Kidman (THE INVASION) is quite good, she just shouldn’t have been cast, and the movie should’ve been better. But I don’t blame her. She took up the challenge.

The other three I saw were all great performances worth honoring. As much as I like Kristen Stewart (UNDERWATER) I wasn’t sure I could accept her as Princess Diana in SPENCER, but she very much pulls it off. It’s a very sad and creepy movie about her feeling out of place in the palace and planning to get the fuck out of there but trying to hold it together for her kids. Not my favorite movie, but worth watching once, and very impressive work from Stewart.

If Olivia Colman (PUDSEY THE DOG: THE MOVIE) wins for THE LOST DAUGHTER it will be deserved. This is an odd character driven suspense story (sort of) where she plays a professor trying to relax by herself at a resort and having her peace interrupted by a huge family who are kind of pushy and apparently mobbed up. The first stretch of the movie is all about us watching her, mostly in closeup, watching these people, or trying to respond gracefully to various minor intrusions or indignities. I like how much of this movie is just her being bothered by clueless people when she wants to be alone. Sometimes the clueless person is Ed Harris (KNIGHTRIDERS).

She’s funny and relatable – one of her most unhinged moments is flipping out on some guys who are being noisy during a movie – and we still empathize with her as we discover more and more about her past and current issues. Other women always want to ask her about her kids, which turns out to be a very sore spot. The whole story hinges on her doing something completely irrational. I think the fact that she does what she does for no reason will really bother some people, but it’s the whole point.

But I’m kind of rooting for Jessica Chastain (MAMA) for THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE. Directed by Michael Showalter (WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER), it’s a very empathetic biopic of Tammy Faye Baker-Messner, the televangelist who was a symbol of Christian excess in the ‘80s because of her abundant makeup and her empire’s downfall due to her husband’s marital and financial scandals. If you saw the documentary of the same title you probly, like me, now think of her as a total sweetheart. The movie of course revels in tacky clothes and decor, finding some sense of style and personality in all that chintziness, and paints Tammy Faye as a sincere person just trying to sing songs, do puppet shows and be kind to people while surrounded by all that greed and hubris. Both movies emphasize her compassion for gay men, including the HIV+, very much against the grain in that world, especially then.

What’s so impressive about Chastain is that she knows Tammy Faye is funny, knows she has to play her as a cartoon character, because she was one, but never once comes across like she’s making fun of her. She adores her, and makes you adore her too.

I thought it was a good movie, but reviews were kind of middling and I don’t think many people even knew it came out, so I was surprised when she got nominated, and even more surprised when she won the SAG award. She seemed surprised too! So I’m rooting for her here, but she’s already overachieved.

I did not see PARALLEL MOTHERS, which Penelope Cruz was nominated for, so she’ll probly win.


I have seen all the nominees in these categories. They’re all good. The two that wouldn’t make alot of sense would be J.K. Simmons (who’s just doing his normal professional job on BEING THE RICARDOS) or Judi Dench (who has a tiny part mostly sitting down in BELFAST. Steven Seagal could’ve done that). I think Troy Kotsur (CODA) will win for actor, which would be cool for a guy whose previous role was “Tusken Raider #1” on an episode of The Mandalorian. But Smit-McPhee or Plemons for THE POWER OF THE DOG) would be cool too.

I think Ariana Debose (WEST SIDE STORY) will and should win in her category. She really steals that movie. But I hope Dunst gets one some day. And I hope KING RICHARD’s Ellis gets a little more to do in her next one. It’s interesting that Jessie Buckley is nominated for playing the young version of the character that Olivia Colman is also nominated for. I guess this happened before in reverse with Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart in TITANIC. I had never heard of Buckley when she starred in I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS, now she’s all over the place, and always outstanding.


The only one I didn’t see was the one for grown ups, the documentary one, FLEE. I did see and enjoy all the others, made for family entertainment by giant corporations spending tens of millions of dollars on state of the art computer animation.

I honestly didn’t know what Disney’s ENCANTO was even about. In the opening there’s a song about all the members of this family who live in a magic house and each of them has a different magic power and they’re so great and wonderful. I was kinda rolling my eyes until the reveal that this is about the one member of the family who did not get a power, and how she deals with that, especially with a mother who is clearly disappointed in her. That’s a good premise and they of course get some good emotion out of it. Also I liked how much personality they were able to get out of a house just by having its tiles and floorboards move around. And I liked when the perfect sister got to be all smeared with color and look like a mess. I was proud of her.

The songs are by the aforementioned Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I do think it’s interesting that his approach is very different from many of the Disney musicals, where the songs are often about the character’s emotions and needs. That happens here too but some of the songs are very dense with plot and character information. I honestly couldn’t follow alot of it. They’re not rapping, but they’re talking very fast, it’s a whole lot of lyrics. Whatever happened to colors of the wind and shit? I don’t particularly like the songs but I respect the thinking.

LUCA is the Pixar movie. It’s much simpler then ENCANTO, intentionally so. It’s about some fish people who live near the coast of Italy, hiding themselves from humanity, and their son meets a friend who teaches him that if he goes onto land he will turn human. They run away, sneak into a human village, make a friend, try to enter a bike race, dream of buying a Vespa. There’s an obvious comparison to CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, but the gentleness, the emphasis on friendship, and the picturesque village reminded me Miyazaki movies like KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE.

THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES is probly my favorite. It’s from the same studio and producers as SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE and though it’s not as good as that, it’s the first movie to build off of its visual innovations, such as doing line animation on top of 3D animation. Like ENCANTO it has as its main character a geeky, lovably awkward teen girl with glasses. Here she’s also a very creative person who loves making little comical meme movies and is about to start film school in California when she’s forced to go on a road trip with her family and civilization is conquered by robots. It’s very funny and playful, celebrates weirdos and artists, and captures the awfulness of being in a car with your family. Also the dad looks like Walter Sobchak but is voiced by Danny McBride.

A close runner up is Disney’s fantasy/post-apocalypse/martial arts movie RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON, which I actually did write a full review of way back when.


I’ve only seen SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED). I very much doubt it’s the best documentary of the year, but I really liked it and would love to see Questlove get an Oscar. I didn’t review it here, but wrote a couple paragraphs on letterboxd.

I didn’t believe it when somebody on Twitter (who did not like it) told me it was Oscar bait, but here we are. The complaint I’ve seen is that it’s a documentary about this amazing 1969 music festival dubbed “The Black Woodstock” instead of raw footage of the actual event. But come on. It’s a totally fascinating story and you get to see Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Nina Simone, Mavis Staples and many others performing and in some cases telling stories about it.

Also, showing the whole thing would be a hell of a box set. It was six separate Sundays starting at 3 pm so it totaled over 40 hours. The documentary was originally released on Hulu and fortunately did get a DVD release with extras (no blu-ray), but so far the complete footage has not been released, or even the two hour long TV specials that were produced.


Finally we have arrived at by far the most important award of all, the one that will work hand in hand with ABC’s innovative new ideas* to turn the Oscars broadcast into a ratings bonanza as if it was another era when awards shows were a bigger part of our culture and everyone watched live TV and there were only a few channels. I’m speaking, of course, of the 1st Annual (And Trust Us We Will For Sure Keep Doing This No Matter What Because There’s No Chance It Will Go Poorly) Oscar Fan Favorite Award. This is the award that is voted on by internet randos through the democratic method of allowing them up to 12 votes per day using Twitter hash tags and also you can be entered in a contest to attend the Oscars. (That probly sounds like a joke if you didn’t know about this, but I assure you I’m serious.)

Intended to give an easy award to SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME as a cowardly capitulation to a couple dorks writing editorials based on the flawed premise that film awards should go to the highest grossing box office movie each year or risk alienating The Common Man, it has instead (predictably) attracted jokesters and celebrity cults. So, as of February 28th, the top contenders included of course a Zack Snyder movie (ARMY OF THE DEAD), an Amazon CINDERELLA movie I did not know existed, and MINIMATA, a Japanese film that made it because Johnny Depp is in it and he has a weird army of obsessives who are so sure he’s innocent of domestic abuse that they’ve turned supporting his career into their life’s mission.

Also on the “Leaderboard” as the Academy called it (without explaining whether these are to be treated as finalists or just the current leaders) are THE SUICIDE SQUAD and MALIGNANT. It’s tempting to root for those, since I loved them and they were supposedly financial failures when released simultaneously to theaters and streaming. But personally I voted and campaigned for TITANE. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year that received no nominations, but more importantly it would be the most opposite possible choice for the award’s intent of recognizing the most obvious, popular, broad consensus type movie.

So it was disappointing to not see it getting any traction. Fortunately, the internet thought of other ways to thwart #OscarsFanFavorite. Two of the “leaderboard” titles (DUNE and THE POWER OF THE DOG) were already nominated for best picture anyway, contradicting the idea that there’s this huge gulf between the tastes of Oscar voters and “fans.” Since THE POWER OF THE DOG is I think the least accessible of this year’s best picture nominees, I’m rooting for that one to win, thus rendering the attempted pander a complete failure. (It would also be funny if the same movie won Fan Favorite and Best Picture).

So that’s my massive pile of last minute reviews. I think I’ve overstayed my welcome, so I’ll show myself out. Thanks for reading, and have fun Sunday for those who partake. If anybody tries putting actual licorice on actual pizza for your Oscar party let me know how it goes.


*cutting several of the major categories from the broadcast so that that time can be dedicated to winners and presenters talking about how wrong it is not to air those categories

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73 Responses to “Vern’s Oscar Round-Up 2022”

  1. The King Richard thing kinda interested me because I think there was some controversy over how impartial it could possibly be, as a biopic, when two of the subjects of the story were red-stamping its presentation of events. Of course, around the same time, you had that ‘Pam & Tommy’ show on Hulu (or whatever it was called), which netted its own modest controversy by *not* having the approval of Pamela Anderson, even though from what I’ve heard, the show was really sympathetic to her (or as sympathetic as it can be while also turning the guy who stole the sex tape into a Peak TV Flawed Antihero), and she’s participating in her own telling for Netflix.

    And of course, before THAT, you had the Freddie Mercury movie that was approved by Queen, with its much maligned “Freddie Mercury, it’s time to stop having this drug-fueled sex party, we need to get home to our wives and kids!” take on events. So maybe it’s just a bad idea to make biopics about people who are still alive, or who died young and have friends who are still alive.

  2. This is again one of those years where I don’t have an opinion on 99% of all nominated movies. I try to check out NIGHTMARE ALLEY this weekend, but have to wait till all the other movies are somehow available outside of theatres. (As usual with OScar season, a whole bunch of them hasn’t even started here yet!)

    You all know my opinion on DUNE though. (For those who missed it: I think it’s ridiculous how it tries to convince us in every single frame that it’s a serious drama “for adults” by having everybody whisper their dialogue, give each main character at least one scene where they stare emotionless into the camera and have it take place in a universe where everything is grey, black or brown and even the smallest room could house an entire army, yet we never see more than 3 people at once in it. But the worst thing was that I thought “This is gonna be part 1” meant “This is gonna be the first book” and not “This is just 2 hours of build-up, then we cut to the credits when the plot kicks in.”)

    And I do think it’s too bad that everybody piled on Sam Elliott for his comment about gay cowboys, when he was actually talking about how European arthouse directors probably lack the insight to deconstruct western movies and cowboy lifestyles in a realistic way, which in my opinion, seems like a valid point in the age of “representation matters”. (Yeah, Cowboys aren’t exactly a largely discriminated demographic, but honestly, I hope that there will be soon some kind of “reply” to DOG from a filmmaker, who actually knows about all these things first hand.)

  3. Westerns have been deconstructed since Peckinpah in the 60s, we’ve had all kinds.. Eastwood deconstructed his entire career like 25 years ago. I think there’s been plenty of first hand, American versions of that trope.

  4. Yeah, but they were still more “Violence is dirty, native americans weren’t savages and we shouldn’t cheer when John Wayne shoots first” deconstructions, which is not what DOG is about. I do believe that Sam Elliott had a point, even it was party really badly phrased, when he wonders how realistic a supposedly realistic take on cowboy and farmer life can be, if it’s directed by someone who has no first hand experience with that topic and casts a British stage actor (who admittedly is really good) as the lead. (I’m also actually surprised that nobody questioned why a straight CIS woman is making a movie about a gay man, but let’s not go there.)

  5. My main take on the Sam Elliott controversy is I wish there was an international law preventing podcast interviews about films, TV, books or music being used as a source for news stories. Maybe the law can be that ONE site or newspaper is allowed to publish a story. Maybe. We might miss out on one or two actual news stories in the process, but the net-result will be positive.

    Has anyone made the hilarious joke of King Richard completely ignoring the production of THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER? If not I would like to be the first to make said hilarious joke.

  6. I haven’t seen THE POWER OF THE DOG (yet), but I did recently watch Campion’s recently much-championed “overlooked masterpiece” IN THE CUT, at the time only really famous for…well, you know what for, and for cruel FAMILY GUY jokes about that element. And to be frank, P. And to be equally frank, U. But I accept that it is perhaps something you’d have to be a woman to truly understand. But to the extent I did understand it, I was pretty seriously unimpressed. Any fans here?

    I kind of hate THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES. Not that it’s bad or anything, or even wasn’t something I kind of enjoyed while I was watching it. But fuck that movie for making me feel a good 15-20 years older than I already am with the overwhelming Gen Z-ness of its imagery and the exhausting pacing. Seriously I legitimately thought a scene forty minutes from the end was the climax, and then there were like a further 10 climaxes after that! At least one of which involved a particularly grating Rhianna song sung badly. I’m not going to say its better but I found the similarly-themed RON’S GONE WRONG to be much more charming. I haven’t seen the other nominated movies, nor sure-to-be-2023 nominee TURNING RED yet. Just can’t work up enthusiasm for most of these CG animated films any more, despite clearly all being different they all feel a bit samey. Maybe I’m finally growing up?

    [Puts on Knuckles T-Shirt to book SONIC 2 tickets]

  7. I guess RIDERS OF JUSTICE was released in the 2021 Oscar window, but it’s the best new thing I saw in the last year. I certainly liked it more than NOMADLAND.

    Of all these movies, I have seen just BELFAST, which, to my surprise, I liked a lot. I would suggest that the reason Branagh doesn’t have Buddy watching Wild Wild West on TV is because no one in the UK remembers that show at all. And this is a movie about how we remember things. He does show Buddy watching Star Trek and that is exactly right. Branagh is a couple of years older than me, and I remember Star Trek being the show you absolutely had to watch. In any case, Buddy does much better for westerns than Wild Wild West: we see him watching HIGH NOON and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. Both of those seem a little on the nose, with the latter certainly signalling that Branagh is giving us the legend, not necessarily the truth. It’s hokey to be sure, but why not remember your parents as decent, beautiful and brave, and your grandparents as funny, loving and wise? I had Ciaran Hinds down as MVP, and I’ll be happy if he wins something on the night.

  8. I liked MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES, but don’t love it like the rest of the world either. Mostly because the visual hyperquirk style annoyed me and for personal reasons I really, really, really am sick of cartoons teaching our kids that they have to stick with their family, no matter how toxic (intentionally or unintentional) they are. (Which by the way was also one of the main reasons why TURNING RED only gets one thumb up instead of two or three from me. Which is odd, considering the cOnTrOvErSy about how it supposedly teaches our kids to disobey their parents.)

    Still, if it wins, I won’t be against it. It’s not bad and at least it means that the jury might have actually watched some of the nominated cartoons, instead of just making their cross at a random Disney movie.

  9. just putting it out thre, I also have trouble following Shakespearean dialogue but a few minutes into The Tragedy of Macbeth it occurred to me to try turning on the subtitles and it made a huge difference. Ended up being one of my favourite movies in a while.

  10. I respect your decision not to do it this way, Vern, but I was really, really hoping to read a full review of Power of the Dog from you, because it was perhaps the most disappointing, frustrating, and baffling movie experience of my life, I’m genuinely at a loss as to why so many people revere it, and you are a writer who consistently has interesting and thought-provoking insights into even the dumbest movies. For instance, I’d love to read you expand on both your initial thoughts and then what you’ve come to appreciate about it after talking to others. I’ve read a lot of different takes on different aspects of the movie, and I find most of the positive ones unconvincing.

    Bringing up IN THE CUT is interesting. I think that’s the only other Campion I’ve seen, and I don’t like that one either. And thinking about it now, it occurs to me that they both have similar problems, in that in both movies Campion cares way more about tone/mood/atmosphere than she does about plot or character. I think plot problems are a bigger deal in IN THE CUT and character problems are the bigger deal in POWER OF THE DOG, but in both cases she seems to want her themes to be communicated almost entirely through tone, which I don’t think can work in a narrative film.

    And it also occurs to me that both films are beloved because their themes are so murky and their tones so compelling that people are eager to fill in the many gaps in plot mechanics & character development in ways that support various thematic interpretations. And one thing I’ve been wondering about POWER OF THE DOG is that maybe I’m wrong, and that this is actually a very valid and even very good way for a film to be: so perfectly controlled and rendered formally that it sticks in your brain/under your skin and also so vague that it invites endless lines of investigation and evaluation.

    The way my mind works, though, is that thematic murkiness makes a movie feel to me like it has nothing much to say, not like it has infinite possibilities. I’m a very negative thinker, and when people bring up the possible interpretations of POWER OF THE DOG, all I can think about is ways that the movie contradicts whatever interpretation I’m being asked to accept. That seems like a failure to me, but I guess contradiction contains multitudes and all that, so I can see how people would respond to it. And now I’m kind of talking myself into appreciating it more, so thanks, I guess, Vern.

    All that said, the thing about the movie that I keep coming back to and cannot forgive is that so much of its failure to properly develop its characters, their relationships, or their motivations, seems to ultimately be in service of preserving a twist ending which reveals the whole thing to basically be the art house version of a revenge-thriller. That makes the movie feel very cheap to me. I can understand why Campion doesn’t think so, because she obviously doesn’t think that character matters in the first place, but it really rubs me the wrong way. Despite reading many things about it, I still can’t figure out what the movie is supposed to have gained by withholding all of the information that makes the final event a surprise/twist like that, and in my opinion it clearly loses quite a bit by withholding any and all insight into any of its characters.

  11. I haven’t see it so anyone feel free to call bullshit on me…just seeing the trailers and such, Power of the Dog does not seem to be about a realistic take on cowboy and farmer life. Seems to me it’s going for a bigger theme than that, almost Biblical or something.

    Also there have been movies about realistic cowboy life, they even did that one 30 years ago which I recently saw and it was FANTASTIC…Lonesome Dove. Also movies like Monte Walsh (the Tom Selleck one) is pretty much about cowboying and the evolution from the old life to the new, and how cowboys are becoming outdated. A tv movie but excellent. I guess that Yellowstone movie with him in it is doing that, but it’s funny because I know real cowboys and Western guys and they all think the show is shit. Say Elliot’s character is an idiot and the pretend his obvious ideas are genius. So basically they hate it because of inaccuracies, which I’m sure I wouldn’t care about.

  12. Vern trying to get me to care about Oscar shit by shamelessly pandering to my interests with that last pic…and it’s working!

  13. Very thoughtful post by Eric. You seem to be describing the distinction between conventional discursive-narrative cinema with what I have sometimes heard called “impressionistic” or contemplative cinema. I am not enough of a cinema scholar to have a firm command of the “correct” (i.e., scholarly consensus) term.

    In any event, what I have in mind is what you are describing. Traditional narrative-discursive film has some defining attributes that we take for granted. Elements such as: mostly linear plotting and conflict development along lines of a conventional three-act structure and a clearly organized progression and sequencing of events; growth and development of characters and/or plot stakes that build in sensible ways toward satisfying resolution or closure (victory, justice, survival, escape, whatever); characters that elicit a clear dualistic valent response (you develop a clear allegiance and investment in a character’s fate vs. being deeply and persistently ambivalent about their fate); a fair amount of dialogue that allows you to “get to know” your characters and follow the plot with a level of clarity based on literalistic, plain-spoken discursive disclosures and exchanges of information (not necessarily or only bad “exposition-speak”).

    Often, these conventions are viewed as not merely choices or options but as simply the textbook definition / rubric of a good film (as reflected in some screemwriting / novel-writing basics how-tos and whatnot).

    The more impressionistic-contemplative film is defined by self-consciously relaxing, violating, or blowing up one or more of these conventions. Things out of sequence. Highly ambiguous exhanges and motives. Characters that you’re deeply ambivalent about. It’s not just that they’re anti-heroes that make you morally queasy but that they may be strange, alien, aloof, unlikable, or perplexing. Literally don’t know quite what to make of or how to feel about this guy or where the hell this is going or where I’d even want it to be going. This is the huh? experience. For a lot of people, this huh? experience gets translated as simply normatively bad or wrong. A film that has these huh? factors is ipso facto a bad film that fails to play by the basic rules or defining features: it violates normative or theoretical prerequisites or non-negotiables of what is a good film. To such people, a film like TREE OF LIFE or MULHOLLAND DRIVE not only is not a good film but is not even trying to be a good film and maybe isn’t even *a* legitimate film in the strict sense. (BTW, I get the sense that A GHOST STORY is another one of these: It’s on my “how did I miss this / need to watch” list).

    My view is that this is a legitimate kind of film, and if you can give yourself over to it, it can be a truly transcendent experience. Implicit in this is the view that there is a right way to do this. There is real genius and intentionality, though it is easily confused with lazy, half-baked garbage. Now, it’s not necessarily for everyone, so need to feel like a lowbrow for not liking it or feel like a true cosmopolitan for liking it. No need to yuck someone else’s yum. Anyhoo, I think TREE OF LIFE and MULHOLLAND DRIVE are genius and mesmerizing and sort of inexhaustible permeable spaces into something that is profoundly spiritual. Not for everyone, though, apparently. (I also feel that way about TO THE WONDER, but a lot of people think it’s the point where Malick jumps the shark and disappears up his own ass).

    Now, as for POWER OF THE DOG, I’ve not seen it. A friend of mine basically said to me what Sam Elliott said before he said it, so, there’s at least some kind of there there. The point was not that it’s bad to make a gay cowboy movie but that this movie is just dour and self-important in a kind of patronizin, punishing, self-important, cynical, grueling, performative way. I can’t honestly say whether I share that sensibility. I probably will watch it eventually, but now there are like three or four Jesse Plemons Netflix movies I need to watch. So, maybe someday, lol…

    Oh, wait, speaking of Jesse Plemons and weird, up-its-ass, dour stuff. I loved Jesse Plemons’s screen dad Phillip Seymour Hofmann in SYNECHDOCHE, NY. I don’t have the energy to defend or reconcile that view, but I loved it, and that probably has much more to do with the singularity of PSH + one-of-kind balls-out strangeness than with anything that can be generalized.

  14. I think people are being too hard about Elliott’s comments, but I do think he was somewhat missing the point of the movie. As David Lambert points out in that Twitter thread I embedded he’s really reacting to one critic describing it as a deconstruction of the myth of the western or whatever, which is just some dipshit’s opinion, not the actual intent of the movie. But the casting of Cumberbatch is precisely because he doesn’t read as “authentic cowboy.” I consider this a SPOILER but it’s part of the discussion now – the whole point of the character is that he’s an upper class, highly educated guy who puts on the tough guy macho wild man of the west costume overcompensating because he’s a terrified, closeted gay man. The guy he constantly talks about as the paragon of tough cowboys turns out to have been his lover. It’s all an act so casting the person who really seems like a cowboy and having him only do everything correctly would be the wrong choice.

    Although I didn’t love it I disagree with Eric – the mood is important, but it’s a movie that’s all about the characters. No, it doesn’t immediately give you the answers about why the characters are behaving the way they are, you have to puzzle about it and rethink your assumptions as more information comes into place. Sort of a mystery. For example, it comes as a big shock when Phil’s educational background is first mentioned, since it completely contradicts the way he has been portraying himself. At the time, his refusal to take a bath seemed to me like class resentment, he thinks his lifestyle is being rejected, that he’s being called low class, and he’s being stubborn about it. But no, the stink is part of the costume. He absolutely can’t get cleaned up and act classy because that’s the Phil he has to hide away to protect himself, he thinks.

    That type of storytelling clearly doesn’t appeal to you, Eric, so I don’t think there’s any reason to try to talk yourself into it. But it’s very intentional. I imagine it’s probly similar in the novel, though I understand the gay themes are more cryptic, since it was written in the ’60s.

    Kevin – I put on the subtitles too and yes, it definitely helped.

  15. Skani, I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but I really wish you’d seen Power of the Dog so that we could ground the theories you’re discussing in the actual movie we’re talking about. The issue I have with Power of the Dog is not that I can’t or don’t appreciate “impressionistic” filmmaking. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is one of my favorite films, for instance. To use your framework, the problem with POWER OF THE DOG, in my opinion, is that it is a narrative movie done poorly. It is not, in my mind, an impressionistic or surreal film MULHOLLAND DRIVE or TREE OF LIFE. It is a very straightforward narrative where the narrative is handled poorly but the tone & mood are masterful. I would compare it less to “impressionistic” films like the ones you mention and more to like Park Chan-Wook or later Paul Thomas Anderson like THERE WILL BE BLOOD or PHANTOM THREAD, in that it is a very careful, tonally controlled movie, but definitely a narrative one, and certainly, in my opinion, worse.

  16. Wasn’t Elliot’s complaint though was not that the movie was self-important or cynical, but that it’s not authentic or realistic. Which seems to be fine with the movie’s style. It’s like complaining Once Upon a Time in the West isn’t realistic. It’s just not about that.

  17. Eric, that is a fair point. To refine things, I’m simply wondering if this is a film that leans a little more toward the impressionistic end of things — I do view it more as a fuzzy continuum than a binary — and maybe that’s just not your bag. But I find that a lot of the conversations around the choice to dial up the mood and tone and inkblot-ism (at expense of “just tell the damn story in lean, muscular, efficient fashion”) can be counter-productive. Like saying “Fuck Nirvana! George Strait writes songs the way they were meant to be written.” It’s like. Um, okay? Not sure where to go from here. But if I hear you, what you’re saying is that this leans enough into the narrative that it owes us a better one. Point taken! I’ll probably watch it someday, I’m just not rushing out to do so, b/c sounds like kind of a slog, and life already has enough slogging.

    Did you like THE MASTER? That seems like another one of those, and I loved it! THERE WILL BE BLOOD was so fucking mean-spirited for something not expiclity advertised as a horror film. It was too much (but great!).

  18. As for Elliott, this is somewhat the same problem you see as when I start going “anti-woke” and with this whole charged, talking-past slow-burning garbage fire “argument” about “cancel culture.” What Sam Elliott is doing is what a lot of us are doing, which is having a complex amalgam of weird emotions about our feelings and likes being shit on by someone, and then rolling anything that is adjacent or pseudo-aligned to that thing into one big ball of a boogeyman that is against us. So, for instance, this is how we can get started off talking about a perfectly great film like GET OUT, and next thing you know I’m raving about “who gives Jordan Peele the fucking right to speak for black people when he’s half-white and from the Upper West Side and more privileged than me, you fuckers, bark, bark, I’m sorry, ugly cry, I’m not sorry.” Point is, there’s lots of people who have lots of feels, and they just want a chance to feel and dialogue about those feels, but they often do so hamfistedly or mis-directed-ly (guilty!), and then other people get defensive or dismissive, and then we’re off to the races escalating and labeling and miscontruing each other. And it’s not even the culture wars aspect. As we’ve seen with the Ari Aster wars, we can become tribal and defensive and quite outraged about virtually anything that we liked or resonated with and that someone else has “dismissed” overtly or seemingly (i.e., by omission or by doing something differently).

  19. I’m cheering only for Kristen Stewart and Hans Zimmer. She did an amazing job bringing such an icon to life with all the personal depth and brilliance she is capable of. And while I think DUNE will probably pull a RETURN OF THE KING and win it all when the 2nd half comes out, the score for just this 1st half is maybe some of the most immersive and epic music Zimmer (and his crew) has ever done.

    I would probably be much more torn about the best actress if the woman who played the mother in DUNE was nominated as well. All of the female performances in that are top notch but she impressed more then anyone else in that amazing cast.

  20. An honor to have my Twitter thread featured on your sight, Vern. Glad people enjoyed my take on the controversy, though I am a bit embarrassed at how far off-topic I go. I should probably plan those sprawling Twitter threads a bit better.

    Thanks again! I’ve been a big fan of yours for a couple decades now.

  21. Just finished watching DRIVE MY CAR. It’s tied with WEST SIDE STORY as my favorite of the Best Picture nominees. I especially liked the driver, Watari. She’s a lady of few words, has a scar on her face, and dresses like a tomboy. She sees herself as a driver, nothing more, nothing less. She has her principles. Later, you see her play with a dog later in the film, giving her badass juxtaposition. I want to see her in a prequel/spin-off that wildly veers into a different genre, something like THE DRIVER or a Parker-esque crime caper, putting her driving skills into some *real* action.

    Hell, Vin Diesel’s no stranger to courting talent from critically-acclaimed award-winners, so maybe we can see Watari in a souped-up Saab in FAST TEN.

  22. I also think ppl are way too hard on Ole Gravel Voice. I refuse to watch THE POWER OF THE DOG, simply because as someone who’s devoured Westerns alongside his father, counts SHANE, RED RIVER, McKENNA’S GOLD,THE SEARCHERS and HIGH NOON as pivotal films which shaped his love for the Genre, thinks Leone is a fucking genius, watches THE QUICK AND THE DEAD & TOMBSTONE every year, the Dollars Trilogy every other year, has about 20 Louis L’Amour Westerns lining his bookshelf, thinks McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE one of the finest novels ever written and the mini-series one of the best Westerns Made, still swoons to the epic romanticism of Costner’s DANCES WITH WOLVES and OPEN RANGE…..

    Co-Opting the genre to serve as decorative backdrop for whatever “serious drama with weighty subtext” you’re trying to tell ain’t my thing. I acknowledge this is my specific problem and not the films’.

    Gimme my shoot-outs, quick draws, saloon brawls, bordello romps, stoic heroes and evil bandits anytime over these solemn mood pieces.

    Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN just about got both mixtures right but when you get down to the real artsy ones like THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER WORDS MAKING IT A REALLY LONG FUCKING TITLE and DOG, it’s a hard pass for me.

    Something tells me Mr. Elliott shares my sentiments, but probably didn’t articulate it that well. And with today’s hair-trigger sensitivities, that was bound to go down as well as having Chappelle as a guest speaker in a Transgender Symposium.

  23. ” And thinking about it now, it occurs to me that they both have similar problems, in that in both movies Campion cares way more about tone/mood/atmosphere than she does about plot or character”

    Yup…that’s Campion in a nutshell. Which is why I’m not the biggest fan of her films and films that serve “mood/tone/atmosphere” as the steak when they really need to be the salad.

    I read the novel IN THE CUT, but felt it moved so much better as a thriller than the “moody, atmospheric” film adaptation we got. The book had a far more ballsy ending to boot.

  24. Again, like I keep saying, it’s really not a western in the sense of any of those. It’s an adaptation of a book that came out before the majority of the movies you just listed and that is not at all in the genre of any of them. It’s not an attack on westerns or a revisionist western. It’s a character drama where one of the characters sometimes rides a horse. It’s less like any of the movies you listed than it’s like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (which the book was an influence on).

    I liked BROKEBACK way better, but I don’t consider either of them westerns, and would think anybody looking for them to be westerns would have to be disappointed or confused.

  25. Having just seen Licorine Pizza, I’m not sure I get it. It’s a well-made movie and I know with Paul The Anderson, you get either video game movie or hang-out flick in the seventies, just like Tarantino is going to give you a self-referential movie-movie and Wes Anderson is going to give you twee and quirk. And I also know that depiction doesn’t equal endorsement. But.

    It really seems like we’re meant to parallel this pairing of Alana and Gary with social permissible but morally wrong pairings like the cringey white guy with a Japanese wife and Sean Penn with Alana–where the movie clearly side-eyes them–and further parallels them with socially taboo but somewhat healthy pairings like Wachs and his boyfriend. So is the idea that Alana and Gary may be taboo, but they’re still right for each other? I get the impression from the “Mrs. Alana Valentine” line that they’re ‘engaged to be engaged’ and sex is off the table for now, but still. I don’t think we’re meant to take them as a toxic relationship or a bad idea, so… what are we doing here, guys?

  26. Vern, thanks for your comment. I take it that the “kind of storytelling” that supposedly doesn’t appeal to me is the kind where details are withheld for the sake of preserving a “mystery,” as you put it, and I guess that’s true. I find that kind of storytelling to be pretty cheap. Campion uses it in this film masterfully, as a means of building and preserving suspense, but again that’s a tonal thing. I don’t think that kind of storytelling aids character development at all, and in this case what stands in for actual characters are stereotypes and cyphers, which I think is just a bad way to do character. The specific detail you mention and seem to like, Phil’s (stated, but not actual) refusal to take a bath, serves, when the mystery is revealed, to highlight that he is overcompensating for his repressed sexuality, as you point out. But that, in my opinion, is not a character trait, it is a stereotype, and we never get any motivation for any of Phil’s actions (most crucially, his “tormenting” of Rose, the action central to what ends up having been the main plot) other than this stereotype. Why is he an asshole to Rose and Peter? Because his repressed sexuality makes him an asshole. What you mention in your review, that the movie seems to potentially endorse certain stereotypes (e.g., as you say, “When men act macho and hate women it just means they’re secretly gay”), is a result of this failure on the movie’s part to give its characters or its plot any real motivation other than stereotype.

    And the character details that are meant to stand in for actual character insight, like Phil’s hissyfit over bathing or his fetishization of Bronco Henry’s accessories, are outweighed for me by the huge number of things that are important (primarily to character but also, by extension, plot) but ignored, like for instance, as you also mention, Phil’s class anxieties. I think it’s interesting that you seem to have dismissed class resentment as a motivation for Phil’s refusal to bathe, because it strongly suggests that the movie did indeed seem to convince you that there is one and only one motivation for Phil’s behavior: a stereotypical form of repressed sexuality. I think the bathing thing could easily be a class thing as well. After all, you point out that he is not just a gay man acting macho, but also an educated man acting simple, and the context of his refusal to bathe was a visit from his parents and the governor, so it could be a class resentment thing (in response to the governor), as well as the machismo thing (wanting to reaffirm his masculinity to his parents). But any nuance possible there is undermined by Campion’s refusal to explore these ideas or this character, instead passively encouraging us to view Phil entirely through the lens of this one stereotypical character trait.

    Another huge omission, for me, is any exploration of Phil’s relationship to Bronco Henry. One of the few details we get about it is that Bronco Henry was much older than Phil and served as a sort of mentor to him (and George). But we are left totally in the dark about the nature of the relationship. Obviously, there is a heavy implication that it was sexual, but the age difference raises some questions about whether it was a totally healthy relationship or not, and we are never told Phil’s age when the relationship commenced, so we can never be sure whether the psychological impact of the relationship on Phil is healthy or not, or to what degree. (Not that this all needs to be spelled out explicitly, but leaving it a total question mark is, in my opinion, one of the ways the movie invites us to substitute our stereotypes and biases and preconceptions for whatever authentic character there might otherwise be.) Whether or not that was an abusive or borderline sketchy relationship would definitely shift our opinion about why Phil’s sexuality makes him an asshole, and it would also help us better understand Phil’s burgeoning relationship with Peter. But again, the film is pointedly not interested in helping us understand the characters. In my opinion, of course.

    Skani, again, I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but I think you put me in a pretty unfair position by trying to suggest what is or isn’t “[my] bag” based on a movie you haven’t seen. From my perspective, the thing about this movie that isn’t my bag is it’s badness as a film, not whatever “impressionistic” elements it may or may not have in your preconception.

    THE MASTER is my favorite film.

  27. Kaplan, I loved LICORICE PIZZA, so I’ll weigh in there too. Yes, I do think we are meant to explicitly compare Alana & Gary’s relationship to the “socially permissible but morally wrong” relationships in the movie. But I think what’s intended to be revelatory about the contrast is the unsatisfying and repulsive and sad nature of “adult” relationships as opposed to the fun and innocent and wholesome nature of childhood ones. I think LICORICE PIZZA is a coming-of-age film that cleverly explores what coming-of-age actually means and what-all is gained and lost in that transition. So I would view the relationship stuff through the lens of Alana feeling, as a young adult, certain expectations of adulthood, but being consistently disappointed by the realities of adulthood. Gary, as a ridiculously precocious child, represents a way of being adult, living in the adult world, while maintaining much of the joy and wonder and innocence of childhood, essentially showing Alana a different model for adulthood, one that is exultant rather than sad and shitty.

    I believe Wachs and his boyfriend serve as the same type of example of the sadness and shittiness of adulthood. Alana is obviously attracted to Wachs, but it turns out that, just like all the other men in the movie, he is a shitty dude who is not only shitty to his boyfriend but also exploiting Alana for his own self-serving, shitty purposes. And the kicker there is that she herself was shitty and deceitful toward her other coworker in order to free herself to meet Wachs: she’s turning into one of them! It’s no coincidence that this is the incident that finally convinces her to be with Gary.

    I’m a bit baffled by the brouhaha over the supposed taboo nature of Alana & Gary’s relationship. It is obviously a much better relationship than any of the others in the film, it is not sexual (other than the scene where Alana flashes Gary, a scene in which Gary quite clearly has all the power), and the age difference has pretty obvious and important thematic purposes, so I don’t really get the problem.

    I don’t feel that I’ve articulated this really well, but I hope what I’ve said at least suggests to you a productive way to think about “what [we are] doing here.”

  28. I accepted the “you can’t talk about a film until you’ve watched it challenge” and watched POWER OF THE DOG. For my part, I still believe you can talk about a film before you’ve watched it if you have potentially interesting related or adjacent thoughts to contribute, because this is a continuing conversation about film and culture and how it affects us.

    I liked the film quite a bit. Not sure it’s great, but it’s definitely good. Fantastic performances, restrained, a lot of the good show-don’t-tell, enigmatic and haunting, looks like a trillion bucks — just beautiful. I officially am a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. This is a wonderful, Oscar-worthy performance. He’s not an asshole because he’s a repressed gay man, he’s an asshole because he is conflicted in various ways and can’t find a way to control his life and order it just the way he wants it. There is no land of milk and honey for him, because he loves cowboying as much or more than he loves men. And he’s not just gay in the modern Western sense. He loves men and traditional masculinity, AND he’s gay, and on some level he probably wants both, but if he has to choose, he’ll choose to love men and cowboying while being abstinent. He’s not that type of “queer” to use the term he’d probably use. The idea that the film is reductively about “self-repression is bad and makes people mean assholes” is wrong. Phil hates Kirsten Dunts not because being a repressed gay man makes him horny-mean or something. He hates her, because he has a wonderful life with his brother, and he knows that she’s completely destroyed that world by her very presence.

  29. Also, for me, it’s clear that it’s primarily about sexuality or about class but about idiosynctratic identities, desires, and above all, the desire for control. Each of the principals has his or her own hang-ups and bugaboos, and I don’t think they’re all on the same journey of anything. I take it that Phil and Peter are our main-main characters, and George and Rose are secondary (though each has an important story and inner life). I could say separate things about Peter and maybe about whether and if so how he is a contrast or foil to Phil. But, let’s stick with Phil, who I think is clearly the main something-tagonist.

    I don’t think he he sees things in terms of sexual identity or class identity. Those are anachronistic abstractions, even for an educated person of his times. I don’t think he sees his life in those terms or in abstractions generally. He sees himself first and foremost as a cowboy who owns a ranch with his brother. They have a life together, and it is his perfect life. A life of these two bachelors and their ranch, mentoring others in their ways, and carrying the flame of Bronco Henry, who clearly has an importance for Phil that is somewhere at the intersection of cultic worship, daddy issues, and maybe first lover. Here, again, I don’t think you shoud be reductionist about what Bronco Henry means to Phil or try to put it in a category. He’s all of those things to him but more than those things to him. Phil’s life is a life carrying on the toughness and person of Bronco Henry. It’s extremely, extremely threatening to the point of undoing when George starts to undermine and sabotage that system. We see this from that first drive and from when “Fatso” (maybe Bronco Henry’s nickname for George, I’d bet) refuses to take a shot and say the ceremonial toast.

    The point is that Phil sacrificed everything, including romantic companionship and a sex life AND his fancy book learnin’ to be a cowboy, be among cowboys and mentor future cowboys. He’s a cowboy first and foremost. And, by all appearances, he has little interest in or need for women — again, not just in a reductive sexual sense, but in general. He is a man’s man who wishes to be among men, and Bronco Henry is his greatest love, guru, and source of identity and purpose. And he’s also just a grumpy son of a bitch to boot, which surely isn’t made easier by his repressed sexuality but is about more than that. When he turns on George and acts out like a child to break down Rose, it’s not because he’s a mean, horny closet case, and it’s not because of class consciousness. It’s because he has devoted his life to cowboyin’, and this ranch is his sancturary away from women folk, suits and magistrates, and all manner of other thing he has no use for. It’s his sanctuary, and it’s a sanctuary that as been invaded and compromised. Peter represents his weak, shadow self. I don’t think he wishes he could be Peter. If anything, he wishes Peter could be him.

  30. Oops, I meant “NOT-NOT-NOT primarily about sexual identity or about class”

  31. If CODA wins Best Picture it will be the first time ever my favorite movie of a year won the Oscar too. It is all the things you said but I get a little more out of it.

    To me it’s also about the pressures and demands we often put on loved ones, that maybe the people asking don’t realize how much of one’s life they’re taking up. And also the demands we tend to put on ourselves, more than necessary. Like, her brother is capable of translating too. It may take a bit longer and he may not know all the tricks the dock bosses pull but he’ll learn with experience and it won’t be a disaster.

    So as much as her parents need to let her go she can also let go of some of her self-imposed pressure.

    Music is a good metaphor because it’s inherently uplifting. I love CODA.

  32. I don’t think that plot or characters are at all necessary for a good film. Atmosphere and mood are all you need. But I actually think Power of the Dog has plenty when it comes to both plot and characters, even if it is a little ambiguous. I liked the movie, but like Vern, I was a little unsure about the homophobic character who is secretly gay trope. But I read a couple of LGBTQ critics who said they were fine with it, so I guess it’s okay. But they didn’t really elaborate. So here’s my take on why it’s okay in this situation: 1) we’ve let off the gas on this trope for a while, so we can now throw it into the mix, and 2) the relationship between Phil and Peter is complex enough that the film doesn’t stop at that tired trope. I also don’t think we talk enough about how great a name Bronco Henry is.

    Also, are other people having problems even seeing movies on streaming services you don’t subscribe to? I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to see Coda, but I might throw it on my Netflix DVD cue (yes, I still get discs). Except, Apple seems dead set against putting anything on physical media. And there’s no way I’m subscribing to their streaming service. Greyhound, the Tom Hanks vs. Subs movie, came out in 2020, and you can’t get it on disc or even rent it from Amazon. Should I just go back to torrenting stuff? I honestly would rather get these movies on the up and up, but it’s like they’re making it as difficult as possible to watch their movies.

  33. *queue

  34. Ok….at least nobody will be saying this year’s Oscars were dull hahahahaha!!! HOLY SHIT!!!

  35. I don’t know, it kind of looks staged…

  36. Errr….don’t think so

    Chris Rock isn't pressing charges against Will Smith for Oscars slap

    Chris Rock will not be pressing charges against Will Smith following their onstage altercation at this year's Oscars, the Los Angeles Police Department has said.

    Plus, you got Denzel and Bradley and Tyler Perry trying to pacify him…that’s one elaborate prank if so.

  37. Yeah, they’re not going to cut to silence for half a minute (as I understand happened on the U.S. broadcast) in the middle of a pre-arranged stunt.

  38. You know, the Oscars turned into Celebrity Death Match so gradually, I didn’t even notice.

  39. Maybe people promoting the sequel/remake of G.I. JANE had… ideas. I’m just hoping Viggo and Caviezel are gonna be back.

  40. Oh, and… What the fuck, that CODA bullshit is a remake!? Disgraceful, It’s THE DEPARTED all over again.

    Ok. I’m out of snarky comments.

  41. I spent the night watching DRIVE MY CAR instead!

    I declare MYSELF the winner!

  42. RBatty – yeah, the lack of physical media thing has been ridiculous. At least in this awards-contender area Criterion has been filling in some of the holes with Netflix movies (THE IRISHMAN, ROMA, BEASTS OF NO NATION and at least one Amazon (ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI). But the only Apple exclusive I know of coming to disc was ON THE ROCKS, which was co-produced by A24. And in most of these cases they came out a year or more later.

  43. Now that I think of it, I’m actually really surprised that we haven’t gotten a series of direct to video GI Jane sequels. Oh, God. This is going to be Gina Carano and Ben Shapiro’s next project, isn’t it?

  44. Well, the actual televised Oscars was a disaster. Just a complete shambles.

    But anyway, the movies. I’m enjoying the discussion here!

    CODA: In recent weeks the momentum shifted toward this becoming the big winner. I’m okay with it. Normally I dislike coming-of-age movies. And this movie is extremely conventional and cliched– the gruff teacher who is actually a big softie, the jumping-off-a-cliff-into-water scene, etc. And yet, it won me over. I saw that climactic scene coming from a hundred miles away and I still cried. Troy Kotsur seems very cool and I liked him, but I was especially impressed by Emilia Jones, who did not get any award love. I was curious if she was a real CODA, but she’s not. She made it a point to learn ASL for real, rather than just for her scenes, so she could communicate, bond, and improvise with her colleagues. Plus she took singing lessons, and learned to work on a real fishing boat (because it seems they actually shot those scenes on the water), and she has a pretty natural-sounding American accent considering she’s a Brit. She carried the whole movie on her back pretty well. (And, like Andrew Garfield, Daniel Kaluuya, and Olivia Colman before her, she had a small part on Doctor Who before making it to the Oscar stage– so extra brownie points from me.)

    DUNE: Am I the only one that didn’t like this at all? I found it austere and lifeless. It’s like Mad Max: Fury Road, if you cut all the fun parts and the movie ended when they get to the “Green Place.” Every character talks in a whisper or monotone. Chalamet’s performance was especially bad. I never cared about whose ass it was, or why it was farting. Nothing worked for me. Except the bagpipes.

    ENCANTO: This was fine. The song they nominated wouldn’t even make my top 4 or 5 songs from the movie. And I think Luisa (the strong girl)’s song was better than that Bruno one everyone loves.

    KING RICHARD: Vern, I agree with everything you said. I really had no desire to watch this, but I did anyway, and it won me over. It was less hagiographic than I anticipated– though it could’ve gone a little further. I appreciate that, in the end, it’s about letting your kid have agency. But also, I don’t think parents should do this to their children.

    As far as Will Smith’s performance, I was very concerned at first that he chose to do that voice, but I got used to it. He was definitely putting effort into inhabiting the character. Bernthal was fun, and I really liked Saniyya Sidney (Venus)– a very natural performance, and she had to learn to play tennis for real using her non-dominant hand!

    THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES: Honestly, probably my favorite movie I’ve seen so far from 2021. Loved it. Huge laughs from me (which is rare), gorgeous visuals, every nook and cranny packed with something zany or exciting.

    NIGHTMARE ALLEY: This was good, but like all Del Toro movies I think it could’ve somehow been a little better. This was my pick to win Production Design, purely because of that awesome carnival funhouse.

    THE POWER OF THE DOG: I think this would’ve worked better for me if I knew nothing going in, but thanks to the internet I knew this was The Gay Cowboy Movie. The whole movie I’m waiting to get to the fireworks factory, but instead the meat of the story is mostly subtext. I would’ve liked a little more text. The ending, despite being very telegraphed, still felt abrupt. We’re missing some catharsis or self-realization. I guess that’s the point.

    Phil is the hill that only a select few see as a dog. The chaps Sam Elliot complains he wears indoors are part of his cowboy costume, his shield from the world. It’s all a performance. But like Vonnegut said, we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

    I didn’t think any of the performances were “Oscar-worthy,” whatever that means. But I am happy to see Cumberbatch and Dunst and Plemons get recognition just the same.

    TICK TICK BOOM: I *am* a stage musical guy– when they’re good. This was okay. It made me want to see a feature adaptation of Superbia, which I’d probably enjoy more than this. Andrew Garfield brings an uncomfortable amount of theater-kid enthusiasm to the role.

    THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH: I was very hyped for this, but it left me a little cold. I love the look of the movie, and Kathryn Hunter (the witch) was excellent. I was underwhelmed by Denzel and Frances. The best Shakespeare adaptations work despite the difficulty of the language, because of the performances. And I don’t think Denzel or Frances achieved that. At times it felt like they were just saying the lines. Denzel plays this like it’s EQUALIZER 3 instead of one of Shakespeare’s coolest plays– which might be a strength for some, but for me didn’t work. (To be fair, one of my favorite bits was when Denzel’s Macbeth, thinking himself untouchable, beats a guy up like Robert McCall would.)

    WEST SIDE STORY: I liked it, but I wanted to love it. I did not know who Ariana DeBose was before a few months ago, when I watched Schmigadoon!, but now I’m a fan. However, in this movie I preferred Rita Moreno, whose song made me tear up, and the dude who played Riff, who had some serious John Mulaney energy.

    DIDN’T SEE (yet): Being the Ricardos, Belfast, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Licorice Pizza, The Lost Daughter, Parallel Mothers

  45. @RBatty024
    I know she’s canceled, but honestly, I’d watched that. Don’t really see her shaving her head, though.

  46. I guess what I don’t understand about a lack of physical media is whether it’s a purposeful attempt to make Apple+ or whatever the only source for their movies, or do they just not think that physical media is worth it financially? I mean, I still see Redblox outside of grocery stores, there are still some DVD rental places, there’s Netflix’s DVD company, and some people actually buy physical media? There’s still a market there, even if it’s not huge.

  47. I’m 100% sure it’s just dipshit blinkered corporate-think. “If the only way they can get the movie is to subscribe to yet another bullshit streaming service with like three things anybody wants to watch on it, then they’ll certainly do that instead of, I don’t know, just not watching the fucking movie and going on with their lives.”

  48. I’m fully aware of my ‘luddite’ tendency in this, but I have no interest in getting sucked into even further monthly expenses in order to subscribe to the myriad streaming options. At some point I just feel that all the extra costs associated with them are not warranted. We have Netflix and I mostly find myself aimlessly scrawling through the ‘options.’ And then grabbing a DVD/Bluray of my own, and watching a movie. Streaming is also an insidious way to normalize the reality that people will never own anything. I own that DVD, I own that book – ‘buying’ a film online via streaming is just borrowing it. When I spend money on something I want to have something to show for it. And as well, if you have a physical copy it can never go out of print or some such. That’s why libraries or so important, they house books.

    Even the great TV shows of the last 2 decades – I waited until the series was over and bought a box set to watch the series.

    I will also never download a book onto an e-reader – it’s a printed book or nothing.

    It’s just seems natural and sane and sensible to me to physically own/have possession of something tangible. And it’s also appreciative of a piece of art – whether a movie/book or painting/photo to have it on a shelf or hanging on a wall.

    And I fully realize that this means I have literally no way of seeing a lot of films, but frankly given the lack of real ‘quality’ of most offerings it doesn’t seem that much of a loss. I wish I could see CODA, but I don’t think it’s a real material loss if I miss it. I would have loved to have seen Tom Hanks ‘Greyhound,’ on Apple+, but is my life any poorer for not having seen it. No.

    I saw Dune in Imax last year – and loved it. But it was during the fall lull of waves of Covid. And I will return to theatres eventually – once Covid is endemic and in someway mitigated (still not happening right now.) I watched The Power of the Dog and will watch The Lost Daughter (which strikes me as the one movie I should watch – the novelist Elena Ferrente is perhaps the worlds best writer and the cast is truly spectacular – but it’s on Netflix, which I subscribe to. I guess I could dump it and try something else – but literally no other service has close to Netflix’s options – I do know people who subscribe for the free period and binge watch for a month – but again I’m not convinced that filling a month with hours a day of watching is worth it. When the Marvel movies left Netflix it made no difference to me because Marvel movies have no bearing on my existence and never will.

    RBatty024 – I definitely think this is a purposeful thing being implemented by corporations/tech companies etc. Hell were probably only a decade or two away from people not ever buying cars/never owning homes. Even the proliferation of clothing ‘rental’ businesses is a sign of the way things are going. Everything will be leased or subscribed too.

  49. I love physical media and own, quite simply, *too many* books and movies, with more arriving in the mail every month. I will one day be found crushed to death under a pile of unread comic books.

    If I really love a movie, I still want to own the physical copy. (And I always forget to redeem the digital codes.) So I’m happy Mitchells vs. the Machines is now out on Blu-ray, but bummed we may never get a 4K disc of Kimi. I’m grabbing movies on disc while I still can, because I don’t see the format lasting much longer. Sales of physical media are trending down and stores aren’t stocking discs anymore. There are probably a myriad of reasons, and chicken-or-egg arguments one could make, as to why this is. But the studios seem happy to try to drive eyeballs to their subscription services, and your average joes, who are not like us, are happy just to watch whatever they can get on their one or two streaming services, and don’t want to have shelves full of movies in their homes. But not every streaming service is going to end up as successful as Netflix, so I expect further mutation in the market.

    That said, streaming is the cheapest and easiest way to watch the maximum amount of movies. And you can always subscribe to a streaming service just for a month, or get a free trial or something, when you feel like it. Target gave away 4 free months of Apple+, so that’s how I watched CODA, On the Rocks, Greyhound, Finch, Ted Lasso, and Mythic Quest. Then I unsubscribed before they charged me for it. Maybe I’ll get it again one day– I still need to watch Severance.

    On Black Friday, Hulu sells subscriptions for like a buck or two per month. And they just offered Disney Plus for an extra three. So now I have Hulu and Disney and that’s how I can watch Titane or Encanto or all the Marvel shows I haven’t gotten to yet, or whatever. And if the price goes up, I’ll get rid of them for a while.

    I also have HBO Max. I would say that and Hulu provide a greater amount of content I’m into than Netflix does. I keep threatening to cancel Netflix, because I barely use it and it’s the most expensive service. In the past few months it’s had some new and interesting stuff. But I miss the days when Netflix streaming was just a free extra you got with your DVD-by-mail subscription, and they had *everything*. Now I feel like Tubi has everything– at least, a lot of what Vern fans would be into. And it’s free! (yay). But it has ads (boo).

    My main peeve is that movies “expire” off these services, either because the rights get sold somewhere else, or they just don’t feel like keeping it available all the time (the “Disney Vault” strategy). Though that gets me watching movies I’ve put off for a while, and sometimes that leads to pleasant surprises.

    I realize the above is America-centric, so apologies to our international friends.

  50. Going to a theater is like streaming a movie…you don’t own that either. Do you buy a copy of everything you watch? I used to rent DVDs and don’t see a difference really.

    I don’t really see the problem with these pay channels. I think people feel a need to get them all at once. I tend to have 1-2 at a time, and then revolve them around, I don’t have 15 at once. Remember back in the day when everyone used to complain about the price of cable tv and wished they could just pay for the channels they watched? Well, here we are and now people complain about that.

  51. Bill, I feel your problems about owning too much (if there is such a thing) physical media. My CD collection has reached “My shelves are full and I don’t have room for more shelves, so I store them now in toolboxes in my bedroom” status and in recent months I really started to wonder if I should stop buying movies too, considering my space problems.

    That said: Don’t be too worried about physical media going away. Us Europeans are still pretty behind with our streaming services and while DVD and Blu sales declined here too, we still get most things on physcal media (except the shit that is held back by streaming services).

  52. @bill I’ve just clocked who Emilia Jones played in Doctor Who! It makes me feel so, so old when people who I distinctly remember being kids suddenly are basically adults. Basically fell out my chair during Last Night In Soho when I was trying to place the lead actress and realised I recognised her as having been about eight in The Hobbit 2. Mad that this is just something that keeps happening when you age and you just have to accept it.

  53. I have Netflix and Disney+.

    There’s very little on Disney Plus that interests me with the exception of the MCU Shows and maybe a few other things.

    I’ve come to realize that even just on Netflix alone, there are way too many movies and shows to watch. I only spend 3-4 hrs per day watching stuff. So what’s the point of subscribing in half a dozen streaming services? Yes, there are a few shows i am missing out (e.g The Expanse, Wheels of Time) but i can get over it.

    Anyone else here feel the same way?

  54. The way to do it is to have one base level streaming service (e.g., Netflix, HBO Max), then have a second slot that is just you rotating through a different other services each month (so, one month it’s Hulu, next month it’s Shudder, next month it’s Paramount+). And you have a calendar reminder in the middle of every month to cancel that secondary service, so that it goes lights out at the end of the month, and then you start the other one. This way, you only use each service every so often, so that some new shit accrues. And, course, there are other variants. Like, if you have the money and kids, you can just have Disney+ as a second base-level streaming service. Or if you have lots of spare cash and don’t care, be my guest, sign up for them all and have them all all the time, and shell out whatever that its, $800-900/year depending on how many services we talkin here. And if there’s some one thing that you want to see that badly, I don’t see a reason not to shell out $10-15 for that month to see that thing.

    We have Disney+ for the yearly plan, because my kids are all in on that shit, so, it’s a bargain. I have Netflix set to go on self-destruct at end of the month. I watched what I cared to watch there for the next little while, and I can always re-up if I’m dying to see something new, but generally speaking it’s not hard going off it for a month, especially if there’s something else I want to swtich onto. Pretty much the only thing on Netflix that would be appointment televsion is STRANGER THINGS or I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE, anyway.

    Someone made a joke that they’re pretty much just backwards re-inventing cable with all these streaming services, except you have to do the work of bundling them yourself.

    What else? I’m finally off Prime, b/c fuck Jeff Bezos, and that’s probably the worst streaming service in terms of interface and original programming I give a shit about. Paramount + — I mean, I don’t know. I want to see SCREAM eventually and might do it for that, but it’s too many of these already. Hulu always be trying to spearfish me with a free month that they then try to charge me for, and I could give a shit about their programming. They need a real coup / STRANGER THINGS -level event for me to come back. Apple TV? My baseline antipathy for Apple is about as high as for Amazon, but I still tried it for Ted Lasso but couldn’t get excited. It’s like prestige Hulu. Meh.

    This past week was a major outlier, but I’m typically only gonna watch like 2 hours worth of tv or movie programming in a week, and most of those services are just an exercise in paying $15 to lose time doomscrolling. Just say no. Unless you want to say yes. I just work here.

  55. Prime is that bad? Wow, i didn’t know.

    Did you know even CNN just released it’s own streaming service? Who’s gonna sign up for that?

  56. I’m sure Prime Video is better on a TV (which I don’t have) than a computer screen (which I use).

    As for CNN, I’m holding out for Newsmax+. My Pillow Guy gotta eat.

  57. Ha!

    I was actually referring to the Prime Video movie library. My Netflix here in Singapore is lacking in older movie stuff.

  58. This raises a good issue. I’m less apt to factor the library of “older movie stuff” into my thinking about a streaming service, for a couple reasons. First, I just don’t re-watch movies the way I used to. I mean, I don’t watch movies at all with the frequency I used to. When I do watch a movie, it is usually something newer: I watch less these days, and I’m more inclined trying to seek out a new experience, I guess. But I think the bigger factor is, for those movies I do periodically re-watch, at this point in my life, I own them all (I am spoiled). There are very few older movies I really want to re-watrch that I don’t already own.

    So, good point, that helps clarify the discussion. When it comes to streaming services, the main drivers for me are
    1. Is there a new thing I want to watch that is only on the streamer?
    2. How much of a pain in the ass is it to navigate around the site to find good stuff? I find the Prime Video interface super overwhelming in general, and this is exacerbated by all the add-on channels and non-prime rentals
    3. What is the value for the cost? If you can find two things you want to watch on Shudder, then a month of Shudder is a tremendous deal. Netflix has way more stuff, but it’s literally just too much stuff. I’m completely overwhelmend by it all. It’s actually worse for me, cognitively.
    4. How much animus do I hold toward the company? Amazon scores highest on the animus scale. Shudder is probably lowest. I don’t like Disney at all, but I have children, and I’m not going to not let them watch MCU super heroes and STAR WARS.

  59. Not that I would’ve opposed talking about it, but I’m proud of us that nobody gave enough of a shit to discuss that one thing that happened at the Oscars. We moved on to X and Bruce and shit. I like it.

  60. From the latest news it looks like we’ve lost another iconic movie star as a result of that one thing. Sad.

  61. How’s that? He’s just not in the Academy, right?

  62. I must have misunderstood the story and thought it meant his career was over. I guess it just means he’s no longer a voting member. My bad.

  63. I ended up seeing seven of the movies nominated for Best Picture this year without making it a specific point to, so I decided to go ahead and watch the other three this weekend for the sake of completionism. One of the ones I hadn’t watched was CODA — which is lovely, comparing it to CRASH like that one critic did is madness. The other two were DRIVE MY CAR and POWER OF THE DOG, which I was right to avoid in the first place, those were artfully-made slogs.

    There’s a Trevor Noah clip going around on twitter of him talking about Oscar populism, like some people on this site were a couple months ago, and he called watching Oscar movies like “eating your vegetables.” Now that I’ve actually seen all 10 of the Best Picture nominees, though, I can weigh in: that was a very silly opinion this year. In February Majestyk was calling the nominees “blatantly fringe works” and unappealing to the average viewer, like Trevor Noah did more recently… but it’s just not true. Not at all. That only applies to DRIVE MY CAR and POWER OF THE DOG. All the other eight movies are very broadly appealing and accessible. Even BELFAST only *sounds* inaccessible, because it’s Branagh and it’s black and white. But its not. It’s very accessible and crowdpleasing.

    I know this opinion already got some pushback back then, but I just hadn’t seen enough of the movies to comment, and now I have.

  64. I like AMAZON PRIME for one reason, and one reason alone:

    The sheer wealth of Indian Movies available on this streamer.

    As the world’s largest producer of movies (still), the Indian Film Industry sadly had a pretty shitty theatre-to-DVD availability, apart from some glossy high budget Bollywood stuff. You either need to be in India and catch ’em at the cinemas after which it plays on their local Cable or you’re shit outta luck. And that’s the other mind-boggling thing about India; what the rest of the world calls “Bollywood” is merely the stuff coming out of Mumbai and in Hindi. But literally EVERY other state produces it’s own movies [called regional cinema] in their own language! But the Asian Version of PRIME now has a solid selection of not only a good cross-sampling of flicks across India but also their TV shows. And English-subtitled. So it’s a keeper for me.

    But yeah, the rest of their stuff I hardly touch. Ok, I stumbled on REACHER by accident, loved the fuck out of it.
    Or…maybe I will check out DEEP WATER. After all an Adrian Lyne movie after 20 years should be interesting.

  65. “BELFAST only *sounds* inaccessible, because it’s Branagh”

    Just out of curiosity, why is Branagh called “inaccessible”? Only if you’re not into Shakespeare, I guess. The rest of his stuff like DEAD AGAIN, CINDERELLA, ROBERT DE NIRO’S FRANKENSTEIN, the Poirot stuff is VERY mainstream. Not liking them, however is an entirely different matter.

    Nolan’s one of the biggest mainstream film-makers around, but I still maintain, for large parts of it’s run-time, TENET is damn near “inaccessible”.

  66. Maybe it’s not fair, I don’t know, but I think Branagh has a reputation as being pompous and pretentious. And when the black-and-white BELFAST is advertised as a passion project of his, people probably think about his Shakespeare work before they think about JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT. It’s easy to imagine that it’s not going to be as entertaining as it is.

  67. KayKay – I thought DEEP WATER was interesting but seems like it was plagued with reshoots and an ending literally stitched together through outtakes and ADR. Still makes an interesting companion piece to Lyne’s infidelity trilogy of FATAL ATTRACTION, INDECENT PROPOSAL and UNFAITHFUL though. Oh and Ana De Armas does what Ana De Armas does best (looks eye-poppingly hot and gets nekkid, while also giving a good performance), so yeah, of course it’s worth a watch.

    I’m really behind on the Oscars this year since I just don’t find myself in the mood to watch most of these movies, but I’m about to throw away my cred card here for the twentieth time and go to bat for DON’T LOOK UP. I hated the unfunny trailers with the smug humor and I thought VICE was terrible and everything wrong with mainstream Oscar bait. I had no desire to see it and I’m not even sure why I started to watch it but I ended up loving it. I guess maybe because I love SHIN GODZILLA so much and I’ve always thought “I wish there were more movies like this, but Hollywood would never make a movie like this”. And then they literally made SHIN ARMAGEDDON and everyone hated it! (despite the Best Picture nomination).

    Which leads me to a HEAVY QUESTION for you guys – should it really matter what a movie’s metaphor is supposed to be about? Or is the whole point of a metaphor is that it should be open to interpretation? I say that because ALOT of negative reviews about DON’T LOOK UP specifically complain about about how the asteroid/meteor/comet is a bad metaphor for climate change. (I think a podcast that hated it claimed it put too much blame at the feet of Meryl Streep’s Trump/Lauren Boebert-esque President, because climate change is ACKSHUALLY the fault of corporations and entire economic systems, etc… so blaming one person for it lets everyone else off the hook.) But I spent the whole movie assuming it was a metaphor for covid, not climate change! (You know, that other crisis where we all literally DID blame one person for destroying the nation and killing a million people). It’s like, if you didn’t get the press packet and didn’t see interviews with the cast on Byron Allen or whatnot, why would you assume it was about climate change and not covid? Hell, I figure most people who will watch the movie (especially 5+ years from now) will totally assume it’s about the Trump Administration’s botched response to covid. So should we hold what we think the metaphor is about against the movie? (even if the cast/crew confirm that IS what the movie is about?)

    Don’t get me wrong – I think a movie absolutely can be derailed by a shitty metaphor. I’m one of those people who thought I, ROBOT was a headscratcher when suddenly its robots/metaphors for slavery that the main character was prejudiced against became dangerous killing machines and it’s like “hey wait a minute, doesn’t this undermine everything you just said?”. I’m also one of those people who enjoy it when movies don’t have clear one-to-one metaphors, like how the Apes seem to represent something different in every O.G. Planet of the Apes movie. Should the makers of DON’T LOOK UP just have not said what the movie is about and let the movie speak for itself? Either way I thought it was really entertaining and funny in that rambling Paul Feig-style but I can see why people didn’t like it.

  68. I liked DON’T LOOK UP more than I thought I would, it was a fairly enjoyable sit (I don’t really get what Mark Rylance was doing though). Mind you I also quite liked VICE and (semi-related) BOMBSHELL. But I didn’t like THE BIG SHORT. Go figure.

  69. Neal, I would say the problem isn’t what the metaphor is about, but how dumb it is. A common complaint about DON’T LOOK UP (can’t tell how true it is), was that it was basically 2 hours of everybody involved patting themself on the back for pretending to be extra smart by using the dumbest, most basic and ham fisted metaphors possible.

    Or think of TWILIGHT ZONE. While not all episodes of the classic show were super smart and intellectual, they had a bunch of episodes, that were on the surface just SciFi adventures, but by the end made you think: “Oh, I think that applies to the real world too.” Compare that to the newest revival of the show from a few years ago, that had among other groaners, an episode about a toddler becoming POTUS. The metaphor might have been true, but it was more political village newspaper caricature level of cleverness.

  70. Late, but just saw Drive My Car – Masaki Okada gives one of the all time great “this fucken guy” performances.

  71. PARALLEL MOTHERS is a good movie and Penelope Cruz gave a wonderful performance in a role where she is tired and bedraggled most of the time, but not in a sexy way. It gives her a chance for depth she rarely gets in English-language productions. VOLVER and BROKEN EMBRACES are two other Spanish movies from the same director (Pedro Almodovar) starring Penelope Cruz. They are all melodramatic and not the kind of movies you usually review. Almodovar’s funniest movie is WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, which I highly recommend and has a young Antonio Banderas in it.

  72. Volver, with its thriller subplot, is a really good introduction to Almodovar. I’m not a huge fan (too melodramatic for me) but he’s really good. My favorite of his is All About My Mother.

  73. BELFAST: I expected this to be a dour slog, but it’s actually quite light on its feet and very entertaining. You would expect a b/w movie about The Troubles to be very serious, but this is given to us from the perspective of childhood memories, so it’s steeped in nostalgia. Even when civilization is collapsing around them, Buddy and his family still go to the movies. Probably not much different today.

    I expect Branagh to announce his remake of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG any day now.

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