Category: Oscar Contenders

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Top Gun Maverick: Cruising at higher altitudes

There’s a moment early in Tom Cruise’s first film in four years where his character must lay everything on the line and push himself beyond all the limits to save his team. It’s a constant theme in the nearly 60-year-old actor’s latter career as Cruise constantly strives to top himself for the sake of blockbuster cinema, attempting to save theatrical releases by dangling from … Read More Top Gun Maverick: Cruising at higher altitudes

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Everything Everywhere All At Once: Cinematic beauty in weirdness

The directing duo of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, have created a brand of cinema flavored with creative ingenuity blended with the bizarre and outlandish that have seen them mystify viewers with flatulent corpses and dark humor with films like 2016’s Swiss Army Man and 2019’s The Death of Dick Long. Their third feature together, Everything Everywhere All At Once, … Read More Everything Everywhere All At Once: Cinematic beauty in weirdness

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In The Heights: Capturing the spirit of community

Much of great filmmaking comes down to proper world building, creating a community within the narrative to help bring the audience into an unfamiliar, unique place. Filmmakers often showcase the worlds in which they come from, which makes authentic portrayals of diverse communities rarer than they should be. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway smash hit took audiences into his community, a melting pot of Latino … Read More In The Heights: Capturing the spirit of community

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The Father: Waging war on aging

First time filmmakers delivering quality debut features has been a staple of this year’s award season with Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman and Regina King’s One Night in Miami… as standouts. Dramatist Florian Zeller has also become a name to watch in cinema, adapting his critically acclaimed stage play for the big screen and earning five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, two acting … Read More The Father: Waging war on aging

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Another Round: To life’s freedoms and excesses

Danish teenagers play an unusual drinking game at the beginning of director Thomas Vinterberg’s new film. Teamed in pairs, they run around a large lake carrying a case of beer and must finish the entire load before they can cross the finish line, where adults cheer them on and police idly look on. It’s a familiar tradition in Denmark, a country whose laissez-faire attitudes … Read More Another Round: To life’s freedoms and excesses

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Minari: Struggling toward the American dream

There’s something simple, yet elegant about director Lee Isaac Chung’s latest feature, a semi-autobiographical tale base on his childhood growing up in America’s heartland. The story is ordinary – and the cinema understated in large part – but there’s an ethereal quality to his film that opens with a young boy running in an empty field of green and never truly stops flowing in … Read More Minari: Struggling toward the American dream

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Nomadland: Perspectives from the road

Few casual moviegoers will find Chloé Zhao’s latest directorial effort to be their absolute favorite film of the year, but even fewer can reasonably argue that it may be among the very best. A haunting yet powerful portrait of a hidden life across the heartland, Nomadland finds some of the best of America wandering across the country in search of boundless freedom and of … Read More Nomadland: Perspectives from the road

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The United States vs. Billie Holiday: Melody a bit off-key

Directorial control over the course of a film can make or break the quality of a feature film. A strong hand at the wheel may lead to an exact, yet artistic vision that pierces the audience’s soul or a subtle touch might shine the light on a specific actor or highlight the nuances of the screenplay. Poor direction – or worse yet, ineffective direction … Read More The United States vs. Billie Holiday: Melody a bit off-key

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Judas and the Black Messiah: Revolution in the streets

Chicago in the late 1960s was a boiling pot of water bubbling over with racial and political tension on a near daily basis, making it ripe territory for dramatic cinema. Aaron Sorkin took his pen to the task with the Oscar-contending Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix late last year and now a better, transcendent film will hit theaters and HBO Max on … Read More Judas and the Black Messiah: Revolution in the streets

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Promising Young Woman: The sweetest revenge

Once a year, a film comes along that cuts so deeply against the grain that its ingenuity and craftsmanship push movies forward for years to come. Amidst the backdrop of pandemic-led movie shortages, the stark contrast between the relatively mundane films of 2020 and writer/director Emerald Fennell’s debut feature, an instant hit when it debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival on its way … Read More Promising Young Woman: The sweetest revenge

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Soul: Once more, with feeling

Everyone assumes animated films made by Disney – or their Pixar Studios brand – are intended for younger audiences. The colors are bright, the plotlines are largely wonderous in scale, the content is cheerful and easy to follow from start to finish. Soul, the third Pixar feature from Oscar-winning director Pete Docter, isn’t for kids by any stretch of the imagination although it’s not … Read More Soul: Once more, with feeling

Da 5 Bloods: Battle scars never fully heal

Four men – aging Vietnam vets laden with the scars of their service – return to the land that forged them in search of their fallen commander’s grave and the gold bullion that lies with it. For a filmmaker like Oliver Stone, this story would be a bombastic tale of frustration and anger boiling to the surface without much humanity under the surface. Director … Read More Da 5 Bloods: Battle scars never fully heal