And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Thirteen Lives

Thirteen Lives is one of those inspiring movies that you can’t really find much fault with (unless you’re claustrophobic). It’s based on a true story that screamed “miracle movie” from the instant the story played out on international television in 2018. Then, it got Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rebuilding Paradise, We Feed People) onboard as director, so you could rest assured the vibe would be compelling, authentic and uplifting. If you like documentaries and dramas inspired by actual events, it’s worth diving into Thirteen Lives. The film runs nearly two and a half hours but as you become immersed in the story (and the watery cave), time pretty much stands still. Most people (who weren’t living under a rock in 2018) know how the story ends (yay!). What the movie hangs its dramatic hat on is all the little details we didn’t know about at the time or weren’t quite captured in last year’s excellent, Oscar-nominated documentary The Rescue (which you should see before or after the dramatized version).

Review: I Want You Back

While the just-released Marry Me boasts some major global starpower, the just-released I Want You Back is the smarter choice for a circa Valentine’s Day romantic comedy. It’s quirky, engaging and refreshingly clever. And you can watch it on Amazon Prime Video! I Want You Back is a post-breakup meet cute about 30-somethings Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate) — two strangers who find each other crying in the stairwell of their Atlanta office building just after being dumped by their significant others. The two quickly bond over their grief, declare themselves “Sadness Sisters,” engage in some drunken karaoke, and then hatch a plan to break up their exes’ new relationships and win back the former love of their lives. Theirs is a tale of desperation fueled by social media envy.

Quickie Review: Mayor Pete (documentary)

Mayor Pete is a fairly conventional behind-the-scenes documentary that provides some insight into what makes Pete Buttigieg tick– but not much. The biggest mystery to me is why it is rated R. Yes, his senior communications advisor has the mouth of a sailor, but her F-bombs shouldn’t preclude political junkies (of any age) from learning just a bit more about the first openly gay presidential candidate and his foray into the very deep pool of democrats who sought to unseat Donald Trump in 2020. He didn’t make the final cut (spoiler alert!), but he did succeed in gaining substantial name recognition – even if that name is a challenge to pronounce.

Review: Cinderella

This latest take on the fairytale classic is actually quite entertaining and refreshingly different while still retaining a comfortable air of familiarity. Just don’t expect to hear the enduring, trademark songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein. 2021’s Cinderella features a modern twist, with modern music that includes some original songs and a bunch of covers, from Madonna to Queen and stuff in-between. The contemporary live-action film opens with a toe-tapping production number showcasing a hip array of subjects in the Kingdom of Rhythm Nation, where Ella (Camila Cabello) resides in the basement of a home with her stepmother (Idina Menzel) and step-sisters (Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer). The ‘steps’ aren’t exactly evil in the tradition of most “Cinderella” tales, but they aren’t a loving, supportive bunch either.  Jealous much? 

Quickie Review: The Tomorrow War

Hey, look – it’s Chris Pratt! In a sci-fi movie! With big mean monsters! How… familiar!

The biggest difference between The Tomorrow War and some of Pratt’s other big action dramas (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Passengers) is that it’s not opening in theaters. It’s being released on Amazon Prime. That could be part of the reason I wasn’t exactly blown away. It’s possible my mere 42” TV screen diminished the film’s impact, though not its audio levels. It got very loud in my living room during battle sequences. Sorry neighbors!

Review: PINK: All I Know So Far

“I’m comin’ up so you better get this party started.” Oh yeah, okay. I do know some PINK music!

PINK: All I Know So Far was smart to start with that concert performance snippet to draw me into the story of a popstar I don’t know much about, though I was generally familiar with her music, her flair and of course her hair. The documentary takes us behind the scenes of Pink’s record-breaking 2019 “Beautiful Trauma” world tour as she juggles being a mom, a performer, and a boss. For the most part, it’s typical concert documentary fare (see: recent docs Billie Eilish and The Boy From Medellin). And, for the most part, it does what it was obviously meant to do –making Pink more relatable as a person, sans makeup and all, even when holed up in a high-end suite overlooking the canals of Amsterdam with her hubby and two young kids in tow.

Arty Chick’s Oscar Ballot

Update: I began my Oscar viewing thinking the show was fun and creative, but it went totally off the rails about half way through and ended in the most abrupt and confusing way possible, mostly because I think they assumed that Chadwick Boseman was going to win and they’d go out on an emotional note, and then he didn’t. Please, please next year, make it a show worth watching.  As for my ballot, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to get a lot of them right, and I was entirely correct! But I did get those surprises I asked for.  I only got 10/23, and I stand by my choices. I’ve annotate my original with the winners *bolded*.  ?. 

Between the two of us , we saw most of the films that are nominated this year and reviewed most of them here at Chickflix, so if you’re filling out a ballot (here’s one you can download), you can use this to read up on all the ones you might have missed, though we did miss a few. But it’s also my ballot, with my picks *bolded*. I’ll say right up front, I know a lot of my choices are non-mainstream and I won’t win any pools with this ballot, but I’m okay with that!

So happy Oscars! Here’s hoping the producers pull off a creative and entertaining pandemic-limited show. And I am hoping for a few surprises in the voting, too.

 

Tune in Sunday April 25, 2021 at 8pmET/5pPT on ABC.

Review: One Night in Miami

Academy Award winning actress Regina King’s extraordinary directorial debut is an adaptation of a play that tells the story of one evening in 1964 when four African-American icons get together in a small motel room in Miami. Those men are Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, “Peaky Blinders”, “High Fidelity), Cassius Clay, soon to become Mohammed Ali (Eli Goree, Race, “Ballers”), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, Hidden Figures, The Invisible Man), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton‘s Aaron Burr). They come together to celebrate their friend Clay’s upset victory over world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston. But amidst the revelry their conversations turn to the power and responsibility of being a celebrity in the Black liberation movement’s early years. What’s great about the script is that it isn’t dogmatic or preachy. It’s the kind of conversation old friends might have, peppered with jokes and digs and a heated disagreement or two along the way.

Review: Small Axe: Mangrove

The first film of Steve McQueen’s (12 Years a Slave) Small Axe anthology sets a high bar for the 5-part series.  Mangrove tells the true story of a group that would come to be called The Mangrove Nine. Centered on a restaurant in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London where the West Indian diaspora gather, it’s a harrowing indictment of the Metropolitan Police’s violent systemic racism and a powerful story of the community’s push-back that landed nine of them in a high profile court case. And while there are nine defendants, the film’s heart is with Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes, “Lost in Space”), the owner of the Mangrove restaurant who is one policeman’s favorite target. The film boasts great performances, intense action, and a yell at your television story.

Review: I’m Your Woman

I’m Your Woman is a quiet and engrossing crime drama starring Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) as a woman forced to go on the run after her thief of a husband wrongs the wrong people.