And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Currently browsing the "Based on True Story" category.

Review: Breaking

Watching this “based on a true story” drama, you can’t help but think back to several other films about decent men taking hostages because the system is horribly unfair to them — Dog Day Afternoon is the most obvious comparison. But Breaking had me thinking more of John Q with Denzel commandeering a hospital ER when his insurance company refuses coverage for his son’s heart transplant. Here John Bodega turns in a career topping performance as Brian Brown-Easley, a decorated Marine who brings a bomb to a bank because he wants the VA to give him the money they owe him so he can take care of his family. And it’s that performance and Michael K. Williams’s (“The Wire”) last turn before his death as the hostage negotiator that make this fairly predictable drama worth watching.

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: Huda’s Salon

This riveting “based on true events” thriller from two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) is set in the West Bank. Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi) is a young Palestinian mother married to a very jealous man. One day she visits her hairdresser, Huda (Manal Awad), and tells her all about her struggles with him as her little daughter sleeps just beside her chair. The two women clearly enjoy their gossiping and kvetching. After the new do, Huda offers Reem a coffee, only it’s no friendly act, but a life altering event.

Review: Being the Ricardos

Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago Seven, The Social Network) is the undisputed master of clever, snappy dialogue.  And here he turns his gift to telling the story of the It Couple of the 50s — Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He focuses the narrative on one particular week in 1953 when their world came close to crashing down because of a couple of media stories. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem star as the power couple prepping for their weekly “I Love Lucy” episode while scrambling to make one huge (and one small) scandal disappear. And while that story is unfolding the backstory of their relationship comes out in flashbacks. Sadly though it should be a lot more satisfying that it ends up being. 

Review: Belfast

This Oscar-bait memoir movie comes from writer/actor/director Kenneth Branagh who takes a look back at a defining year of his childhood. Branagh was just a 9-year-old boy in 1969, living in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the beginning of what became known as The Troubles, a period when there was violent street fighting between the Protestants and the Catholics.  His story is seen through the eyes of his adorable little stand-in Buddy (Jude Hill) whose life is changed forever during that turbulent time.

Review: King Richard

If you’re at all into tennis, this is a must see. Even if you’re not, you can’t help but be aware of the amazing Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. King Richard is their origin story, and at the center is their father Richard played by Will Smith in what is sure to be an awards contender performance. I remember when they exploded onto the scene in the 90s. The media made a lot of their dad and his presence and his style. A lot of it was not positive. This film serves as a corrective to that depiction, showing a devoted and driven father with an audacious plan, a family who bought into his dream for them, and two extremely talented young Black girls who broke the mold when it came to the polite white tennis world. It’s a totally uplifting flick!

Review: Tick, Tick…Boom!

Tick, Tick…Boom! Andrew Garfield is dynamite and so is this film–especially if you’re a musical theater geek. Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton) makes his feature directorial debut with Tick, Tick…Boom!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the creator of the hit musical Rent. Larson died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in 1996, just as previews for Rent were about to begin off-Broadway. The film is essentially a love letter to and by Larson.

Review: Spencer

If ever there were an anti-Hallmark movie, a fairy tale in reverse, this might be it! From the very first frame, Spencer self-identifies as “a fable from a true tragedy,” and word of warning: you’ve got to have some knowledge of the royal marriage of “Charles and Diana” and its disastrous end to truly grasp what the film is trying to convey—a very depressed, lonely, free-spirited and bulimic Princess (Kristen Stewart) teetering on the brink. If not for her love and devotion to sons William and Harry, her royal highness Diana Princess of Wales (as she was known pre-divorce) would surely spiral out of control. It’s a royal shame.

Review: The Last Duel

Historical epics are not my cup of tea, but I was drawn to The Last Duel by the all-star cast of Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck. They do not disappoint, nor does the female lead Jodie Comer whose character propels the 14th Century #MeToo narrative. The action is still too brutal and bloody for my taste, and the structure dictates we live through some uncomfortable scenes multiple times, but the fact that it is based on true events makes this centuries-old story a bit more accessible. It’s impossible not to view it through a modern lens and wonder how a similar scenario would play out today — you know, when duels to the death aren’t really a sanctioned thing.

Nashville Film Festival Rundown

This was my first time (virtually) attending the Nashville Film Festival.  It is close enough for me to drive over, but that was not possible this time around. They had a great slate of films spread over a week. But sadly a lot of the films I’d have loved to see were only available in person, mostly the big prestige flicks. Nevertheless, I did get to see quite a few worthy films from the comfort of my couch. Below is my rundown.

The films are: Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road; Fanny: The Right to Rock; Everybody is Looking for some Light; Poser; Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival; 7 Days; Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine; Potato Dreams; Porcupine; The Good Traitor; Huda’s Salon; Green Sea; Ayar; Luzzu.