And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Review: Better NATE than Ever

The DUMBO in the room with Disney’s family-friendly musical dramedy Better NATE Than Ever is the irony of timing–as the film’s release just happens to coincide with the passage of Florida’s ridiculous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Nate is a charming little message movie that draws from the likes of Billy Elliott, Adventures in Babysitting, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off— if Ferris were in middle school, and a musical theater geek struggling to find his place and his people. That place is Broadway baby!

And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

[Post-Oscars Update: I did okay! Though I could not have predicted the Chris Rock-Will Smith debacle; there’s no excuse for the show cutting out eight worthy categories from the live show while including unnecessary bits and still running a bloated 3:40; Amy Schumer was the best of the hosting trio; I still think Andrew Garfield should’ve won best actor (and wouldn’t hit anybody); and most importantly– yay, CODA!!!!!]

I’m making my picks with the Oscars just a few short hours away. I have no idea what will win this year. I have my favorites of course, but that doesn’t translate into Oscar gold, or Oscar pool/party bragging rights (though how I do miss those—maybe next year!).

The past few years, I’d seen just about everything on the ballot, including the shorts. But this year, I’m coming up, well, short. So I’ll just make my predictions with all sorts of caveats and maybe delete this whole post tomorrow! 

Here goes:

Review: Topside

This is a really gritty and entirely engaging little film. It’s about Nikki (co-director Celine Held) and her 5-year-old daughter Little (Zhaila Farmer) who’re living on the edge underground in a homeless camp beneath the city of New York. Their life is not easy by any stretch, but they have a warm bond and community and a place of their own. But when the powers that be decide to clear out the riffraff, Little is forced to accompany her mother into the unknown and noisy and VERY bright city. And the question becomes whether they will be able to survive and stay together up there.

Review: Wood and Water

Not a lot “happens” in this character study film, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It’s the story of Anke (played by Anke Bak, the director’s mother), a German woman of a certain age who has just retired and is looking forward to a trip to the beach with all her children. But her son doesn’t make it home for the gathering. He lives in Hong Kong and the pro-democracy protests there interfere with his flight. (Or so he says.) So she decides to go there to see him. Only he’s away, and so she spends her time alone wandering the city and coming to terms with her life.

Review: The Adam Project

The Adam Project falls squarely in Ryan Reynolds’ wheelhouse. It’s a family-friendly, PG-13 time travel action adventure film packed with snark, humor and heart. It doesn’t rise to the level of Back to the Future or E.T.–two classic films to which it pays homage–but The Adam Project is an easy watch with an engaging cast. Reynolds plays Adam Reed, a pilot who travels back in time to stop the invention of time travel which, in the future, poses a fatal threat to the entire planet. For help, he turns to his younger self (Walter Scobell), a decent kid who’s been acting out at school, picking fights with the local bully, and being less than kind to his mom (Jennifer Garner). Young Adam and his mother are both struggling with the loss of their father/husband (Mark Ruffalo) in a car accident about a year earlier. It’s a life-changing event that older Adam is still grappling with decades later.

Review: Lucy and Desi (documentary)

Everybody loves Lucy. So it only follows that everybody will at least like the documentary Luci and Desi about the mutually dependent success of one of Hollywood’s original power couples, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The film explores the partnership and legacy of the pair who first met on the set of the 1940 musical comedy Too Many Girls, got married, started a family, created DesiLu productions, developed and starred in the iconic sitcom I Love Lucy, divorced in 1960 after the last Lucy episode was filmed, and remained lifelong friends.

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.

Quickie Review: No Exit

This taut little thriller is the perfect flick to watch from the comfort of your couch. In it a young woman checks herself out of rehab to rush to her dying mother’s bedside, only to get stranded with a group of strangers at a visitors’ center in the middle of a snow storm. But when she steps outside hoping to get a signal on her phone so she can contact her sister, she discovers a little girl trapped in a van and has to try and figure out which of her four fellow travelers is the kidnapper and how to rescue her.  It’s a brisk story with enough twists and turns to keep you engaged from beginning to end. 

Review: Fabian

In this adaptation of “Fabian: Going to the Dogs”, a German novel first published in 1931 but later banned and burned by the National Socialist Party, Jakob Fabian (Tom Schilling) is a young man in Berlin in the years between the two wars, trying to become a writer but struggling to keep his head above water. By day he works as a copywriter for a cigarette company, and by night he fills books with his observations as he accompanies his wealthy friend Labude (Albrecht Schuch) through the hedonistic world of brothels and bars while Germany slides slowly towards fascism. But Fabian’s detachment is shaken one night when he meets the beautiful Cornelia (Saskia Rosendahl), a film law trainee who dreams of being an actress, and their love story forms the spine of this thoroughly engaging film. Be warned, it clocks in at just minutes under three hours running time, but fortunately it never feels long thanks to great direction (Dominik Graf), a superb cast, and a thoughtful, beautifully crafted script.

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.