At a not-too draggy 215 minutes (give or take three), the 92nd Academy Awards once again sped down the same host-free track as last year, but allowed slightly more room for filler. After an intricate, audacious opening number by Janelle Monae and that Billy Porter guy who tends to wear the loudest outfits at any given awards ceremony, the audience was allowed one (1) segment for stand-up comedy, tag-teamed by former hosts Steve Martin and Chris Rock in a joint achievement in short-term blame-shifting, before the rest of the night barreled onward through the 24 aired categories and an offhand shout-out to the four winners whose lesser Oscars were deemed not fit for telecast. Considering those names included Geena Davis and David Lynch, that was one heck of an inconsiderate yadda-yadda.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. As usual I’ve been preoccupied with my annual bout of Oscar-mania to the consternation of MCC readers who show up here for any other reasons.(I promise we have a road trip miniseries coming soon, with some light travel, history, and a tribute to one astronaut. Honest!
Before tonight’s big Academy Awards ceremony on ABC, there’s one last category in which I managed to catch all the entrants thanks to the wonder of today’s sometimes generous streaming services. Thus we present in brief the three nominees for Best Animated Feature that I didn’t see in theaters:
Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis (for now), to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.
We’ve already covered the Live-Action half. Next we present the Animated Short Film nominees, ranked from absolute keenest to mostly keen:
Each year since 2009* my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis (for now), to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.
(* Sadly, Anne missed last year’s appointment, but she returned this year and didn’t seem to regret it.)
As it happens, this year’s live-action lineup is the strongest I’ve seen in years, with nary a clunker or a repulsive moment of graphic sadism among them. (Some years have been better than others in that respect.) And now, we present our ranking of this year’s five nominees from cutest to most heart-rending:
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. Picking up where the preceding installment left off, in which we covered this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary Feature but took an intermission before proceeding with these, the currently accessible Best Documentary Short Film nominees:
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch: the past month’s worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. Every year I chase down all the Best Picture nominees whether I want to see them or not, and nearly always catch them all before the big day. (Sole exception in the past twenty years: when Ray was nominated, it was 100% rented out for weeks from every Blockbuster near our old apartment. Yes, it’s been a while.) But in recent times, I’ve also been exploring the fun to be had in chasing down other Oscar nominees for extra credit.
For the second year in a row I decided to see how many nominees I could watch from the Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short Film categories, either free via legal means or via my existing streaming-service subscriptions. Last year I managed to catch nine of the ten nominees on time. The standoffish exception, National Geographic’s vertiginous climb-along Free Solo, aired the following Sunday night once they’d secured their statuette. This year I’ve managed to see eight available out of ten. Of the two holdouts, MTV has their very first nominee St. Louis Superman on lockdown for the time being, with some alleged special presentation in the works TBD; the other, The Cave, is another National Geographic entrant obligated to follow their stingy playbook.
My sincerest gratitude goes out to the rights-holders of the other eight, who actually want their works seen in this critical moment when people are most curious about them. First up are the four viewable nominees for Best Documentary Feature:
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in a personal record, I saw eight of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture before they were announced on January 13th:
- Jojo Rabbit
- Little Women
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- Marriage Story
- The Irishman
…which brings us to the ninth and final nominee, Ford v Ferrari — director James Mangold’s salute to auto racing pioneers and big middle finger to self-absorbed corporate executives who think they know best. Brought to you by Twentieth Century Fox, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.
(Fox greenlit this on purpose as a parable of how their 2019 went, didn’t they?)
Despite my peculiar and not impenetrably defensible fandom for the Academy Awards, I’m galled every December and January whenever myriad ostensibly august awards-handout bodies bestow major nominations upon films seen only by critics and the privileged residents of New York and L.A. Once those hoarded films have picked up accolades from those anointed viewers, then the studios deign to roll out their preordained champions to the rest of us. I feel this same frustration whenever caucuses in Iowa and South Carolina choose our political nominees for all us flyover states, whose own primaries are less a useful part of democracy and more the patronizing equivalent of handing us a googly-eyed Fisher-Price phone and letting us pretend to call someone who cares.
The rousing new World War I adventure 1917 strutted off the red carpets and arrived in theaters five days after winning a Golden Globe for Best Drama According to Some Drunken Cabal Who Attended Special Screenings in Their Country Clubs. The only Golden Globe I’ve ever cared about is my own head, but I was intrigued by its high-concept design and its director/co-writer Sam Mendes, whose Skyfall remains my all-time favorite James Bond film, a preference that vexes cineastes who’ve actually seen more than ten Bond films. If my math is accurate, I fail to number among them. But now that I’ve seen it for myself, Monday morning’s Oscar nominations don’t bother me the same way.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: writer/director Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was one of my favorite films of 2017 and left me looking forward to her future endeavors. She’s finally returned to theaters with her take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the 1868 novel that many of you were probably required to read in school, or perhaps cheerfully read on your own because someone trustworthy recommended it to you or it was shelved in a special library display alongside numerous other 19th-century books written by women that you’d already read. Either way, chances are your Little Women experience goes back farther than mine.
How far back are we talking? Full disclosure: prior to 2019 my Little Women experience consisted of a hazy memory from decades past in which I saw the scene where one of the girls-who-would-be-women gets a drastic haircut for altruistic reasons. I have no idea if I ran across one of the first four cinematic adaptations on TV when I was a kid, or if some sitcom paid it homage. All I know is I already knew of that plot point. I deemed that insufficient data and decided to do some homework before heading out to the theater: I rented Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version on YouTube. I enjoyed that in and of itself (so many familiar faces!), and appreciated that it conveyed the novel’s basics so I’d have an idea of what was supposed to happen in case Gerwig sold out and bowdlerized the whole thing into a ripoff of Hustlers.
Thankfully this did not happen. Little Women is among the hundreds of “classic” novels I failed to read in my youth, but if it intrigued the director of Lady Bird, then it was bound to intrigue me. I was a little annoyed in advance that one site recently chose to run a dubious thinkpiece about how men were supposedly avoiding the film in droves, based entirely on one (1) tweet from one (1) critic who cited her scientific research drawn from chats with three (3) whole males. It’s been 28 years since my last statistics class, but I still recognize an extraordinarily poor sampling pool when I see one.
Regardless: I, a male, willingly saw Little Women in defiance of the three dudes who purported to represent the grossly generalized aesthetic will of 150 million other dudes. And it was my idea to see it in theaters, not my wife’s. I refuse to pretend this counts as some groundbreaking accomplishment.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Jojo Rabbit One of the Year’s Best Films!
That doesn’t mean much to anyone outside my own head, but it’s fun to type and just stare at it for a while. What if I said things and they mattered? Pretty cool daydream, right? Sometimes it’s comforting to traipse around in a world of pure imagination, until you’re forced to look at it from another angle and recognize when you’re wallowing in nonsense.
From Bong Joon-Ho, the director of The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, a movie with a name like Parasite implies sooner or later there’ll be a monster and bloodletting and bigger, badder, wilder, all-out, off-the-wall, jaw-dropping pandemonium, because moviegoers expect escalation. Several words in that sentence come true and thus is the prophecy fulfilled, but with Joon-Ho it’s best never to think we can expect the unexpected. What most of us think of as “unexpected” is actually very expected because we think along a select number of unconsciously rigid tracks. We clench Occam’s Razor between our fingers and use it to sketch our predictions, drawn from among the most common forms of what average storytellers consider “unexpected” rather than unimaginable forms of unexpected. Preconceptions are a drag even when we think we don’t have any.
Parasite tinkers with quite a few of them. Among the most common and beloved in many a Hollywood tales of late: “Poor = good. Rich = bad.” As us-vs.-them conformist mentalities go, “rich vs. poor” has become among the most exploited. If that’s among your favorite simplistic conflicts, I’m pretty sure Hustlers is still playing in a multiplex near you. Go have fun!
Every review of Todd Phillips’ controversial Joker that I’ve read so far — and I’ve read several, none of them by youngsters who love DC Comics unconditionally, but not all of them scathing — has name-checked Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver because, per their consensus, the homage is so derivative that it’s practically an attempted reboot of both, or possibly the conclusion to the trilogy they never were.
I haven’t watched Taxi Driver in over twenty years, and I’ve yet to see The King of Comedy, which wasn’t available on any of my streaming-service subscriptions as of a week before release. Aside from noting how hard I snickered at an obvious, neutered copycat of the famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene, that means I can’t simply spend 1500 words deriding its Scorsese allusions scene by scene, and will instead have to come up with my own words and thoughts, as opposed to typing a derivative homage to all those other reviews. IF it turns out like that anyway, don’t blame me. It’s everyone else’s fault but mine.
The trailer calls it Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Some online resources call it Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Others call it simply Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and rip out the ellipsis like the vestigial decoration it is. It’s not as though this site suffers from an ellipsis deficiency, so I’m leaving them out as Quentin Tarantino’s latest period piece has more than enough “period” to go around.
Courtesy warning: spoilers ahead for thoughts after 161 minutes of viewing. Not everything is revealed here, but a few tidbits cry out to be explored, particularly that controversial ending…
At a lean 199 minutes, the 91st Academy Awards was perhaps among the speediest ceremonies in decades, but the memorable moments may have been fewer than usual because there were simply fewer opportunities for much to happen. A few presenters did their parts to liven things up — e.g., Samuel L. Jackson, Danai Gurira, James McAvoy, Barbra Streisand (a huge fan of Spike Lee, fellow Brooklynite), and a few others. The triple-threat comedy team of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph had a few minutes to fill the night’s joke quota up front, and did so with a flair enviable to those of us who didn’t watch Fey/Poehler host the Golden Globes a few years ago and who wish they could’ve been bribed into taking charge here all night long.
That being said, it was a very entertaining evening for any moviegoers who liked some of the biggest winners a lot more than I did.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch as well as the previous one: the past few months’ worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, except this year I went overboard and decided to see how many the nominees I could catch from other categories, either free via legal means or via existing streaming-service subscriptions. As it turns out, quite a few, mostly documentaries but that’s not a bad thing.
But first, an Original Screenplay nominee I’d been curious to see for a while:
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch as well as the next: the past few months’ worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony hosted by a disembodied sense of doom, featuring at least five musical numbers (minus The Weeknd and SZA but including the un-nominated Queen), spurring endless tired jokes about the runtime, and pumping up the jams for any winners from the ABC/Disney mega-conglomerate.
This year the Best Picture nominees number eight in all. In past entries we covered Black Panther, The Favourite, Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Green Book. Here, then, are brief notes on the final three to complete the octet.
As a longtime fan of road trips, I spent more of Green Book‘s running time looking forward to Our Heroes seeing the sights, maybe filming on location and giving us new travel ideas. And if they go back in time and cure racism while they’re at it, so much the better.
Off the top of my head, here’s a quick ranking of the Best Picture winners and nominees directed by alleged sexual villains that I’ve watched to date:
- The Pianist
- Born on the Fourth of July
- Annie Hall
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Midnight in Paris
…there could be more I’ve forgotten, or whose allegations are off my radar. I know there’re a few I’ve yet to see, such as Hannah and Her Sisters. Hollywood’s moral turpitude is nigh impossible to reconcile with single-minded pursuits such as my annual Oscar Quest, in which I watch every new Best Picture nominee no matter what, come what may, even if I have opinions and regrets about it in advance.
Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.
Unfortunately a change in circumstances and an issue of lousy showtimes led to us shaking up our tradition this year. We both attended a showing of the Best Animated Short Film nominees, but Anne missed out on the Best Live-Action Short Film nominees. My son tagged along in her place and share in what he later described as “a day-ruining experience”. Not that the shorts were awful per se, but the nominating committee and/or this year’s filmmakers went super dark. They weren’t quite as appalling as past incidents when Live-Action Short Film nominees have sprung an occasional grueling rape scene on us, but one in particular is more emotionally scarring than any of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees. Fair warning to anyone who decides to casually check these out when they’re available online February 19th.
And now, we present our ranking of this year’s five nominees, four of which center on the subject of children killing or being killed. Um, enjoy?
Writer/director Adam McKay’s The Big Short remains one of my favorite Best Picture Oscar nominees from the past few years, and not just because I was thrilled to see our mortgage companies getting dragged on the silver screen. I was less enthusiastic when I saw the trailer for Vice because I’ve developed an anti-partisan revulsion to the sight of 21st-century politics anywhere outside Twitter, which, despite careful curation, is roughly 85% all about 21st-century politics on any given day, even on slow news days. Sooner or later every discussion finds a way to go there, even in the sharing of cute animal GIFs.
Cross-pollination into movies was inevitable in this climate, what with the creative arts being one of the more profitable forms of protest and dissemination. But it’s a Best Picture nominee, so I stuck to my tradition and here I am.