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“Bohemian Rhapsody”: No Escape From Reality

Bohemian Rhapsody!

Spot all the deeply meaningful moments with mirrors and win prizes!

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:

  1. The Pianist
  2. Platoon
  3. Chinatown
  4. Born on the Fourth of July
  5. JFK
  6. Annie Hall
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody
  8. 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.

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The MCC 2019 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Film Revue

Skin!

When Rated-M video games seem hokey after Daddy’s taught you how to use a sniper rifle.

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?

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Vice” End Credits

Vice!

Jason Alexander IS Charles Foster Kane!

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.

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Oscar Quest 2019: “The Favourite”

The Favourite!

The producers guarantee no one in the audience shall be snoring during the final minutes of this motion picture.

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present, and look forward to pushing that statistic even farther back into cinematic history if only some kindly studio or lawyers would rescue Mike Leigh’s 1996 improv drama Secrets & Lies from its peculiar, long-standing Region 1 banishment. To this day it’s not available on a single streaming service, not even Amazon Prime. Seriously, I have been aggravated about this for nearly twenty years. CRITERION, I AM BEGGING YOU, PLEASE HELP IT AND ME IN THAT ORDER. Netflix? Kanopy? TCM? Anyone?

Ahem. Sigh. Anyway.

First in line is Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, a film that checks off two squares on the 21st-century Best Picture Nominee bingo card: “British history” and “sexy-time nudity”, though not as much of the latter as I’d expected and yet more than I ask for in any given film, which is none.

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The MCC 2019 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

One Small Step also!

To infinity and beyond!

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.

Once upon a time we would do both sets as a one-day double-feature date, which gives us time between showings to look around the fashion mall connected to the theater. This year we couldn’t accommodate both in our schedule, but kept half the tradition alive. What follows, then, is my rankings of this year’s Animated Short Film nominees, from fine to finest. All five were likable in their own ways and difficult to rank without getting arbitrary. Three were hand-drawn animation. Three featured Asian or Asian-American main characters. Three had their end credits squashed to half-screen to make space for the directors’ “Oscar Nomination Morning Reaction Videos” squeezed into the other half. Three were silent for the sake of “universal appeal”, which I suppose saves them money by not having to pay any top-tier voice actors.

If they’re not showing at a theater near you and/or if don’t mind waiting, the complete set will be available February 19th on assorted streaming services. (Barring any convenient changes in our theater’s schedule next week, we may have to settle for watching the Live-Action Short Films via Google Play.) Links are provided to official sites where available if you’re interested in more info. Enjoy where possible!

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Sorting Out the “Glass” Menagerie

Glass!

Nick Fury, Professor X, and John McClane walk into a hospital…, or, if you prefer, John Shaft, Mr. Tumnus, and David Addison…

Sometimes I’m too persuadable for my own good.

I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable in theaters way back in 2000, thought it had intriguing concepts and believable use of a comics-fandom backdrop, but I lost patience with its plodding, lugubrious tone (years before The Walking Dead and Marvel’s Netflix shows made snail-speed pretentiousness an acceptable norm) as well as the Dragnet-esque text-only ending that cheated the viewer out of any earned closure. Cutting a story short after the final twist worked well for Rod Serling, but not so much for other writers.

I saw Shyamalan’s Split in 2017 when word-of-mouth suggested we could call it a comeback, but it lost me with its To Be Continued ending that recast the otherwise taut thriller as the second chapter in Shyamalan’s very own superhero universe.

That brings us to the final act of the trilogy, Glass. I’ve skipped several Shyamalan films, but curiosity got the best of me. Was there a remote chance it would tie together the threads of the first two films with some sense of thematic satisfaction and retroactively redeem them, or at least provide a better sense of closure? Dare I hope?

Yep, I dared.

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