Monday, April 26, 2021

Anthony Hopkins deservedly wins and Nomadland nabs Top Oscar Honors!

 

Producers, Best Actress, and Best Director winners for Nomadland.

The 93rd Oscars telecast started off pretty nice and at a fast pace, but it fumbled at the point where out of the blue, Best Director and Best Picture were presented way too early and having a negative effect on the final moments of the broadcast. Wise Oscar pundits correctly predicted that Chloé Zhao would win Director and her Nomadland would win Best Picture, but to have these categories announced during the middle of the show was very odd, and we soon realized that Actor/Actress was being saved for last. This was manipulative on the producer's part, lead by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh, who following the lead of the media hype machine pushing for a Chadwick Boseman Best Actor win, and for ratings bait to keep viewers tuned in for the entirety of the program. 

Emerald Fennell Writer/Director won Best Original Screenplay

But before we get to that category, there were a lot of expected wins and pleasant surprise wins of a very diverse group of deserving talent. The first Oscar award went to Director/Writer Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, which sadly was the only Oscar the film would win out of its five nominations. A well deserved win to start off this hybrid pandemic broadcast ceremony. It's bittersweet that a lot of firsts are still being accomplished as of Sunday evening, but they occurred none the less. Namely in hair and makeup, two black women (Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson) won in this category for the very first time for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Youn, Kaluuya, and Zhao are Oscar winners.
Three faces and names we wouldn't have seen in 2015.

Additionally, and as expected, the first Korean woman won an Oscar in the Supporting category, Yuh-Jung Youn for Minari. Her acceptance speech was very sweet and funny and humble. We have not seen the last of her. However, her win meant that Glenn Close lost her 8th nomination to a first time nominee to boot. Daniel Kaluuya won for Judas and the Black Messiah as expected, he really had no competition. I want to bite my tongue in the fatigue of seeing black talent relegated to the supporting category and winning there regularly without much drama post #OscarsSoWhite outrage starting in 2015. But I'll leave that for the reader to make their own assessment. 

And lastly, the second to last category announced was the Best Actress and to my complete shock and frustration, Carey Mulligan lost to Francis McDormand who won her 3rd Best Actress Oscar, after recently winning in 2017 for Three Billboards. Francis is cool, I really like her and she did an outstanding job in Nomadland, but I thought and hoped the voters would be bold and vote for Carey, or, throw a curveball and honor Audra Day, who would have only been the second black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. But alas, the Oscar voters played it safe, and gave Nomadland Actress, Picture, and Director. They had to. It's odd for the Best Picture to only win Best Director, especially since it shockingly lost Cinematography, and to a lesser extent, Adapted Screenplay which rightfully went to The Father.


The Father and Anthony Hopkins are Oscar winners.


And speaking of The Father, it wound up winning two Oscars for screenplay, and Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins. Now this is where I'm going to give my most honest opinion of what lead to what actually happened. Traditionally the Oscar telecast save Best Picture for last to close the show, but this year, because of the media hype for the late actor Chadwick Boseman, the producers decided to save Best Actor for last. All through the nearly 3 hour telecast, which was very diverse, had a very visible presence of notable black talent as interviewers, presenters, emcees/DJ, etc., giving the audience the impression that months and months long build up in believing that Boseman was going to get his posthumous Best Actor Oscar. 

The major flub in the Oscar presentation was putting too much faith in the HYPE behind the belief that Boseman was going to win, and not taking into consideration that an 83 year old thespian was NOT going to be awake at 4:30 am GMT in Wales just in case he wins.

I truly wonder if most fans of Chadwick and Oscar viewers actually saw The Father because if they did, they must genuinely understand that Chadwick never was guaranteed the Oscar because Anthony's performance was next NEXT level. It was truly a master class in acting, and at his ripe age of 83, this is most likely his final win, his second which comes 29 years after he won in 1992 for The Silence of the Lambs. Anthony has been nominated 5 other times, and won several BAFTA awards and other honors, but an actor of his caliber, only had 1 Oscar win in his acting career that spans longer than I've been alive in my 54 years on this planet. And people have to keep in mind that Anthony was nominated last year for The Two Popes, so he was still on Oscar voter's radar from his exceptional work last year. 

Like millions of other fans around the world, I was absolutely shocked and sadden to tears to learn of Chadwick's sudden passing last summer. I watched Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and he deserved to be nominated for his performance, and his wins from the Golden Globes, Critic's Choice Awards and SAG is testament to the excellence of his work in what would be his final film. And those honors will go down in history as Chadwick being the Best Actor. But the Oscars, and most important to note, the BAFTA foretold us the winner of the Oscar, so people had two weeks to mentally prepare for Anthony Hopkins to possibly win the Oscar. 

The major flub in the Oscar presentation was putting too much faith in the HYPE behind the belief that Boseman was going to win, and not taking into consideration that an 83 year old thespian was NOT going to be awake at 4:30 am GMT in Wales just in case he wins. So the top two possible winners were not going to be present at the event. Surely if Boseman won, his widow or someone from Ma Rainey would have accepted on his behalf and gave a thoughtful memoriam to him in his honor. But that was not meant to be. Although Anthony has a home in Malibu, he chose to fly back to his home country of Wales in late March and I speculate that he did not think he was going to win, so why bother with all the fake glitz and glam under pandemic conditions to sit in an audience in LA and watch a dead man win an award? Can you blame him for staying home? I don't. So, when last year's Best Actor winner, Joaquin Phoenix quickly presented the final award of the night for Best Actor, he read the names, there were no preview clips which was very odd, and then he announced Anthony as the winner and said that the academy would accept the award in his honor as he was not present. But his co-star, Olivia Colman was in the audience in London and she was there to accept on Anthony's behalf, but then the show just went into the credits,  and then a commercial. What the hell? It's like the producers said, 'Oh fuck!', and then closed the shit down after Boseman did not win.

The media and the studio behind Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, milked Chadwick Boseman's death for awards profit. I don't like writing this, but that's my assessment of what I saw. They ran with the history of posthumous actors winning Oscars of James Dean, Peter Finch and Heath Ledger and felt confident that Boseman would join this exclusive club. BAFTA and Spirit Award losses didn't come into their equation and headlines leading up to the Oscar broadcast continued the media mantra that Boseman was favored to win. Even when he lost, the click bait headlines media makes it seem as though Hopkins is at fault for winning because he was the "shocking winner", with a hint of discounting his incredible work in The Father! Shame on them! When Anthony woke up this Monday morning, he posted on his IG a video acceptance speech thanking the voters because he didn't think he would win (sadly, believing the hype for Boseman as well), and then taking a moment to honor Boseman in his video. What a gentlemen, and I'm glad Sir Anthony Hopkins won. 

I thought the production of the show was really nice, but I did miss the much larger in person audience that would have been at The Dolby. I feel that having the European nominees be up at 1am GMT was unfair and stressful, but this was a one time thing and I think that especially for the winners, it was worth it. I look forward to next year's Oscars as a lot of films that were moved from 2020 and pushed into 2021 will make the 94th Oscars a really competitive and exciting show.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The 93rd Oscar Predictions

The 93rd Oscars to be held on April 25th

With all my film reviews being posted on my new Letterboxd page, this blog has been thirsty for updates. Due to the ongoing pandemic, there were NO in-person film screenings and Q&As, to write articles to post here at ToZ. So, I'm just going to post my Oscar predictions because today, Tuesday, was the final day for AMPAS voting. Like years past, I pride myself in seeing all the performances so I believe I have a legitimate voice to share in the prognosticating of the awards. Unlike the professionals who get paid really well to live and breathe Oscar talk, and are friendly with voters and other awards journalists, I like that my perspective is not influenced by the need to maintain any form of industry credibility in being as close to 100% accurate about how the Oscar voters will vote. I was told long ago that my selections were too emotional to be a real player in the prediction game. I agree to a point, but then my argument is that the well-known Oscar journalists and prognosticators are emotional about their selections too... or, OR, they are influenced by their association with the actual voters in the business which helps them have a higher batting average in their predictions.

 Even with a pandemic that closed 80% of the theaters in the country, there were a lot of very good films released on streaming and VOD that are in contention. I thought it was going to be a dull year, and I even thought it might be best for the Oscars to postpone the awards season. But instead, they pushed it back by a whole two months to give time for films to play in some theaters as movie houses began to slowly open up again late last year. Of all the Oscar-nominated films, I only saw two in the theater: Promising Young Woman, and The Father. Coincidentally, those are the two films I'm really rooting for too. So, here are my predictions in select categories:

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Father. Due to the sad and untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, he has a lot of sentimental love to honor him for his wonderful performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Anthony was devastatingly brilliant as an elderly gentleman slowly losing his memory due to dementia. Hopkins won the BAFTA, and in the past seven years, the actor who won the BAFTA for Actor, won the Oscar. I'm feeling 90% sure of this win.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman. I drove to Tempe, AZ on Christmas day to spend the weekend in a city that had open theaters. I was floored by the script of PYW, and I loved Carey's performance as a troubled woman obsessed with avenging her friend who was gang-raped and later killed herself. This story really connected with me, and Carey's multi-layered performance has won accolades in the critics' circles and she won the Critics' Choice Award. If Carey wins the Indie Spirit Award later this week (Update 4.22.21: Carey won the Spirit Award!!!), this strengthens her chances to win the Oscar. But the industry loves Nomadland and I can see them giving Frances McDormand her 3rd Best Actress Oscar. I'm emotional for this category, and I believe Carey deserves to win, but male voters may be turned off by this film, which would be typical. Carey's chances to win are about 60%.

Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, hands down will easily win for Judas and the Black Messiah. I watched this film and was really moved by how Briton Daniel brought the life of Fred Hampton to the masses. This is an important story about the chairman of the Black Panthers that most people sadly are not familiar with. Daniel will win with 100% certainty. If Carey wins along with Anthony, three British people will win the top acting awards.

Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn for Minari. The perfect supporting actress performance in years. This is not the usual category fraud shenanighans, Yuh-Jung is a straight-up supporting role that is the life of this wonderful film. She's a scene-stealer without trying too hard, and she's just a lovely and funny character. Youn will be the first Korean actor to win an Oscar, and it's a well-deserved honor. She will win with 100% certainty. (Note: I feel terrible for Glenn Close in being nominated for the 8th time only to lose to a first-time nominee in a Supporting category. It's really cruel. She should never have been nominated for Hillbilly Elegy, even if it's just out of respect.)

The other primary categories:

Best Film: Nomadland

Best Director: Chloé Zhao

Adapted Screenplay: The Father

Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman (threat: Trial of the Chicago 7)

It'll be very interesting to see the Oscars this Sunday night. The British will host the British/European nominees in London due to Covid-19, and only the nominees will be allowed into the venues for the show. Well, let's just hope that by next March, the Oscars will be back to hosting their regular program.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Theatre of Zen Film Reviews Now at Letterboxd

Follow me at https://letterboxd.com/TheatreofZen/

The primary purpose of the ToZ blog is to highlight articles written by me covering live events I have attended related to film premieres, film festivals, and film reviews. Due to the pandemic, and as demonstrated by the low volume of posts for all of 2020, there wasn't much of a motivation to update the blog once the lockdowns started in late March of 2020.

With that said, I have been watching films regularly at home but haven't been inspired to write any reviews for ToZ. There's just not enough unique visitors to ToZ to justify the dedicated time it takes to write a review, so my motivation to write reviews have been completely zapped. However, I have posted a few 'Quick Film Reviews' via Twitter. But it appears that due to some changes in the template features of Blogger, which hosts ToZ, I am no longer able to embed tweets on this platform to make it visible for readers to see the tweet film review.

However, as timing would have it, in early January I noticed people posting images of their 'recent activity' film reviews from Letterboxd and it triggered me as to why in the hell didn't I sign up for this film review site much earlier? After posting a few reviews at Letterboxd, I immediately liked it very much and the app and desktop features of Letterboxd makes it not only convenient but user friendly as well. I posted two film reviews back to back this weekend and since I realize the valuable film review and film catalog asset I now have, I went ahead and paid the 'pro' account annual fee of only $19 to get rid of the annoying ads. Ahhhh, it's much prettier and easier on the eyes visiting my profile page now.

Maybe next year I'll update to Patron at $49/year as I look forward to attending premieres and Q&As again in the LA area in 2022. I'm optimistically cautious that perhaps post September of this year theaters will open up again, but that's still 8 months away.

So please come check out my Letterboxd and please follow me at: https://letterboxd.com/TheatreofZen/

And speaking of the pandemic, a major benefit of being a full-time employee of a healthcare organization allowed me to be able to get dose #1 of the Moderna vaccine on January 23rd, and my follow-up vaccination will be on February 20th. What a complete peace of mind this brings me, and it just helps me to look forward to my plans to visit Paris in July now that I will be fully vaccinated and have proof for international travel purposes! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris

I have waited 4 years for this moment! Today makes me proud to be an American again. Congratulations President Joe Biden and history-making Vice-President Kamal Harris! I have utmost trust that they will make significant strides to move the country forward, and erase many of the terrible things the previous administration has done.


President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden


Vice-President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff


Monday, December 28, 2020

My trip to Tempe to go to the Cinema!

Cinemark Mesa 16

In this horrible year since the closing of theaters in March due to the pandemic, I have seen 5 films in a theater since the spring. Under normal conditions, I would have seen at least 40 between March and December, but I only saw five, and two of those films were seen just this past weekend. As a treat to myself since my travel plans to see family during New Year's Eve weekend has been canceled, I decided to drive to the city closest to me that has theaters open, and that honor goes to Tempe, AZ. I was just in Sedona in September after Labor Day, so I was excited to travel to AZ again.

Theaters are closed in California, and for a change of scenery, especially since I was traveling solo, I felt it was safe enough for me to drive, solo, to Tempe, and stay in a nice hotel, solo, while venturing around town, solo, wearing a mask. I know there has been a lot of news reports about the dismay of public health officials lamenting the fact that people are not adhering to the guidelines of staying home to help prevent the spread of the virus. And for the most part, I wholly agree with that. Especially when you have multiple people who are family or friends flying on planes to go see relatives at the height of the worst part of this pandemic.

 

Cinemark Mesa 16

This is why my trip to Michigan was canceled because it wasn't safe for me to travel. So I get all that, and that is why I felt totally comfortable in my decision to drive to Tempe on Christmas day with low traffic, to stay two nights at a Hilton with the primary purpose to see movies at Cinemark Mesa 16, which was a beautiful theater that had strict Covid-19 sanitation information posted all around the theater.

Below are the quick film reviews of Promising Young Woman and Wonder Woman 1984. First and foremost, both films were so great to experience in the theater and it solidifies my smart decision to treat myself to this special short trip. Now more than ever, I believe it's imperative for us all to support watching films in the theater. It is safe. 

#PromisingYoungWoman was fucking excellent!!! The Avenger of toxic masculinity and white male bro privilege. Carey Mulligan's character was haunted to honor her best friend and just when you thought she wouldn't succeed, she does so with sublime calculating brilliance! A++

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

To elaborate a bit more on Promising Young Woman, this is a story of a former medical student who quit school to support her best friend who was sexually assaulted by fellow male students. Cassie's friend Nina suffered terribly from this devastating attack, and it also affected Cassie, brilliantly played by Carey Mulligan. Promising Young Woman is a story of revenge plotted to avenge a friend, and destroy the toxic privileged male fraternity bullshit that is so rampant and protected. I was shocked and horrified by the end result of the film, but also applaud the surprise ending, it really was a shocker and goes against all conventions in movies about the protagonist. It's bittersweet in the most bitter of ways. But if you're like me, you will be sad and satisfied. I'm so glad I saw this in the theater, but I get bummed out in knowing how denied I am in watching this very film with a Los Angeles audience of my peers of voters and critics. And of course, the Q&As that are so common in the LA market for the awards season. I've seen Carey Mulligan in person back in 2018 for Wildlife, but I would have killed to see her at a Q&A for PYW. I will be participating in a virtual screening of PYW in two weeks via Film Independent, but as you know, that's not the same. But I am looking forward to watching this wickedly smart and brilliant, timely film again. Carey Mulligan won the Best Actress honor for the LA Film Critics Awards two weeks ago, so that's a good sign that she's deservedly on Oscar's radar.

The primary reason why I drove to Tempe was to see Wonder Woman 1984. In the aftermath of the crazy decision for Warner Brothers to release WW84 in theaters and on HBOMax at the same time, there was just no way I was going to watch this very film in my bedroom, all by myself, on Christmas day. No fucking way! I was going to drive 360 miles and pay $14 to see it, and it was worth every drop of gas. 

Now I know why Steve Trevor is in #WonderWoman1984Be careful what you wish for because it comes at a cost that even hurts Wonder Woman. Jenkins and Gadot puts heart into a super hero battling against Pascal's Trump like greedy maniac in a spectacular and exhilarating ride! A-

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in Wonder Woman 1984

I really enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984, and a superhero film is best seen on the big screen the first time you're able to see it. I don't understand the hate for WW84 that can be seen on Twitter, but most of the haters are guys and fans of Marvel. So make of that what you will. It's almost as if they are taking joy in wanting to slam this film. It's a superhero movie based on the outrageous greedy consciousness of the 80s, and it had great special effects and action scenes. It was just a lot of fun and I think the pandemic has made some people particularly dark and bitter and they just didn't want to like WW84. But alas, Warner Brothers, perhaps in an attempt to sow good favor for themselves in the aftermath of the past two weeks with the revelation of the plans for the 2021 roster of films to be released in some theaters AND on HBOMax, the studio announced today that they have given the green light for Wonder Woman 3. So that's great news as I love Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins as the director.

My prized WW84 popcorn tin!

I don't know when I'll be able to go back to a theater again, but it felt really good and safe going to AZ to watch these two films. I don't think theaters will open up in CA until perhaps May, and this is based on how soon more people can get vaccinated in the months between Feb-April, which is the time frame I expect to be vaccinated as I work in the healthcare industry and I am considered an essential worker. But as long as theaters are doing the innovative cleaning like Cinemark, and Harkins Theaters are doing at the height of the pandemic, along with social distancing in the theater, I welcome the opportunity to go to the theater again here in SoCAL as soon as possible.

I hope to resume updating ToZ more regularly as I watch more films on screeners in the coming months for the awards seasons, so please keep coming back here.

Be safe, wear a mask, socially distance, and have a Happy New Year, 2021 has to be better for all of us that 2020 was.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Quick Film Review: The Midnight Sky

 

George Clooney directed and starred in Netflix's The Midnight Sky



George Clooney's #TheMidnightSky began with such vagueness about a global catastrophe that it was a little hard trying to follow where it was leading to. But in the end, the dreariness allowed the human spirit to shine through and offered slight and bittersweet hope. B+

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Film Review: Shoshanna Bean 'Sing Your Hallelujah'

 Review originally posted at Rich Girl TV.

This Christmas, bring some cheer right into your living room with Shoshana Bean and friends in 'Sing Your Hallelujah.'

The holiday season is different this year. Due to the pandemic, audiences cannot see popular Broadway Star and Billboard #1 recording artist, Shoshana Bean in concert singing favorite holiday songs. However, in 'Sing Your Hallelujah', a virtual concert directed by Amy Segal (Schitt's Creek: Best Wishes, Warmest Regards), Shoshana shines in this concert special, recorded on stage in the beautiful and historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. In between the beautiful stage sets accompanied by an accomplished arrangement of acoustic musicians supporting Shoshana and a variety of guests singing, Shoshana laments very candidly about how New York City and the world has changed due to Covid-19, and the subsequent mandate lock-down guidelines of social distancing.


As the holiday season approaches and revealing in the relief of the announcement of the Biden/Harris Presidential win, Shoshana and friends are inspired and realize that they have a unique opportunity at hand to perform. Although Broadway is still closed down, the show must and can go on, but on a smaller scale by, virtual presentation. Behind the scenes socially distanced rehearsals reveal how much all the talent have a love and respect for each other and are committed to uniting the community through the spiritual power of their voices in the Christmas songs they sing. 

Joining Shoshana in 'Sing Your Hallelujah' in a variety of excellent performances are Tony-winner Gavin Creel, tap dancer Jared Grimes, Broadway star Jeremy Jordan, singers Shayna Steel, and Connie Talbot, and Tony Award nominee Daniel J. Watts. Together, each performer is on stage solo or with a duet with Bean bringing much-needed holiday spirit into the homes of viewers. Bean in particular has an absolutely amazing voice that embraces you with the love she wants to share this Christmas. Extra meticulous care went into designing a stage presence that gives the appearance of a concert that is intimate and in your home, bringing that community spirit close to you when these socially distanced days make one yearn for that very closeness.

Everyone involved in this production explains in their own way about their connection and friendship with Shoshana and how they felt compelled to be a part of this spiritual concert as it is something that they needed to be a part of in these unusual times. Director Amy Segal presents a holiday musical experience that is beautiful, introspective, and meaningful in giving people something special that they need and will cherish this holiday season.





Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max

In highly anticipated movie news, Warner Brothers announced that Wonder Woman 1984 will still be on track to open in theaters on Christmas, but in an unprecedented move, it will also be released on HBO Max on Christmas for a month. While Covid-19 is still rocking havoc on our lives, with over 250,000 Americans dead of this virus, many theaters throughout the country are still closed, and HBO Max is the best place to allow fans to watch this movie that we call need right now. I did not want to wait until next summer for WW84, there have been so many films pushed in 2021 already and Wonder Woman 1984 has a moment to shine all on its own on Christmas and the weeks after.

Most of us who voted for Biden/Harris are still stressed out by the post-election crap in delaying the Biden transition. So a superhero, a Goddess superhero is what we all need to distract us from the madness! I will happily watch Wonder Woman, starring Gal Godot, Chris Pine, the sexy Mandalorian Pablo Pascal, and Kristen Wiig, on Christmas day while eating Chinese or Thai. I graduated from high school in 1984 so I'm very excited to be taken back into the best decade of my life, the 80s. Thanks, Warner Brothers!