BAO – DISTURBING SHORT IN FRONT OF THE INCREDIBLES 2 YOU MAY WANT TO MISS

 

Bao

There is a strange little short at the beginning of The Incredibles 2 called Bao (meat or vegetable filled dumpling) about a dumpling which comes to life for a lonely woman, so is spared from being eaten, until it grows to an age where he wants to leave home and marry, at which point the mom EATS the dumpling! The movie has nothing to do with The Incredibles 2 plot, except perhaps as a counterpoint DYSFUNCTIONAL family dynamic, making the strong family of Incredibles look even better. This is some fairly disturbing imagery, softened very little by the revelation that the "dumpling" is merely a reflection of her real life son, an only child, who left his parents to marry. While there is reconciliation with said son in the end, brought about by his understanding father, and acceptance of the non-Asian wife as she learns dumpling making from her mother-in-law, I could not get the unsettling imagery out of my head of the mother willingly eating her child rather than allow him to mature and leave home. This is a short you may want to either get in late enough to avoid or prepare to discuss with your kids later.

For anyone interested in what Domee Shi, the young lady writer-director of Bao has to say about her film, please click : Bao Director Interview.

INCREDIBLES 2 – AND NOW YOU KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY

SHORT TAKE:

The second act of a two part story which began as The Incredibles in 2004. No more, no less as delightful, fulfilling, family friendly, exciting and fun as the first half.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Absolutely everyone! ESPECIALLY if you are a fan of the first installment. (Though I can not say the same about the short in the beginning, Bao, which has nothing to do with the main movie and which you might want to give a miss. I explain why in a spoiler-filled overview of Bao at the end of this The Incredibles 2 review.) Incredibles 2 VERY child friendly, (Bao not so much).

LONG TAKE: 

"And now you know the rest of the story."

Paul Harvey was a radio personality who used to tell stories on air about little known facts or anecdotes, leaving some key element out until the end – like one about a war hero who turned out to be Lee Marvin, why the passengers on the Titanic didn't have to die, what really happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – that kind of thing. So as I watched the beginning of The Incredibles 2 pick up IMMEDIATELY as Incredibles (1) had ended, that tag line came to mind.

If you have not seen Incredibles 2 yet please do not read any further. I don't want anything I have to say influence your fresh impression of the movie. It's bad enough trailers give away too much nowadays. I do not want to compound that affront for anyone who has not yet enjoyed the sequel to the original Incredibles. For those of you who HAVE seen I2, READ ON!

SPOILERS – REALLY SERIOUSLY – DON'T READ ANY MORE UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE!!

Okay for those of you who have already seen the movie I have a confession to make. I was just a little bit disappointed, but really it was my own fault. Please do not get me wrong – I LOVED The Incredibles 2. It's a terrific movie. But let me give you some examples – for those of us living in the south do you remember the first time you ever saw snow? The experience of seeing it again can never match up to the anticipation you have built up from your original encounter with the frozen fluffy stuff.

OR – When you're a kid, no matter how amazing Christmas is, there is always a little teensy part of you that is just a little bit disappointed that it's not as amazing as you expected it to be. Build up and eager high hopes can do that to you. FOURTEEN YEARS worth of anticipation cannot help but handicap the real item when it finally comes along. And, yes folks, it has been 14 years since writer/director Brad Bird hatched the first Incredibles and introduced us to the Parr family of superheroes.

All our favorite characters are back!! And despite the time passage, all the voices are the same: Holly Hunter with her growly, lispish, Texas-twanged Helen, Craig T. Nelson, the occasionally bombastic Bob, Samuel L Jackson, the smooth crooning voice of Lucius, Sarah Vowell returns as Violet whose vocal mannerisms echo an individual variation on her mom. Jonathan Banks returns as Rick Dickers, the exhausted, put-upon government agent assigned to help hide the existence and whereabouts of the Supers. And Brad Bird, the director, writer and father figure to the entire Incredibles Universe returns to voice my all time favorite character – Edna Mode, the adorably abrasive, diminutive costume designer to the Supers, whose own super powers are: mega-confidence, an almost mystical calm, extraordinary talent, and a forcefully maternal, protective, preternatural insightfulness into the Supers themselves. She was conceived by Bird as the solution to the eternal question: since when do super powers automatically make you a gifted tailor? Where DO those awesome suits COME from?! AND contrary to popular opinion, according to Bird, himself, he did not create the inimitable "E" from any one or combination of real life designers – at least not consciously. She is simply a mismash of the cultures of Japan and Germany – two, he thought, countries who were very small in relation to their cultural impact – much like Edna herself. Therefore, her house decor is a combo of Japanese and German, as is the clothes she herself wears, her odd accent, and even her personality – swinging wildly from imperturbability to wildly forceful and persuasive as the occasion demands.

Unfortunately, Spencer Fox’ Dash’ boisterous reflection of his Dad’s commanding vocals had to be replaced with the younger Huck Milner, but you will not notice the difference. Fox is the only one to be replaced. According to interviews and articles the decision seems to have been arrived at from a combination of Fox’ puberty, (like in the lyrics of "Puff the Magic Dragon" warns: "A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys"),  Fox’ committments with his punk band Charley Bliss, and a certain nostalgic ennui Fox had for the entire project – that it was something great he did in his childhood to which he didn’t really want to revisit.

AND NOW FOR SOME SERIOUS SPOILERS – THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING.

First off, calling it a sequel really isn’t accurate. Incredibles 2 is actually a continuation of the first movie. Literally. We pick up in the first moment of Incredibles 2 after the last second of The Incredibles (1). The Underminer has arrived and the family Parr (the word "par" meaning average) becomes the family of Incredibles. (Anyone notice the name significance before this? Very clever underscoring by Bird, I thought.) They go into action as a group and avert a massive casualty list of people but rack up a lot of collateral property damage in stopping the mammoth runaway drill.

Once again they are unjustly blamed and sent off in disgrace, reinforcing to the public, through the willing accomplices in the media, why Supers were banned to begin with.

Helen is summoned by a Super-Hero-loving industrial magnate, Winston Deavor, (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn Deavor "Evil Endeavor" – geddit? (Catherine Keener) to be the face the Supers need to become accepted again. For any of you who have seen the trailer, the movie plot largely revolves around Bob adjusting to a Mr. Mom status while Helen goes off to be the poster child for Super Heroes. And the fish-out-of-water aspect to the movie is wonderful – fun, touching and eminently relatable to any parent ever. Bob trades fighting collassus killing machines, saving people from building fires, and wrestling with super villains for math homework, meals and a metapowered baby – oh yeah and exhaustion:

It is the genius of Brad Bird that he creates a reflection of a modern family and places it into a Super Hero framework.  The Parrs/Incredibles is a fairly young family – mom, dad, children. The kids cover the spectrum too – early teen, adolescent and infant. One of the things, I believe, which made The Incredibles such a universally loved movie was that people intuited the metaphor. In an interview with Bird prior to the release of the sequel, Bird makes this clear. Bob, the father, is given incredible strength, as a father must have in one way or another: physically, mentally, and morally, to the best of his ability, he must stand strong in the eyes of those he has sworn to protect. Helen, the mom, stretches in impossible ways, much like your average mother who must be psychologist, chauffeur, chef, teacher, and judge, all while carrying a baby on her hip and breast feeding. Dash, the adolescent, has just GOTTA MOVE, so is super fast! Violet suffers the normal angst teens go through – is standoffish and sometimes wants to disappear, so has the powers of invisibility and force fields. Jack Jack is an unknown but delightful baby – which pretty much fits the description of every infant.

Everyone who has ever been in a family, which is, of course, everyone, can relate to one or more of each of these characters. And every family has challenges and threats which come at them, against which they are best advised to confront together. 

In what is really only the first half of a 3 hour movie, in the 2004 installment of The Incredibles, Bob comes to understand he has allowed his desire for the limelight to overpower the real center stage he should be occupying – that of Super Hero in his own home. The kids learn their parents really are the heroes in their lives and step up to the plate to emulate and obey their parents. Together they learn this lesson in spades and the family is triumphant.

The second half of the movie – aka Incredibles 2 – puts this newfound unity, affection and understanding immediately to the test. A familiar tune, as there is not a day goes by that the family in general is not under attack.

It is (if you’ll excuse the pun) INCREDIBLY refreshing to have a movie where the Dad is and wants to be the man of the house, but is still confident enough as the leader to step aside, when that is the right thing to do. That he will do the right and manful thing for his family, EVEN IF, as in this unusual situation, he must temporarily suppress his own natural, and very powerful, normal desires and instincts to protect and provide for his family, to allow someone else to take point. The wife is a considerate partner, without either being submissive or dominating – conferring with her husband on important issues, but being wise enough to leave the final decision up to her husband, knowing and trusting his judgement. The husband is wise enough to put his own needs, wants and desires aside for the good of the Supers in general, sure, but primarily for his own family and his own children. The parents' first thoughts are for their children – even if it means leaving their own comfort zones, or putting aside their own goals and wants.

In other words, the Incredibles  have their priorities straight!! And their nom de plume – Parr, the average – points out that this is and should be the structure of every successful family. That every family should aim for this healthy functional dynamic. And that is a wonderful thing to see.

I do have a few quibbles with the plot. This is not meant to be a negative but a hope that the next movie will be even better. They may be smnall quibbles, but they did have 14 LOOOONG years to think of a script and it seems some of these things could have and should have been worked out:

1. The first one dates back to the first installment – Jack Jack got away from Syndrome because he expressed some heavy duty powers: turned into a monster, caught fire, became metal – but at the end of the first movie no one knows he has powers. And in the beginning of the second movie Bob is shocked that Jack Jack has powers when he starts to display them and Helen later makes it clear she didn’t know either. NONE of them saw any of what Jack Jack did to Syndrome? Granted it was a traumatic moment and they were pretty high up in the sky but the Parr family is used to crises and they have super powers!

2. Their living arrangements. Their house is destroyed by Syndrome’s crashing plane. At the end of the first movie some time seems to have gone by. Violet makes headway with Tony – gets noticeed, he asks her out on a date; Dash has accepted he must restrain his abilities and the family has developed a certain code with him about holding back at events like track meets; there seems to have been some time to adjust, become comfortable with their new found unity and must be living somewhere. But when we see them in the beginning of the second movie they are still living in a second rate government sponsored hotel.

3. The Parrs, at the beginning of Incredibles 2 are broke and unemployed. Bob can’t get a job as a security guard? Bank teller? Dock Worker? Secret service??!! They’ve already run through the insurance money for their house? And don’t tell me Bob wouldn’t have had insurance to cover the unlikely eventuality of a plane falling on his house. He WORKED for an insurance company.

4. The no-show Supers were never addressed. Why did Gazorbeam and Dynaguy not answer the Deavors' phone when they were under attack? Were they already dead at Syndrome's hands? The parent Deavors were elderly and the siblings only barely seem to have had time to adjust to running the company, so maybe a year or two? So the timing would be about right. If so, why did no one explain that to Evelyn? The Supers who did not come to their parents aid were likely DEAD, and ironically, at the hands of Syndrome, someone who, like Evelyn, wanted to de-power the Supers for their own selfish, shortsighted reasons.

5. I find it odd that none of the Super Heroes questioned the motives of yet another mega-rich entity interested in hiring them. Wasn't the last movie about exactly that? Granted it turned out Winston was the real deal, but aside from Lucius assuring them  Winston was on the up and up after a single interview, no doubts are shared or intentions dissected by any of a group who should have been extremely sensitive to this scenario, coming so close on the heels of a very similar one from which they just finished extracting themselves.

More of an observation than a critique, this is also kind of a dark movie – more so than the first. Whether you like it or not, and I did like it, there is an element of reality infused into this "kids’" movie. People do die. Ethical and legal debates are had around the Parr dinner table. And there are complex cultural issues to wrestle with, along with physically fighting bad guys. Much like the Sokovia Accords in The Avengers Universe, the ban on Supers smacks of an unjust legalese stemming from an urge to place blame on the easy marks of Super Heroes instead of the real villains. It is easier to rein in people who willingly abide by and enforce the law than it is the criminals who break them.The issue of breaking a law in civil disobedience and leaving her family to save it, are ironies which are discussed and will be of interest to the adults in the audience, but will go over the heads of most of the youngsters. Bird, himself, said in an interview that he eschews the term "kid" movie but simply makes animated films he would enjoy seeing. His is obviously a winning prescription, but it makes for a movie which might lose the attention of younger viewers in places.

Which talk of Sokovia Accords and the ban of Supers brings me to the REAL villain of the Incredibles. It’s not really Screenslayer or even Evelyn. It’s the media.

In the aftermath of the Underminer escapade, which bridges the two movies, the visual presence of the Parr family as Incredibles in the mountain of rubble is not portrayed as heroes mitigating and managing a catastrophe for minimal damage, but as the cause of the mess. Sadly, these talking heads, the REAL villains of BOTH movies, are the same media who defined Mr. Incredible in the 2004 movie not as a rescuer, but as someone who ruined a disturbed man’s attempted suicide. This is a typical example of how news bias and "fake news" reports are fashioned – a classic example of what happens in the real world – to give their audience, not news, but their own prejudiced view. These real evildoers are never showcased as such. That might have been an interesting aspect to pursue, especially as it ties in with the bad rap the heroes in The Avengers got in Captain America: Civil War from the misguided and grossly civil-rights-violating Sokovia Accords. But while we see the "news" people at work, either blankly vapid or ginning up anger towards the Supers (without the excuse of being hypnotised), no serious criticism is ever laid at their feet where that blame belongs.

In an interesting note, the actors who voice the main characters – Holly Hunter, Craig T Nelson, and Samuel L Jackson, are given a small intro at the beginning of the movie, mentioning how grateful they are for the patience of the audience over the past 14 years and how glad they are to be working together again as this family of Supers. Fourteen years is not a small span of time and both Ms. Hunter and Mr. Nelson are not exceptions to reflect this span of a half – generation of years between movies. I only mention this because, strangely, Samuel L. Jackson does not look a DAY older than when he did in the year the first Incredibles came out.  He’s in many super hero universes as well: The Avengers and Agents of Shield as Nick Fury, Mr. Glass in Shymalon's alternate super universe, and here as Frozone, as well as super, almost indestructible characters in movies like The Hitman’s Bodyguard. And the actor, much like most super heroes — never…. seems…..to age. Hmmmm. Is there something you’re not telling us avid super hero fans Mr Jackson? LOL

In conclusion on The Incredibles 2 – I just want to say PLEASE DO NOT WAIT ANOTHER 14 YEARS TO DO A FOLLOW UP FILM!!! We want to know more of — the rest of the story.

Bao

Finally, just as a side note, there is a strange little short at the beginning of The Incredibles 2 called Bao (meat or vegetable filled dumpling) about a dumpling which comes to life for a lonely woman, so is spared from being eaten, until it grows to an age where he wants to leave home and marry, at which point the mom EATS the dumpling! The movie has nothing to do with The Incredibles 2 plot, except perhaps as a counterpoint DYSFUNCTIONAL family dynamic, making the strong family of Incredibles look even better. This is some fairly disturbing imagery, softened very little by the revelation that the "dumpling" is merely a reflection of her real life son, an only child, who left his parents to marry. While there is reconciliation with said son in the end, brought about by his understanding father, and acceptance of the non-Asian wife as she learns dumpling making from her mother-in-law, I could not get the unsettling imagery out of my head of the mother willingly eating her child rather than allow him to mature and leave home. This is a short you may want to either get in late enough to avoid or prepare to discuss with your kids later.

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO – COMPLETELY FAMILY FRIENDLY ANIMATED HISTORICALLY ACCURATE DELIGHT ABOUT A FOUR LEGGED WORLD WAR I SOLDIER

SHORT TAKE:

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is a wonderful animated history of American Sgt. Stubby, a small mixed pitbull, the only dog to achieve rank and combat advancement, who followed his master’s Yankee Division regiment into the desperately dangerous front line trenches of World War I France.

WHO CAN GO:

With rare unequivocalness, I can recommend this movie for EVERYONE of any age.

LONG TAKE:

Years ago my brother, Bill, and I watched Lethal Weapon 2 on TV. There was a scene where Gibson as Martin Riggs, his dog Sam and Riggs' girlfriend du jour were under attack – helicopters, guns, lots of shooting. Bill turned to me and knowing what my primary concern would be said, "Don’t worry the dog survives." So rest assured to any parents concerned about bringing their small children to a movie about a cute dog on the front lines in World War I trenches, I have no compunction about a spoiler to let you know Sgt. Stubby is VERY child friendly.

Directed by Richard Lanni, in his first non-documentary feature film, and written by Lanni and Mike Stokey, the latter a combat vet and experienced film consultant on everything military, Sgt. Stubby is a mostly historically accurate telling of a stray miniature pit bull mix who attached himself to the 102nd Infantry Regiment Yankee Division, especially one Private Robert Conroy. Conroy is voiced by Logan Lerman, known for Fury, the Percy Jackson movies, 2011's steam-punk version of The Three Musketeers, and the most recent (and vastly underappreciated) Noah. (As a side note see Word on Fire’s Bishop Barron’s review of Noah before coming down too hard on Noah.)

In a delightful surprising supporting role, the amazing French actor, Gerard Depardieu brings Gaston Baptiste to life. Depardieu, with over 233 credits to his name is, to my mind, of note for the best Cyrano de Bergerac (short of the updated romantic comedy by Steve Martin, Roxanne), the funniest Porthos from 1998's Man in the Iron Mask, and the almost unique appearance of the character Reynaldo in Branagh’s unabridged Hamlet. Depardieu, leading man in both French and American movies, accomplished winemaker and restauranteur, has appeared mostly in historical dramas and romantic comedies. Baptiste, drawn to loosely look like Mr. Depardieu, is a large gentle giant of a veteran Frenchman who, in his civilian life, is a chef and takes Conroy, Stubby and Conroy’s closest human friends under his wing to help them survive in the trenches.

Stubby became the mascot of the Yankee Division, wandering onto the grounds of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where the troops were training. Stubby ended up going with the men to the front lines in France for 18 months – in the trenches, raising morale, chasing out vermin, locating the injured, alerting the men to incoming bombs and impending gas clouds, and warning of approaching Germans. He was the most decorated dog in World War I and the only dog to ever achieve rank and then a combat promotion which he won for heroics during battle, including receiving a war wound.

Sgt Stubby is told through the medium of letters written home to Conroy’s sister Margaret, voiced by Helen Bonham Carter. Carter is best known for her scary roles including Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter franchise, the Red Queen in 2010's Alice in Wonderland, and Madam Thenardier from Les Mis. She is not quite as well known for some truly lovely and far gentler roles, such as the devoted wife of George VI in The King’s Speech. Her narration as Margaret in Sgt. Stubby ranks with her performance as Queen Elizabeth.

Sgt. Stubby reminded me of the old Disney and Warner Brothers animated shorts made during World War II promoting patriotism, explaining rationing, and cautioning against "loose lips". It was delightful to see that kind of straight forward common sense view of America and her allies against a common enemy AND with all the benefits of beautiful modern animation, all structured by the genuinely amazing events of this little dog.

From what I have read there were SOME historical liberties taken – for example Stubby does not manage to get onto the ship alone through sheer will and determination to find his master, but was smuggled onto the ship by Conroy. However, MOST of the other notable adventures really occurred – of which I hesitate to mention for fear of spoilers and ruining some surprises.

This is a VERY VERY child friendly movie. Even the battle injuries sustained by the soldiers are "shown" through mild reactions of other soldiers, or occur off screen or simply are just not shown but spoken of as one might during a stage play without actually showing any blood or wound. My two year old grandson, who ADORES dogs and is especially fond of our American Staffordshire mix, was not upset by any of the proceedings. During suspenseful moments he occasionally spoke a word of encouragement to Stubby but was otherwise transfixed. Two ten year old little girls who came with us and all the moms found the movie equally enjoyable. My ten year old "co-reviewers" both gave Stubby a definite "two thumbs up".

One of the other moms noted to me that, not only was Stubby a good and wholesomely entertaining movie, but it was genuinely educational. Maps of France, the trenches, the battle front lines, the advances and retreats were clearly drawn and animated, making it quite easy to follow the progress of the war. Details of uniforms and weaponry, the barbed wire, insignia on the bombs, movement of weaponry and conditions of the trenches seemed to be very carefully considered.

So I’d say – bring your dog obsessed two year old, bring grandma whose grandfather might have fought at Chemin des Dames, bring your older teen majoring in history at college, bring a girl on a first date, bring your friends to watch a feel good patriotic movie about the true exploits of brave American and French soldiers – both two and four footed, who fought selflessly to protect their countries and each other.

OSCAR WINNER 2018 CEREMONY – AN ANALYSIS – WE GOT THEM ALL RIGHT!!!!

Now that the Oscars have come and gone I thought I'd made some observations. First off, if you listened to the Lake Charles' Best Sport Show culture segment on Sunday morning starting at 8:15 am CST, you would have heard Matt, Chad, Corey and my predictions, which were, if I say so myself – pretty good.

WE PICKED ALL THE RIGHT WINNERS! Unfortunately, the Academy didn't always agree with us.

Keeping in mind that we limited our picks to the nominees chosen by the Academy, we hereby present the REEL…I mean REAL…wait maybe I DO mean REEL…winners of the awards given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, more familiarly known as Oscar since the 1930's when the Academy librarian mentioned she thought it looked like her Uncle Oscar.

In no particular order:

BEST ACTOR

Let's start with a nominee on which we all unanimously concurred. Gary Oldman's breathtaking performance as Churchill in Darkest Hour was a well nigh impossible hurdle for any other actor to overcome. In a role that obviously brought a lifetime of skill and experience to bear, Oldman WAS Winston Churchill for 2 hours and 5 minutes. For more details on this stunning performance in this great film click here – Darkest Hour

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Next up, Sam Rockwell handily shone above all the other contenders INCLUDING his co-star Woody Harrelson who, had Rockwell not been so amazing, I think would have won. Rockwell's portrayal of the massively flawed but redeemable deputy Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri earned this golden statue. Click on the name for my review. (As a side note I remember the first time I ever saw Rockwell. His performance in Galaxy Quest – the Star Trek homage/spoof/love letter was quite memorable. In what instantly became one of my all time favorite movies, he was arguably the most adorably goofy character in a tremendous ensemble of gifted actors including Sigourney Weaver, the late Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub and Tim Allen.)

BEST ACTRESS

 In another example of where the Academy occasionally gets it right, the brilliantly talented Frances McDormand picked up her second best actress Oscar. The first was for the charming, very pregnant and easily underestimateable Sheriff Marge in the weirdly quirky crime comedy-drama Fargo at the 1997 ceremony. This one was for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This round she is the desperately grieving mother of a murdered daughter who takes her frustration over the lack of progress out on the local constabulary, who are just as anxious to get results as she is. It is a case of two groups separated by a common goal who come to loggerheads because they can not find the real culprit. But interestingly, that is not what the movie is about. For more information on this complex and moving film see my review on Three Billboards subtitled: The Main Character is Not Who You Expect

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Here is where the Academy started to get it wrong. They picked Alison Janney for I, Tonya. A solid performance, certainly, in a dramedy/documentary about the life and scandal surrounding Tonya Harding and her complicity in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan just before the 1994 Olympics. While meaning no disrespect to Ms. Janney, as often actors are limited, obviously, by the roles they inhabit, Janney's character as Tonya Harding's mother was a monotone. Mrs. Harding was portrayed as a manipulative, abusive, emotionally calloused mother. She was not allowed, due to the nature of the script and person she was playing, to use much off the pallette of colors from those she was given. The result was almost a caricature of a person. Ms. Janney performed Mrs. Harding well, but it was by no means as challenging a part to play as the one tackled by Laurie Metcalf in Ladybird.

Laurie Metcalf's Marion is the mother of a rebellious, hormonal teenager struggling with her transition from child to woman. Marion actually has some traits in common with the notorious Mrs. Harding. Marion is distant and harsh at times, but despite her personal difficulties and conflicts with her daughter, manages to convey motherly purpose, love and conviction into a character that would have been unpleasant and unsympathetic in other hands. Metcalf's role was a very tricky hand to play. Too much and she would have been off putting, less and she would have seemed incapable as a mother. As it was Metcalf walked that fine ine between a flawed unpleasant character and a character with whom you feel empathy.

I have HAD the conversations Marion had with her daughter, Lady Bird – both as a daughter AND as the mother of a daughter, and I can tell you her portrayal was spot on.

For more on Ladybird see my review at: Lady Bird: To Anyone Who Knows a Teenaged Girl

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

There is no other way to describe the Academy's pick for best adapted screenplay as anything other than offensive and morally repugnant. Call me by Your Name was nothing but an attempt to lionize and romanticize pedophilia. Frankly, the author and everyone involved in the making of this movie should not have been awarded anything but jail sentences.

To be fair to the other nominees, I have to say I did not see any of them – mostly because I missed opportunities to do so and plan to catch up later. So, in this case, I deferred to my son who had at least seen Logan. He reported that Logan was an extremely good adaptation of the comic book series, exploring multi-dimensional character exposition while following the complex storyline set down by the original authors. If it later turns out one of the remaining three viable candidates did a better job, at least we can say that Logan deserved its place in the list of nominees.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I saw all five of the nominees and I can safely say that not only is Get Out the best original screenplay – in that it was not based upon any pre-existing source material – but that it was – literally – one of the most original screenplays I have ever seen and certainly the most original of the nominees which included Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Big Sick, all of which were excellent. While in good company, Get Out still outshone them all in its innovative and creative story ideas, theme, plot and execution.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The Academy chose, Coco, what I thought was second best. They certainly chose the best CHILD'S animated feature film, but that is not what the category is. The category is for best animated feature film. I do not understand how they could compare Coco, which is what can only be described as a cute Halloween-like movie about a child searching for his grandfather among the dead, to the genuinely unique, classically and masterfully conjured  tour de force that is Loving Vincent.

Loving Vincent follows Armand, an ersatz and initially reluctant detective, who pursues the stories surrounding the death of Vincent Van Gogh. The entire film is animated using paintings made by hundreds of talented artists in the style of Vincent Van Gogh himself. The entire film is animated the way Vincent might have seen the proceedings. As satisfactory as Coco was, choosing it over Loving Vincent would be a bit like picking a cel from a Bugs Bunny cartoon over Starry Night. For more details on this daringly imaginative labor of love and brilliant masterpiece of animation, including links to where to obtain a copy, please see my review at – Loving Vincent – an Animated Biography.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

At least the Academy got this right. Dear Basketball is a lovely inspirational animated film based on the poem Kobe Bryant wrote about his love of the sport, commemorating his retirement and presented at the ceremony honoring him for his lifetime achievements.

BEST PICTURE

The only positive thing I can say about the Academy's ill-considered choice of The Shape of Water as best picture is that at least they didn't pick the movie about the pedophile. Please read my review of this misbegotten movie at: Shape of Water – Offensive on so Many Levels.

There were many excellent choices to be had but hands down my pick would have been Darkest HourDarkest Hour features one of the best performances anywhere by anyone. Darkest Hour also is a detailed and fascinating account of a moment in time shaped by courageous men, great and small, who changed the course of history almost solely by their foresight, heroism, stalwart determination to stand up to the face of evil and refusal to buckle under the massive pressure of others' cowardice. Simultaneously, the movie openly presents the foibles, and occasionally almost whimsical personality of one of the most powerful men in history – Winston Churchill, humanizing him in ways that make it easy to believe we can all aspire to greatness in our own way, if we are but willing to self-sacrifice for honor and the protection of others.

I just do not see how they could reject such a magnificent film as Darkest Hour in favor of a movie which examines a woman's selfish and disturbing descent into bestiality.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  I deferred on this category to my husband who is a gifted amateur photographer. After examining the work done in all of the nominated films he thought Dunkirk should have squeaked past Blade Runner 2049, though he admitted that Blade Runner 2049 demonstrated exceptionally good craftsmanship in that art. So I am pretty content with the Academy's choice of Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049 here.

COSTUME DESIGN

I know just about nothing concerning fashion and whether or not a particular costume was brilliantly recreated, difficult to construct or pulled off of a rack at Walmart. Therefore, I figure it is safe to assume that Mark Bridges' acquisition of that award for his work in Phantom Thread ABOUT a fashion designer is a pretty good bet. besides, the dresses are really pretty. LOL

BEST DIRECTOR

My objections to The Shape of Water are the same as those given above for Best Picture only more so as the director of a film is the captain of the ship and therefore the court of last resort and where the buck stops for the disaster or masterpiece which is created.

To my thinking, even had The Shape of Water not contained such offensive elements, Jordan Peele deserved the best director Oscar far more for Get Out. Jordan Peele both wrote and directed this fable exposing the truth behind the smug and smarmy smiles of wealthy elitist white liberals towards minorities whose lives they carelessly use like so much marketplace clutter.

Mr. Peele's use of sound and cinematography, fantasy elements and music, editing choices and plot twists all managed to deftly balance across a tightrope between horror and humor, creating a movie the likes of which I have not ever seen. Although there were many creative people involved and he did not singlehandedly make this film Mr Peele was the one who chose amongst an infinite choice of elements available to him to scupt this mesmerizing tale. Again, as the captain of this shiop he deserves the kudos, just as del Toro deserves the disapprobation. Hitchcock, I would be so bold as to guess, would have enjoyed Get Out, so suspenseful and woven throughout with intrigue, misdirection and cleverly laid clues it is. I can not help but wonder if the shoe Mr. Peele constructed of liberal hypocricies fit just a bit too tight for them to be comfortable in conferring the award Mr. Peele so clearly deserved.

FILM EDITING

Another choice where the Academy got it right. Dunkirk was chosen. The filmmakers had the interesting challenge of how to present one story wherein a certain aspect took place over a period of weeks, another essential element took days and a third was only a matter of hours. And I think the editor, Lee Smith, cracked this nut quite effectively and cleverly.

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING

One of the few others that the Academy chose wisely. Although Wonder was brilliant the makeup for Darkest Hour was transformative. Not only Gary Oldman's face but his entire body structure was altered to reproduce the distinctive Churchill physique.

ORIGINAL SCORE

All of the music in all five of the nominees was beautiful and I will not begrudge the fact that The Shape of Water won for what is rightfully a lovely score by Alexandre Desplat, but you think they would have at least thrown a bone to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I mean it IS John Williams!!

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

While "Remember Me" from Coco , the song chosen by the Academy, was kind of cute in a harmless, innocuous, forgettably Disney-ish sort of way, I can't remember how it goes off the top of my head. But "This is Me" by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul from The Greatest Showman should have won.

"This is Me" is the kind of song that will stick with you – not only because it is very catchy and fun to hear and sing, but it is inspirational and uplifting and is something you will want to recall in moments of frustration or challenge or even despair. "This is Me" is an anthem for those who are determined to pick themselves up and start over, who desire nothing more than to be left alone to strive for greatness without the burden of artificial obstacles placed in their way by interfering hypocritical cliquish elitists who think they are better than others because of the privilege to which they were born – oh wait, now I see why the liberal elite in the voting Hollywood establishment didn't want to pick it. Silly me.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

OK I'll give The Shape of Water this one as one it might actually have legitimately won. Although all the nominees created amazing worlds, there is an argument for the dream and water worlds created in Shape of Water. It is just a shame they didn't put these beautiful sets to better purpose than this egregiously misanthropic excuse for extreme selfishness and sexual depravity.

SOUND EDITING and SOUND MIXING

To me these awards were a toss up between Baby Driver and Dunkirk, and Dunkirk won. The challenge of combining dialogue, sound effects and music into a cohesive whole must have posed an especially creative challenge given the surroundings ran the gamut from inside a metal ship run aground to the open sea to being able to reasonably hear over World War II aircraft during a dog fight, sounds one might hear underwater, explosions and the clacking of boots on empty streets. I can applaud and respect this choice.

VISUAL EFFECTS

Lastly, Blade Runner 2049 earned its award for visual effects handily in the world of red lighted dust, dark rain swept vistas and holograph enhanced interactive environments. It's beautiful but stark and intimidating world deserved its win.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

LIVE ACTION SHORT

Sadly I saw none of the nominees for these last four categories.

Let me know in the comments what your favorites were in any or all of the categories. If you like, present a convincing argument and I might post it as all or part of a guest rebuttal.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

FERDINAND – THE BULL IS NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO WAS CONFUSED

SHORT TAKE:

Ferdinand has a poorly thought out plot based upon the charming 1936 kids' book The Story of Ferdinand, of a gentle bull who would rather smell flowers than fight. John Cena does a fine job bringing the main character to life but his charming portrayal is buried under lazy writing, unappealing side characters, and an inconsistent universe.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

Little kids will get a kick out of it but it will quickly fatigue the older siblings and the attending parents who bring them.

LONG TAKE:

Every animated movie works within its own universe. For example in Snow White the animals acted like animals – kind of in tune with the leading lady but behaved much like the furry critters you or I might run into.

In Bambi or Finding Nemo the animals were again confined to animal limitations but the story was seen from their POV so we, the audience, could understand what they were saying and their mental capabilities were anthropomorphized.

Mickey Mouse, however, was an entirely different perspective. He stands up straight, wears clothes, speaks and actually has a pet. He and his friends are, basically, humans who look like animals. They drive cars, have opposable digits, live in human styled homes and speak the Queen's English.

Bugs Bunny is, again, another species. These guys are animals – they are hunted and it would not be considered murder – by Elmer Fudd (that is if he could ever catch the loveably infamous bunny). Bugs lives in a hole in the ground which he has dug, though it has rugs and chairs. Bugs not only speaks and walks on his back legs, wears clothes when the occasion demands it – though he usually sports only his "natural" fur – but he outsmarts every human that appears on the scene, plays a ukulele, makes snarky comments, coins witticisms and can do things nothing on Earth can. He can tunnel through the Earth at breathtaking speed, and survive falls and impacts which in a more realistically created world no living creature would survive. His movements can be unnaturally fast when the need arises at a speed Superman would admire – changing clothes, moving from one place to another, conjuring any number of Acme items to fit the needs of the moment – in seconds. In short, come to think of it – Bugs is not just ANTHROPOmorphized. Bugs is SUPERANTHROPOmorphized. In other words, Bugs is a creature not just given HUMAN attributes but envisioned with SUPERhuman attributes. Bugs is Superman and Harry Potter wrapped up in a fuzzy New York accented bunny rabbit suited con man.

All these worlds are very different from each other. And aside from the outliers, like Pluto in the Disney world – who acts like a regular normal, though unusually intelligent, dog, despite the fact Goofy is also a dog but anthropomorphized – these worlds generally do not merge.

I am a science fiction fan and am willing to accept all manner of outrageous premises…….IF the creators stay within the confines of the Universe they have created.

The problem with Ferdinand is that the writers couldn't decide on the parameters. It was the same problem had with The Secret Life of Pets. In both cases animals were established as normal creatures living with humans. They were assigned the normal limitations of animals supplemented by the extravagant definitions allotted through serendipitous and impossibly well timed environmental factors. They could, for example, blithely depend on perfect balance and the timely arrival of things such as clotheslines and moving girders to keep them aloft if they chose to scale down several stories of a building but they had trouble opening human doors without opposable digits, etc. BUT when Max, a terrier gets lost they come across a gangster bunny who can carve fully functional keys out of a carrot by chewing on them AND turn the key in the lock and other creatures can drive cars – completely outside the parameters of the universe they established. Finding Dory made the same mistake- by stepping outside of the rules of its universe.

And so it its with Ferdinand. Bulls and dogs and goats and hedgehogs act more or less according to their natural limits, and although we can understand them humans can not…that is until the writers paint themselves into a corner. Then suddenly critters can drive, convincingly do the hula in front of humans, and do a creative coordinated dance off including breakdancing with horses. One minute Ferdinand can not roll across a yard in imitation of a hedgehog, the next he is Moonwalking. This makes no sense.

In addition, the side characters, who in other movies so often steal the show, are off putting. The competitive German prancing horses next door act like an effeminate Nazi with his two fawning groupies. They gratuitously insult the bulls without context, purpose or wit. The goat, Lupe (Kate McKinnon), I assume is supposed to be their version of a "Dory" character – clueless but well meaning. Instead she is disgusting, creepy looking, annoying and unappealing. She drools, eats things then throws them up, attracts flies, sports two eyes that make her appear dead, has two protruding bottom teeth, and says offensive, occasionally inappropriate things.

The character of Ferdinand himself as voiced by John Cena is charming. I would love to see a sequel with this character but only with a far better script and almost none of the side characters. I did like Angus but am biased because he is voiced by my favorite Dr. Who persona – David Tennant – in full Scottish brogue.

And for all you sports fans Peyton Manning does the voice of Guapo.

In addition, the story leaves practical holes not really filled.

SPOILERS

Once Ferdinand escapes the bullring and his friends go to his home farm: HOW could a simple flower vendor feed all those enormous animals? Wouldn't the departure of his entire stock bankrupt the bull trainer? Even if Ferdinand used reward money (which we are never shown he gets so we're really spitballing here) for "defeating" the matador won't the bull trainer simply buy more bulls with it who will be doomed to the same fate Ferdinand and his friends escaped?

I know it's only a kid movie but those hanging points could have been EASILY dealt with even if only in credit sketches: the flower vendor hiring the bulls out to plow. The bull trainer turning his business into a petting zoo. I know it's just a kids' story but these loose threads were a distraction. The writers should have done SOMEthing to bring closure to this story.

In short – there's nothing really WRONG with Ferdinand. But there's not much really right with it either. Go read the book instead.