Oscar Buzz – The App

If I had the opportunity to create an app, I would name it “Oscar Buzz”, related to the title of this blog. My app would be for movie lovers who want to keep track of the year’s most recognized films. Every big film of the year will be present along with information on the film, cast and creators. Users will also be able to look at lists of past years big films and the awards they were nominated and/or won for. After scrolling through endless movies, users can save those they’re most interested in to the “My List” tab. As someone who has had a constantly updated “movie bucket list” in their notes app for years, this app sounds like a much more organized system. 

The first of five tabs is the “Home” page. The main page will be introducing the purpose of the app and describing each of the different tabs –  “News”, “Oscar Buzz”, “More Movie” and “My List”.

Home page of the “Oscar Buzz” app

The “News” tab is where users can find all of Hollywood’s latest movie updates. Users can find information on new casting, what films are in production, what directors are connected to what films, award nominations lists and award predictions. This will keep movie lovers constantly informed about upcoming films or what their favorite actors, directors or screenwriters are doing next. 

News page of the “Oscar Buzz” app

The “Oscar Buzz” tab is where all of the current year’s biggest films are presented. Each of the films will be clickable, so the users can see extra information on it. This extra information will include plot, trailer, reviews, cast and crew and film nominations. This list will also consist of movies that had been in talks of being nominated for an Academy Award, not just the ones that made the cut. The Academy always recognizes some amazing films, but there have also been some that were snubbed and deserved just as much attention and appreciation.

Oscar Buzz page of the “Oscar Buzz” app

The next tab is the “More Movies” tab. Growing up, I would watch the Oscars, not knowing half of the movies being talked about. Now that I’m older and my appreciation for movies has only grown, I want to see all the great movies I missed out on when I was too young to fully comprehend or know about. The “More Movies” tab will list all the past years biggest films. The list will start with the Best Film nominees and continue through the rest of the Academy Award categories for the selected year.

The final tab is the “My List” tab. This is where the user can find the full list of movies that most intrigued them and the favorited while looking through the app. This will help them keep track of what to watch next. 

I think this app would helpful for those who love film and don’t want to miss out on the best ones or for those who don’t know much about film and need a simple introduction to it. This could also be an interesting app for those who like looking at more of the behind the scenes aspects of certain films. The information pages will also be providing information on the inspiration for the movie or certain scenes and what it took to create them. I believe this can be an informative and useful app for film connoisseurs. 

Nomadland

Nomadland Movie Poster / The Movie Waffler

Director: Chloé Zhao

Screenwriter: Chloé Zhao

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Stratham, Linda May, Bob Wells, and Charlene Swankie

Nomadland takes the audience an honest and haunting view of the daily lives of modern day nomads. A nomad is someone who doesn’t have a set address and moves from place to place often, usually living in their mode of transportation. After Fern, played by Frances McDormand, lost her husband to cancer and then her job, town and home when her zip code had been discontinued, searching for a feeling of belonging and life again, she packs up her van. This film showcases the real look at living as a nomad in today’s America and the real people within the community. 

The most unique aspect of this film was director, Chloé Zhao’s choice to use real people and real nomads as the cast. A quick glance at the film’s IMDb page and you’ll notice that only the main and supporting characters are real actors. Frances McDormand worked alongside people who have truly lived their lives in this particular way. Throughout the film, we are introduced to different lively people who share they’re real stories from loving on the road and what got them there. The main common denominator in all these stories is a person looking for peace when it was taken away from them. 

Frame of Fern (Frances McDormand) and Dave (David Strathain) from Nomadland / Just Jared

The film’s antagonist, Fern is an easily likable and laid back women. She’s a different type of main character as she’s just an ordinary women who treats people decently. The demeanor she carries throughout the film is one of someone who’s embracing all the good and bad that comes with her lifestyle and truly cherishes the beauty within the people around her and the laborious jobs they work. The audience watches her maintain relationships with other nomads even as they’ve traveled in different directions. With all the people she meets and the bond they share, the film also gives a look at the very lonely part of being a nomad. We watch Fern celebrate her birthday, as she eats soup wearing a paper birthday crown alone in her van. In a similar scene, we watch her celebrate the new year while lighting a sparkler and walking through the lot of other parked nomads chanting “happy new year!” on her own. Although many of these people made the decision to live this way, there’s still such a sad feeling that comes with knowing that the only way they felt they could live a better life was through living alone on the road. 

Frame of Fern (McDormand) in Nomadland / Just Jared

In a year that majority of the country felt loneliness and grief, this film mirrors those emotions and figuring out how to live life in a different way. Nomadland is very special. It highlights the charm of living as a nomad while also showcasing the beauty of humanity and simplicity. In a touching scene, while Fern is talking to Bob Wells, a real nomad, they’re both sharing what brought them to becoming a nomad. They share their tragic stories of loss and how they lost their will to continue living life normally after. Bob tells Fern that he believes being with nature and finding a community will be good for her. He explains how nomads never lose each other, how there’s never a goodbye between them. “There’s no final goodbye…you’ll just say “I’ll see down the road” and I do, I see them again”. At the end of the film, the audience is left with a deeper understanding of a forgotten community in America. The audience begins to understand why Fern chose to find peace and purpose again in an almost pure way of living. The film’s final frame states, “dedicated to those who had to depart”. 

Nomadland is brilliant and is the front runner to win Best Picture at tonight’s Academy Award ceremony. It can be found on Hulu. 

Chloé Zhao directing Frances McDormand during the filming of Nomadland / Just Jared

Oscar Nominations:

Best Picture

Best Actress – Frances McDormand

Best Director – Chloé Zhao

Best Adapted Screenplay – Chloé Zhao

Best Cinematography – Joshua James Richards

Best Film Editing – Chloé Zhao

Soul

Soul Movie Poster / Flickering Myth

Director: Pete Docter 

Screenwriter: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers and Mike Jones

Animoators: Bobby Podesta, Jude Brownbill and MontaQue Ruffin

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnel Rawlings, Questlove and Angela Bassett. 

Soul is Disney and Pixar animated film following middle school band teacher, Joe Gardner who is voiced by Jamie Foxx. Knowing Jamie Foxx was the star of this film already told me it was going to be great. Foxx has been a part of some of the best and my most favorite films, so I anticipated a highly enjoyable movie. The film was also directed by Pete Docter who also directed Pixar animated features Up and Inside Out which are two (in my opinion) of the most heart wrenching, yet warming animated films. And that’s that those films came out when I might have already been too old to be affected by them. Soul brings on similar emotions while also teaching great lessons to its young viewers. Majority of the films I saw growing up had the same, maybe overused message – “follow your dreams”. Not a bad lesson, but one that has been taught too many times. Soul shows a different perspective on that message and shares one that is a bit more realistic and comforting to its audience.

Although Joe works as band teacher, his real dream is to play piano for a jazz band full time. At the beginning of the film, Joe receives a full time position as the middle school band teacher which Joe doesn’t seem too excited for. Joe heads to his mother’s (voiced by Phylicia Rashad) tailoring shop to let her know the news. She is elated. She hasn’t been a fan of Joe working part time in order to pick up piano gigs. She knows this job will be bring steady income which, like most mothers, she wants for her son. As he’s headed out, he receives a call from an old student, Curly, voiced by Questlove, offering Joe a chance to play with Dorothea Williams, voiced by the ethereal Angela Bassett, a famous jazz saxophone player. Of course jumping at the opportunity, he heads to the club, plays for Dorothea and lands the job.  

Frame of Joe Gardner (Foxx) / Indian Express

Just as everything seems to be looking up for Joe, as he’s walking home, too busy being excited about landing the gig and having his life “finally begin”, he falls though a manhole. He wakes up in what we learn to be “the great beyond”. He’s placed on a walkway heading towards “the light”. He begins to understand what’s happening and runs in the opposite direction. This is when he ends up in the “the great before”. It is explained that this is where bodies and souls meet, create their personality, find their spark and then are sent out to the world. Joe being desperate to get back to his life to play his biggest gig yet, he impersonates another person and is paired up with a soul named/numbered 22. It becomes apparent that this is a troubled soul that has no interest in going to Earth and has managed to avoid it all this time. After Joe explains that he’s already alive and needs to get back to earth, Joe and 22 create a plan so Joe can return to his life and 22 can stay in the “great before”.

I love the creative way the film portrays the before and after life as well as how each of us become individuals. For a child’s film that basically kills off the main character, it found a way to have the movie remain light and easy. Pixar, of course also didn’t shy away from witty one liners mostly given by 22, voiced by the hilarious Tina Fey. When Joe is asking why a soul has the voice of a middle aged white women, 22 responds with “I just chose the one that annoys people the most”. Another line I liked happens when several souls are shown to be crushed by a wall that falls down. Joe immediately gets concerned, but then watches the souls just crawl out from under the wall unharmed and 22 explains that “souls can’t be crush here, that’s what life on Earth is for”. 

As Joe and 22 are trying to get to Earth without 22 having their “spark”, they meet up with Moonwind, voiced by Graham Norton, who is still alive on Earth, but is able to astral project to the great before. Moonwind shows Joe the “lost souls” that are stuck in the great before. These are souls that have become too obsessed with a certain idea that they’ve disconnected from life. The souls have become dark and angry and are shown wandering through the great before alone. 

Frame of Joe (Foxx) and 22 (Fey) / Collider

Moonwind helps Joe and 22 get to Earth, but not in the way they planned. Joe is stuck in the body of a cat and 22 in Joe’s body. They then embark in all the regular shenanigans that are in all other Disney or Pixar movies. As 22 is going through her first day on Earth, the audience watches them begin to fall in love with it. We watch them be entranced as they watch a man on the subway sing and play guitar, as they watch the sky and leaves fall from the tree or try pizza for the first time. While Joe is focused on getting back to his body and playing with Dorothea, 22 is learning about the life around him. 

Both Joe and 22 end up back in the great before after 22 tried to run away from Joe, so they could find their purpose, which they have never been able to do before as a soul. When they arrive back in the great beyond, it shows that 22 did find their purpose, but doesn’t know what it is or how. Joe is furious because he thinks the purpose 22 found was Joe’s purpose to play jazz music. He steals 22’s Earth pass and travels back to his body. 22 is shown defeated and retreats back to a hidden place in the great before.

Joe returns to Earth and gets to play with Dorothea’s band. After the gig, he begins to explain to Dorothea that he thought he would feel different and that his life was going to be changed. This scene stood out the most to me when watching the film for the first time. Dorothea tells Joe a story of a fish who tells another fish that he wants to be in the ocean, to where the other fish replies “you’re already in the ocean”. The first fish replies that “this is water, I want to be in the ocean”. She ends the story, walks away and leaves Joe to decode that story on his own. Oh to have Angela Bassett teach me the meaning of life – one can only dream…or just re-watch this scene over and over again.

Frame of Dorothea (Bassett) / Trailer List

Joe returns home, pondering on his life and begins to realize all that he’s missed what’s around him while being busy obsessing over jazz music. He looks back on his students, his parents and the beauty of the world around him. From what I understood about Dorothea’s story is that the fish was too busy trying to reach “the ocean” that he never realized he was already there. 

Joe finds his way back to the great before to help 22. This is where he learns that souls finding their “spark” doesn’t mean they find their purpose. He reflects on how 22 suggested that sky watching or walking could be their purpose, but Joe told them that was just living. That was really the whole point all along. The film shares the message that our lives are not based on what our purpose is, but on just living it and appreciating all it has to offer. Although the target audience of this film is children, I believe that it’s also a great message for young adults to be reminded of. As a 22 year old, I’m constantly questioning what my purpose is and if my life is meaningful at all if I’m not doing great things, but this isn’t the case and I’m glad young children are learning this now instead of as a stressed and confused adult. 

Soul can be streamed on Disney+. 

Soul is an Oscar nominated film. It has been nominated for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score and Best Sound. 

Other Nominations 

Golden Globes:

Best Animated Feature Film

Best Original Score

BAFTA Award:

Best Animated Film

Best Original Score

Best Sound 

The Trial of The Chicago 7

Movie Poster / NetflixCenter

Director: Aaron Sorkin 

Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Danny Flaherty, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance, Ben Shenkman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Frank Langella

The Trial of The Chicago 7 retells the true story of the 1969 trial of originally eight men that were charged for conspiracy to incite a riot during the summer of 1968 at the Democratic National Convention. The defendants consisted of eight men that were democratic anti-war, civil rights activists – Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), John Froines (Danny Flaherty), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) and Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Hayden and Davis were the leaders of the Students for Democratic Society (SDS), Hoffman and Rubin were the leaders of the Youth International Party, also known as the “yippies”, Dellinger lead the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam and Seale was the chairman of the Black Panthers. As you can recognize, each of these men had become representatives for revolution and the radical left. In the beginning of the film, all eight men are referred to as “the all-star team”. It becomes clear that they had been charged because of who they are and not for what they had done.

The final two defendants, Lee and Froines were charged for the purpose of later being acquitted while the rest of the men were sentenced to give the illusion that they were given a fair trial and to ease the upset in liberals. At the beginning of the trial in the film, Froines questions why he and Lee had been charged to where Lee responds “all I know is this is the Academy Awards of protests and it’s just an honor to be nominated”. 

Frame of Abbie Hoffman (Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Strong) / CineMontage

As the trial begins, Hoffman states that it is a “political trial”. He believed that they were being used to make an example out of by the United States and that the defendants needed to make known to the world that they are being silenced by the government, although freedom of speech is within the first amendment. They were charged for breaking a law that was passed as a way to silence black activists and one that no one had ever been charged with. 

Bobby Seale had been charged with conspiracy to incite a riot in Chicago although he was not present for any of the riots and had only been in Chicago for 4 hours that weekend to give a speech. The day before the trial began, Seale’s lawyer fell ill and was in the hospital, so he had no representation and when asked to represent himself, the judge continuously refused. Seale was the only black man of the group and Judge Julius Hoffman’s racism was revealed throughout Seale’s time apart of the trial. After Seale continuously tried to be rewarded his constitutional right to representation and became outspoken on the matter, Judge Hoffman had him gagged and chained to his chair in the middle of an American courtroom. This scene is difficult to watch unfold. What’s most upsetting is that although the film shows Seale in this position for a few moments, in actuality, the real Bobby Seale was gagged and chained for several days throughout the trial. The mistreatment of Bobby Seale later resulted in him being separated from the rest of the group and given his own trial. 

Although these seven men stood for the same values and were on the same side of politics, it is noticeable that they are respectively different. They are described by the US prosecutor as “the radical left in different costumes”. Tom Hayden and Abbie Hoffman could not be more opposite of men. Hayden was clean cut, followed authority and believed in revolution through winning elections, whereas Hoffman became the face for hippies, smoked weed and believed in theatrics and large stunts in order to get people to pay attention and start a cultural revolution. Although, both are established men of the 1960’s revolution.

This is possibly my favorite film from this year. I had known of the revolution that began in the sixties and had heard of Abbie Hoffman and admired what he stood for and how brought attention to the issues he cared about, but I never knew the depth of this trial and what it symbolized in this era. Director and screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin began writing this film in 2007, but continued it after the 2016 election. The Chicago riots took place during the presidential race of Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixion. The country was completely divided at this point. This can be comparable to the division our country is currently under after the Trump vs. Biden Presidential race. Our country has again found itself in a place where revolution is necessary and is being begged for by American. As a 22 year old women, growing up in this political climate, I’ve been called to action and to stand up against the patriarchy. It’s so upsetting that in 2020, we can still relate to events from the 1960’s. This past summer, there was a restart to the Civil Rights Movement and we witnessed peaceful protests once again become less peaceful due to the cruelness of the police. This movie re-inspired me to not give up on change and true justice for all. 

The real Chicago 7 and their lawyers Willam Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass / Chicago Tribune

Sorkin described the film as not a photograph of the trial, but as a painting. Although many events of the film are factual, he wanted the audience to get an idea of who these men were and where they stood in the revolution. There are stand out performances by almost every character. Sacha Baron Cohen played an amazing Abbie Hoffman and was even able to almost perfect the Massachusetts accent although Cohen actually has an English accent. Mark Rylance, who played William Kunstler, the head lawyer of the Chicago 7, fully showcased Kunstler’s dedication and heart to this case. A performance I thoroughly enjoyed throughout the film and that I had hoped received multiple nominations was Jeremy Strong’s portrayal of Jerry Rubin, the second yippie of the group. 

Throughout the film, Rennie Davis, played by Alex Sharp, is seen keeping names of all the soldiers in Vietnam that had died from the start of the trial. When Hayden asks Davis why he’s doing this, he explains that the trial might take attention away from why those men are really there – to end the war. After 5 of the 7 men had been found guilty and waiting their sentencing, Tom Hayden is about to give his closing statement. The Judge tells Hayden that if he decides to make a statement that is brief and non-political, that he will look favorably on his sentencing. Hayden then begins to read the names of 5,000 men that had been killed in Vietnam. This scene makes the viewer want to stand up and cheer just as the rest of the courtroom is doing in the film. Although this scene is not factual, David Dillinger did begin to recite names of fallen soldiers during one of his statements before the Judge forced him to stop. The 5 men are given a retrial which was later denied as they are acquitted of all charges. 

The Trial of The Chicago 7 can be streamed on Netflix.

The film is an Oscar Nominee for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor to Sacha Baron Cohen. 

Other Nominations-

Golden Globes:

Best Screenplay

Best Motion

Best Director

Best Supporting Actor – Sacha Baron Cohen

Critics’ Choice Awards:

Best Picture

Best Director

Best Original Screenplay

Best Supporting Actor – Sacha Baron Cohen

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Movie Poster / FlickeringMyth

Director: Eliza Hittman

Screenwriter: Eliza Hittman

Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder

            Never Rarely Sometimes Always follows the journey of a seventeen year old girl making her way to New York to have an abortion. The protagonist of the film, Autumn, played by Sidney Flanigan, realizes she needs to travel to New York for the procedure because her hometown in Pennsylvania doesn’t allow minors to have it done without a parent’s consent. Autumn is a soft-spoken young girl who the viewers can notice doesn’t try to be the center of attention or a girl that constantly needs comfort from other people. She finds her support throughout the film from her cousin, Skylar, played by Talia Ryder, who is also just as young and not in need of any spot light. They make their way through New York together. The close relationship between these two is not shared through any dialogue, considering the movie provides very little of it, but through their unwavering protection of one another.

Frame of Autumn (Flanagan) and Skylar (Ryder) / Orlando Weekly

            The film carries a soft tone throughout. Although Autumn is dealing with incredible emotions, it is not shown through dramatic scenes or screaming monologues. Flanigan gives a memorable performance that transcends off a script of very little lines, but shares a very real and harrowing story. As Autumn discovers she’s pregnant and becomes determined to terminate and erase the happening of it, the audience can sympathize with her feeling of loneliness and desperation. Viewers can see her struggle to find control in her own life again as she pierces her own nose immediately after finding out she’s pregnant.

            The film highlights the difficulties young women face daily. As she returns to the women’s clinic for a sonogram, she is asked if she has any knowledge about abortion. She doesn’t. The receptionist proceeds to play an obviously outdated informational video that only explains the sin of abortion. Not only are there no accessible resources to Autumn about abortion in her area, but the film showcases how dangerous the world can be for young women. Her and Skylar work in a supermarket where they must put up with a predatory boss, Autumn then goes home to a stepfather that mocks her and chooses to make inappropriate sexual comments in front of her and her younger sisters and is later harassed on a subway by a man who begins to masturbate while watching her. 

Hittman Also explores the type of predator that can come across as nice and normal. A young man pursues Skylar on the bus and convinces her to give him her number. He continues to text her, trying to get her to hang out with him. After the girl’s trip that they believed was going to last a day turns to three, they run into money issues and can’t afford a bus ticket home. After Skylar decides to meet up with the guy and the girls hangout with him for a night, she asks if he could help them out with money. He agrees, but makes sure Skylar goes with him to the ATM alone. We later see him making out with Skylar against a pillar where she very obviously looks uncomfortable and not into it. Only after, does he lend her money.

Frame of Autumn (Flanigan) / Glide Magazine

Before Autumn’s procedure, the watchers learn that this type of control from a man is not new to her. In a difficult scene that gives us the reason behind the title of the film, Autumn is asked a series of questions about her past relationships. She can respond to these questions with either “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes” or “always”. She’s asked a series of intense questions. The answers to the questions concerning her partner begin to sound troubling. Once the questionnaire gets to the question “have you ever been forced to do a sexual act when you didn’t want to?”, Autumn becomes unable to respond. Its revealed that Autumn has been abused and raped by past partners. This is the only scene in the film that Autumn expresses any emotion. Watching a young girl being asked these questions in a monotone way and realizing she is a victim of rape is torturous, but unfortunately this a real story for too many young women. 

I believe the decision to never identify the father is very telling for this story. This story is not about him or for showing the viewers his monstrous ways. That’s a story too many women already know. This is a story about a young girl whose life and body has been affected due to the harm she’s received and the agonizing journey she has to take in order to get control of her life back. Although this a majorly quiet film, it is not one that leaves the viewer confused about Autumn’s  decisions throughout it. 

Never Rarely Sometimes Always can be streamed on HBO Max or for rent/buy on Prime Video. 

Nominations

Independent Spirit Award:

Best Feature

Best Director – Eliza Hittman

Best Female Lead – Sidney Flanigan 

Best Screenplay – Eliza Hittman

Best Supporting Female – Talia Ryder

Best Cinematography – Hélène Louvart

Best Editing – Scott Cummings

Critic’s Choice Movie Award:

Best Actress – Sidney Flanigan

Best Original Screenplay – Eliza Hitmann

Best Young Performer – Talia Ryder 

Gotham Independent Film Award:

Best Feature

Breakthrough Actor – Sidney Flanigan

Audience Award

Hillbilly Elegy

Movie poster for Hillbilly Elegy / Landmark Cinemas

Director: Ron Howard

Screenwriter: Vanessa Taylor

Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Owen Aszatalos, Haley Bennet, Frida Pinto and Bo Hopkins

            Hillbilly Elegy is based on a memoir by JD Vance of the same title. It chronicles the life of JD’s upbringing with his eccentric and drug addicted mother and the influence he received from his hard-pushing yet coarse grandmother. Hillbilly Elegy is an almost all heartbreaking tale of a southern family trying to keep it together. The film transitions from past to present all throughout. It is narrated by JD, played by Gabriel Basso. Majority of the film takes place in Middletown, Ohio, where JD and his family lives, but as he states in the opening of the film, he feels most at home in Jackson, Kentucky as spent every summer there growing up and this is where his family’s roots are. The film quickly introduces each of its main characters. His mother Bev, played by Amy Adams (an actress whose work I’ve always adored) his grandmother who goes by Mamaw throughout the film, played by Glenn Close, his grandfather played by Bo Hopkins and his sister Lindsay, played by Haley Bennet. 

            In an early scene of the film, Bev is shown as a mother who would do anything to protect her son and knows how to keep him smiling. Unfortunately, this narrative doesn’t last long. Watchers first see her short fuse go off as a boyfriend of hers brings home a dog for her children, which she first is excited about, but then quickly has an attitude change as the dog begins to run through the house. The amount of aggression she takes on in this scene is uncalled for and leaves her children frightened and confused. She attempts to make a joke and clear the tension, but a second later when JD runs into a table and knocks over some old Ester eggs, the aggression becomes larger than before. 

Watchers really see how much her outbreaks can escalate as her and JD begin to drive home after buying him sports cards in order to make up for her previous outburst. As JD becomes upset due to his mother telling him that she wants to move them in with her boyfriend, he explains that there’s no point in moving considering they are going to break up soon anyways. He mentions that a friend of his calls Bev’s changing boyfriends her “flavor of the week”. This sets Bev off and she begins to speed up and threaten to crash the car with them both in it. JD panics and climbs to the back seat and Bev begins to beat him as he begs her to stop. He escapes the car and runs to women’s house exclaiming that his mother is trying to kill him and is able to make it inside and call his grandma and grandpa for help. This whole scene leads to Bev being arrested and being placed in a rehab center for her drug abuse that leads the chaotic tendencies. 

            Addiction is a disease that leaves its victims to act in ways that are not of themselves. It has no mercy towards its victims. Those that have dealt with this disease either first hand or through a loved one know how much it can destroy a person and who they really are. Viewers of this film who know that can feel sympathy for Bev, but in my opinion, the film didn’t give its viewers the opportunity fully understand Bev before making her into a monster. Of course, Bev was flawed and wrong in many cases, but I don’t believe this film allowed us to really see how she became so ill. As the film goes on, we learn that Bev and her sister also had an incredibly harsh upbringing due to her their father’s alcoholism and their mother’s inability to comfort them through it, but it is a short scene which could almost lead to viewers forgetting and just remembering how awful Bev was as a mother to JD and Lindsay. 

Frame of Mamaw (Close) and young JD (Aszatalos) / The Oakland Press

            A scene set in the past shows the day JD’s grandfather passed away. JD, Bev and Mamaw are locked outside the house, yelling at him to open the door while he is deceased on the couch. After breaking in, they confirm that he has passed away. Something about how quick and almost casual this scene was resonated with me. When I was seventeen, I lost my grandmother. I had spent the night at her house and woke up the next morning to find that she had passed during the night. It was a sudden realization, but a forever changing moment. In the same routine this scene shows, theres not much of a moment you can take to begin to grieve and gather your emotions because you know that there are other arrangements that need to start being made. This scene can feel too real for a watcher whose lost someone they’ve always known on a day that seemed to be just like any other.

Bev, being a nurse, had confirmed he had passed and called for a coroner. We learn that while Bev was growing up, she saw her father has her best friend. JD heartbreakingly narrates “the only person who understood her was now gone”. His passing led Bev into a complete downward spiral. In a horrific scene shortly after his passing, Bev is in the middle of the street crying and yelling frantically, bleeding from her wrist. It is also noticeable that she is high by how she brutally yelling at her daughter. She later returns to work as a nurse in a hospital. It’s easy to recognize she is acting strange. She takes a pair of her coworkers roller blades and begins rolling through the halls while very obviously high. She is fired. 

Early in the film, present time JD, who is in law school at Yale, is attending a dinner in hopes of making an impression on the head of a law firm in D.C so he can get a summer internship there. JD attended undergrad at Ohio State and soon notices his differences against the other ivy league contenders. He also notices the difference between him and them as he is asked where he’s from and what his family does. An arrogant comment made calling his hometown full of “rednecks” sets him off and forces him to correct the man that he was there to impress. He calls his girlfriend, Usha, played by Frida Pinto, to help him understand what all the different forks are for. After this phone call he receives a call from his sister letting him know their mother has over dosed on heroin and was in the hospital. 

An overwhelmed JD makes the ten hour drive home in the middle of the night to go take care of his mother. The present time Bev shows as a much more beaten down and unpleasant women. We learn that Mamaw has already passed away which caused Bev to relapse and become much worse than she’s ever been. JD is finally able to beg his mother’s way into a rehab that will accept her with no insurance and just as she’s going to be taken in, she refuses. JD becomes incredibly upset and can’t understand why his mother continues to refuse help. He tried to take her back to her boyfriend’s house where the boyfriend then kicks her, throws her stuff off the balcony and yells profanities at her. 

Frame of Linday (Bennet), JD (Basso) and Bev (Adams) / Vulture-Sarah Jones

As JD is trying to find a place for his mother, he receives a call from the law firm he’d been hoping to making an impression on that he has been invited for final interview for the internship. The problem is, the interview is scheduled for 10:00am the next day, while he is ten hours away in Ohio. Desperate for the job, he agrees to be there. He knows he can’t leave without finding a place for his mom. Bev being unable to stay with Lindsay and her family, JD gets her a motel room. As JD leaves to get her some food, he returns to his mother trying to get high in the restroom. This scene is hard to watch because the viewer can see how desperate Bev is to keep using as she reaches for the needle in the toilet after JD had thrown it away. She reacts furiously towards JD and then begins to apologize and sob. It’s an incredibly tragic scene. 

A brokenhearted JD watches his mother sob on the bed while he reflects on the many other times he’s seen her so sad. Knowing he can’t leave her in this condition, he is determined to make it back for his interview. In a telling line, he says to his mother, “I can’t stay, I’m not saving anyone here”. He understands that him being able to truly create a better life for himself can help stable his family. Lindsay arrives at the motel to care for her mother while JD races back to New Haven for chance at real way out. It’s easy for viewers to see this as a selfish act, but in JD’s final narration, he explains that his future is his family’s shared legacy.

Hillbilly Elegy is an incredible story of a family that continuously suffered and eventually found their way to a brighter side. The final credits shared with the viewers where each of the family members are today – JD graduated law school, married Usha and living close to his family, Lindsay has three children and has been married to her boyfriend throughout the film for 22 years and Bev is working, healthy and sober. Although an entertaining film and showcased an amazing performance by Glenn Close, I believe Hillbilly Elegy missed the mark on this story. In my opinion, the film fed into the dramatics of Bev’s radical behaviors rather than completely humanizing her. I have read a couple reviews for this film and critics believe that this film may have tried too hard to have Oscar-worthy scenes. Although I enjoyed the film and will recommend people to watch it, I do see where this idea comes from. 

Hillbilly Elegy can be streamed on Netflix.

Movie Poster / Flickering Myth

Nominations

Golden Globes:

Best Supporting Actress – Glenn Close

Screen Actors Guild Award:

Outstanding Performance by Female Actor in a Lead Role – Amy Adams

Outstanding Performance by Female Actor in Supporting Role – Glenn Close

Critics’ Choice Movie Award:

Best Supporting Actress – Glenn Close 

Best Makeup

Palm Springs

Movie Poster / Popcornflix

Director: Max Barbakow

Screenwriter: Andy Siara 

Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Tyler Hoechlin, Camila Mendes, and Peter Gallagher 

            Palm Springs  can simply be described as 2020’s take on Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day (1993). The film was released early July in the midst of quarantined summer. As many films from this past year, its plan to be played in theaters was no longer an ethical option and was released as a Hulu Original giving it the opportunity to be viewed by its many subscribers from the comfort of their homes. Before its release, the film had already picked up great traction after becoming a huge hit at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Andy Samberg, star and producer of the film, being a wildly known comedian through his rise on  NBS’s “Saturday Night Live” and the success of his comedy group “The Lonely Island”, this was a film I had been highly anticipating. Although the “time loop” scenario has been remade a countless amount of times, this feature surely stands out. The film carries a high level of comedy all throughout, but also found a way to make its vulnerable and romantic moments incredibly real and relatable to its viewers. 

            The film begins with the introduction of Samberg’s character – Nyles. He wakes up to his girlfriend, Misty, played by Meredith Hagner, who does an exceptional job of playing the younger and “basic” girlfriend. Watchers can quickly gather her personality by how she whines to Nyles. As he goes through the beginning of his day, he shows little to no enthusiasm through his activities or to the people he encounters. Later on throughout the wedding, he’s shown wearing a bathing suit and Hawaiian shirt, holding a canned beer and clearly drunk. Before the viewers learn of his predicament, he mostly comes off as the random drunk boyfriend of the best friend of the bride. We meet Sarah, played by Cristin Milioti, as she looks tortured and zoned out through the wedding ceremony and then asking the bartender to fill up her glass of wine while at the reception.

Frame of Sarah (Milioti) / cat-torrent

The leads of the film meet as Nyles saves Sarah from giving her maid of honor speech as he drunkenly takes the mic and gives a ridiculous speech on life and love. Later that night, Nyles tries to get Sarah’s attention while he’s on the dance floor putting on a show just for her. This is where watchers can get an insight on the plot of the film as Nyles is shown mimicking the other guests perfectly and pulling out a chair for a drunk man just before he falls. Sarah’s attention is caught and she makes her way over him. Right off the bat, the chemistry between the pair shows through their comfortable and quick witted conversation. One thing leads to another and the couple makes their way through the desert of Palm Springs together. As they begin to hook up, Nyles is then shot with an arrow in his leg. Sarah begins to frantically yell “what the fuck” as Nyles, while in pain, is not too surprised and name calls his shooter as he already knows who it is. As arrows keep coming his way, he starts to make his way towards a lit up cave and crawls through it. As he’s about to enter, he sees Sarah following behind him where he begs her not to go in. Worried for Nyles, she follows him in which leads to her now being trapped in the endless loop of a single day along with Nyles. 

            Throughout the next portion of the film, Sarah is desperately trying to figure out how to end the time loop. She tries going through the cave again, staying awake through the night and even killing herself – nothing works. Nyles has been in the time loop for so long, that he’s given up finding a way out and has just made himself comfortable. While explaining to Sarah what he knows so far about their situation, he explains that they can only “suffer existence” and “find peace” in their new reality. This advice seemed too relevant to me while I was watching the movie considering I had been trapped in my apartment for about five months at that point due to the pandemic and experiencing what felt like a repeat of the same day every day. Although the film was written and created before Covid-19, its idea could sit close to home for the viewers at its time of release. 

The pair begin spending their endless single days together and their playful and judgement free relationship begins to flourish. After a night of tripping on mushrooms and beginning to open up to each other, the couple decide to have sex, which they had agreed early on not to do in order to not complicate their relationship considering they only have each other. As they wake up the next day in their separate places of where they were at the start of their never ending day, they both are shown smiling and satisfied with their night before. This is where the viewers learn why Sarah had been so tortured throughout the wedding. Every morning, she’s been waking up in the bed of her sister’s soon to be husband, who she had slept with the night before. Her being brought back to the reality of her mistake, she spends that day acting completely radical while Nyles thinks that it’s because she regrets sleeping with him. The pair get in a fight and Sarah exists by running in front of an 18-wheeler, so she can die and restart the day. 

The next day, instead of finding Nyles, she begins to wake up each day and spend time in a diner learning about quantum physics in order to find a way out. Nyles spends those days moping around and looking for Sarah. Once Sarah finds a way out, she finds Nyles to let him know and he tries to convince to her not go through with it, so they can stay in the endless loop together. Sarah is ready to continue her life and face the consequences of her mistakes, whereas Nyles isn’t quite there yet. Both characters were struggling in their lives before getting trapped in the time loop and had become complacent in a day where their wrongs didn’t matter. They used their unimaginable situation as an escape to avoid their real lives. 

After Nyles rejects Sarah’s plan to go back, he visits Roy, played by J.K Simmons. Roy is a man at the wedding he had drunkenly brought into the time loop with him and was the same man that had shot him with an arrow earlier in the film. As he finds him, he learns that he has a wife and young children. Roy expresses how he is thankful for everyday that he gets to spend with his family, but is mournful of the idea of ever getting to see his kids grown up. This changes Nyles perspective. He finds Sarah, confesses his love for her and realizes he wants to create a real life with her outside of Palm Springs. The final scene shows the couple floating in the pool that they would spend each morning of their continuous day in which makes the watcher believe that their plan to get out didn’t work. The family of the home that was rented for the wedding shows up yelling at them to get out of their pool which implies that it is finally, the next day.

Movie frame from final scene / Flickeringmyth

Palm Springs can be streamed on Hulu.

Nominations:

Golden Globes

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy 

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy – Andy Samberg       

Satellite Awards:

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Best Actor in Motion Picture – Andy Samberg

Best Screenplay – Andy Siara

Independent Spirit Awards:

Best First Screenplay – Andy Siara 

The Assistant

Julia Garner as Jane /Roger Ebert

Director: Kitty Green

Screenwriter: Kitty Green

Cast: Julia Garner, Kristine Frosted, Noah Robbins, Jon Orsini, Matthew Macfadyen

            “The Assistant” follows Jane, played by Julia Garner, best known for her starring role in Netflix’s hit series “Ozark”. While working for an executive film producer, she begins to recognize the predatory behavior that is condoned in the office. There are three assistants working in the office, two men and one woman. As we watch Jane go through her work day, it’s made clear she’s doing most of the work. You especially see her often cleaning up after other coworkers, which her fellow male assistants are never seen doing. While her male coworkers are seen handling true business calls or real matter at their desks, Jane is dealing with the executives “dirty work”, such as teaching his house cleaner how to assemble a vacuum, entertaining coworker’s kids, lie to his wife about his whereabouts and being the only assistant that works weekends. I believe that the slow and subtle tone that is kept throughout the film speaks to how this type of toxic environment silently lingers in too many places of work that are majorly run by men.

HR – Wilcock (Macfayden) / FilmLovers

         As a new woman assistant is hired, Jane quickly notices the difference in her reason for hire compared to her own. The obviously gorgeous and young new assistant, Sienna, played by Kristine Froseth, has only held a waitressing job, whereas Jane is a film school graduate and has worked several internships before being able to land this job. The difference in treatment became apparent when the new assistant had been put up in a luxurious hotel after acquiring the job and Jane was never given any sort of living assistance. A haunting scene takes place as Jane meets with HR, a man, to share her concerns of the new assistant, explaining how the young girl had been given the job after meeting the executive while she was his waitress and how he is now spending time with her at the hotel. While acting confused, he responds by questioning if the woman has been rude to Jane or if she is doing anything specific to harm the company. This man’s complete avoidance of the dangerous situation holds truth to the tolerance of this behavior by powerful men. 

Frame of Jane (Garner) /Flickering Myth

After attempting to complain, Jane is advised that if she follows through with her claims that she will lose her job. The man working for HR reminds her that her job will put her on the fast track to becoming the film producer she aspires to be. He uses manipulative tactics to keep her quiet and complaisant. He assures her not to worry about him by letting her know that she’s not the executives “type”. Jane is continually fed emptied approval, so she can continue to act as her boss wants her to. As a women, the whole film is extremely frustrating to watch. It’s as though the main character is in some sort of utopian world where no one else around her understands the inappropriate behavior. The film ends with Jane ending her work day late at night while her boss is still entertaining a young aspiring actress in his office. The film ending in no justice for the woman experiencing the abuse of power implies how easily these situations get ignored and shows just how these type of men continue to win. 

“The Assistant” can be found on the streaming service Hulu. The Independent Spirit Awards has nominated Julia Garner for Best Female Lead, Kitty Green for Best first Screenplay and  Michael Latham for Best Cinematography. The Gotham Independent Film Awards has nominated the film for Best Feature. 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Movie Poster /Tom & Lorenzo

Director: George C Wolfe

Screenwriters: August Wilson, Reuben Santiago – Hudson 

Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Coleman Domingo, Glynn Truman, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Johnny Coyne, Taylor Paige, Dusan Brown

George C Wolfe’s film has been adapted cinematically by August Wilson’s play which first met the stage in 1984. The whole film follows a single recording session in Chicago, Illionis in the late 1920s. It expresses the real life personalities of “The Mother of Blues”, Ma Rainey, played by Academy Award winner, Viola Davis and her back up band. The beginning of the film quickly showcases the large ambition and need for attention of the band’s trumpet player, Levee, played by the late great Chadwick Boseman. Viewers might quickly notice Boseman’s thinner frame than compared to what Marvel movie watchers are used to seeing. Although Viola Davis was asked to put on a considerable amount of weight to best represent Ma Rainey, this was not the case for Boseman. Little to his fellow cast and crewmate’s knowledge, Boseman was secretly fighting a battle against colon cancer. Watching this film while already knowing the actor’s eventual unfair fate allows the viewers to appreciate his incredibly powerful and emotional performance that much more. 

Slow Drag (Potts), Levee (Boseman) and Cutler (Domingo). Cr. David Lee / Netflix

As the band awaits Ma’s arrival at the recording studio, we begin to learn about each of their characters and the different perspectives they hold compared to Levee’s. While the rest of the band shows that they are there to play Ma’s music and get out, Levee is vocal on how he is there to show music producer, Sturdyvant, played by Jonny Coyne, his own music arrangements and to eventually create his own band. His bandmates treat his gimmicks and attitude as foolish. As they begin to rehearse “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, Levee informs the band that Ma’s manager, Irvin, played by Jeremy Shamos, ordered the band to play Levee’s arrangement of the song. After Irvin comes in and confirms that Levee’s arrangement is what they are going to record, Cutler, played by Colman Domingo, continues to disregard it and assures Levee that it doesn’t matter what Irvin has to say, only what Ma says goes. As the film begins to introduce Ma Rainey, the viewers quickly understand why Cutler is certain of this. 

Frame of Ma Rainey (Davis)/The Movie Mensch

As Ma is arriving at the recording studio and is hit by another car, the way she starts going back and forth with the police officer shows how apparent her dominant and demand for respect demeanor is. Those Ma keeps around her act towards her in a way showing that they know only her way goes. Sturdyvant appears at Ma’s hands and feet because he knows that is the only way he will get her to record music and get what he needs out of her. Ma knows this as well. She explains that she acts the way she does because she is a black women and knows that these white men only give her the time of day because they need her voice and the money her records bring. Irvin fails to bring her a can of coke before she starts recording, so Ma refuses to begin until she has her coke-cola. This act could easily be viewed as Ma being a diva, but Ma knows her worth and knows how white men view her worth. Davis carries Ma’s commanding nature through the whole film with so much power. 

While Ma will not take any orders from a white man, Levee has had to learn to take the opposite approach. As his bandmates begin to mock him over his attempts to impress Irvin and Sturdyant, Levee lets them know just why and how he knows how to deal with a white man. He movingly delivers a monologue explaining a horrific story of when he was younger and a group of white men raped his mother, slashed Levee with a knife across his chest leaving him permanently scarred and later killing his father. His bandmates begin to understand why he will listen and do what a white man says as long as it results in Levee’s favor. Levee doesn’t allow any of his bandmates talk down his behavior. Ma’s current object of affection, Dussie Mae, played by Taylour Paige, accompanies her to this session. Dussie Mae seems to have also caught Levee’s eye. His bandmates urge him to leave her alone knowing Ma will not have that, but Levee of course does not listen. The band continues to share their concern for Levee as he is acting like a fool and going to reap the consequences for it. Cutler attempts to share a story of a reverend who was beaten by white men, but is cut off by Levee questioning if the man was a man of God, why didn’t God help him. He shares that he doesn’t think God listens to black people’s prayers which quickly brings a large reaction from Culter. As the situation becomes much more heated, Levee begins to yell at his bandmates and God asking where he was when his mom pleaded to Him for help. He yells at the sky asking God why he turned His back on her and threatening God to turn His back on him. This specific scene is much more heart wrenching to watch as I can’t help, but wonder if Boseman was experiencing any similar feelings as he was aware that his time on earth was going to be shortened. Boseman has delivered amazing performances in his past films, but this final performance was noticeably delivered with much more heart and soul. Levee’s explosive behavior gets the best of him and after the pianist of the group steps on his new pair of shoes, he strikes him with a knife, killing him. The film closes with an all-white band performing Levee’s songs that he created for his own band that he hoped to one day make, but never was able to. 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” can be streamed on Netflix. This film has already found a great amount of well-deserved attention. Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman have been honored by the Golden Globes being nominated for Best Actress and Best Actor in a drama. The Screen Actors Guild Awards has also nominated Chadwick Boseman for Best Male Lead and Viola Davis for Best Female Lead as well has the whole cast been nominated for Best Ensemble. I, as I’m sure the rest of the world wishes Boseman could be here to witness all this recognition and bask in this glory.

The Prom

Movie Poster / Movie Jones

Director: Ryan Murphy 

Screenwriters: Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin

Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose

            Ryan Murphy granted the world a truly delightful 2 hour and 10 minute film. As someone who undeniably and unashamedly loves musicals, I can say that this cinematic expression of the Broadway show written by Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Skylar is completely quirky and chaotic in all the best ways. The film also stars my two queens, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, so undoubtedly, I was obsessed. This film also can’t help but showcase the light James Corden and Keegan-Michael Key add to a screen. The amount of “extra” this film is is no surprise considering Ryan Murphy is in the director’s chair. You may also know him as director and creator of “Glee”, “Scream Queens”, “American Horror Story” and “Ratched”, so the added theatrics, incredibly witty one-liners and hilarious references is nothing Murphy is new too. The film follows two Broadway stars, Dee-Dee (Meryl Streep) and Barry (James Corden) who are on their way of becoming irrelevant, Angie (Nicole Kidman), an ex-chorus girl and Trent (Andrew Rannells), an actor who hasn’t quite made it yet. This crew is in need of a career reinvention. After hearing of a gay high school girl who is not being allowed to bring her girlfriend to prom, they decide that calling out this injustice and making it right is just what will help them. What transpires through the rest of the film is nothing less than a perfect blend of cringey and amusing. 

Frame of Barry (Corden), Angie (Kidman), DeeDee (Streep) and Tom (Key) / Cult MTL

            The film opens with Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), leading the PTA meeting as they decide on Emma’s (Jo Ellen Pellman) ability to bring her girlfriend to prom. As she asks the room “all opposed?”, there are no hands going up concluding that it was a unanimous decision amongst the parents to cancel prom all together due to them not being able to ban just Emma from prom. Watching this movie, it’s hard to believe that in modern day, this is still an issue young LGBTQ+ people still have to face considering our society has become much more open and accepting. Unfortunately, this story is based off a case from 2010. I’d like to believe with all the growth gen-z has pushed for in the past few years, that stories likes these have become much more foreign. The only adult that is for this change is the principal of the school, Tom (Keegan-Michael Key). Transitioning to Manhattan, Dee-Dee and Barry are receiving failed reviews of their newest Broadway show ridiculously based off of Elanor Roosevelt’s life – Streep as Elanor and Corden as FDR. This is where they meet up with Kidman and Rannell’s characters and conjure up the plan to save the prom and Emma. They travel to Indiana and crash another PTA meeting concerning the prom with a musical number, of course and by announcing themselves as “liberals from Broadway”. After the crew meets Emma and begin to take their own conveniences out of the situation, the story turns to one that shares love and acceptance to more characters than just one. 

Frame of Emma (Pellman) and Alyssa (DeBose) / Melinda Sue Gordon

            As the story unfolds, we watch Dee-Dee figure out how to not be so self-centered as she begins to fall for principal Tom, a straight man who also loves Broadway. As he learns that she is there for her own agenda, he hands her a reality check. Emma’s still closeted girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) learns to accept herself and who she is while also having to confront her conservative mother, Mrs. Greene who is the one not allowing this prom to go on and insisting that homosexuality is wrong. The viewers are able to see this relationship unfold and mend itself again as Washington’s character realizes that her love for her daughter prevails against any differences they have. One of the more moving storylines revolves around Corden’s character, Barry. We learn that he is on a mission to prove all those who have doubted him wrong. In a tearful dialogue performed with Steep’s character, he shares how his parents tried to take him to therapy to reverse his sexuality or they wouldn’t support him. As Dee-Dee advices him to reach out, he returns with a heartbreaking statement – “I was the kid”. As Steep consoles him, it’s easy to understand that Barry is still that kid just wanting acceptance and love from his parents. At the end of the film, he is able to reconnect with his mother who admits to being wrong and greatly sorry. The film ends with the students finally able to have their all-inclusive prom and a fabulous large group number – obviously. 

“The Prom” can be found on Netflix. The film has already picked up multiple award nominations. The Golden Globes has nominated the film for Best motion Picture and James Corden for Best Actor. The Satellite Awards has nominated Meryl Streep for Best Actress, Nicole Kidman for Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction and Production Design and Best Sound (Editing and Mixing). The GLAAD Media Awards has nominated it for Outstanding Film. 

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