Category Archives: Movies

Has Disney Mismanaged Star Wars? Yes and No

Ah to be in 2012 again, when Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm set off a firestorm of anticipation for new Star Wars content. There actually was a ton of Star Wars content in the pipeline, most of it announced at Star Wars Celebration 2012, and most of it canceled by King Mouse. Almost eight years later, it’s time to assess what the high-pitched, personality-less, mouse-man has done with George Lucas’ most enduring creation.

In 2012, Star Wars was actually in pretty good shape. “The Clone Wars” animated series had established itself as the best received Star Wars property since the Original Trilogy. Del Ray Publishing cranked out an Extended Universe book or two every year. Lucas Arts had just released “The Force Unleashed” series a few years earlier and was deep into production on Star Wars 1313, a game about Boba Fett. The Disney purchase wiped out all three.

What did Disney do with Star Wars? Let’s evaluate.

1. Star Wars Rebels (2014)

I’ve been watching Star Wars Rebels for the first time on Disney Plus. I’m pleasantly surprised by how good it is. It takes the best elements of The Clone Wars and some of the best elements of the Extended Universe and combines them.

The problem? Disney broadcast it on the little watched Disney XD channel. What should have been the triumphant start of Disney’s Star Wars ownership largely met a collective shrug outside of the Star Wars fan base because no one could watch it while it was actually on television.

2. The “New” Books, Comics, etc.

It took twenty years, dozens of novels, comics, and video games to fill in the story of what happened during the thirty years after Return of the Jedi. Instead of taking the best elements of that Extended Universe and incorporating them into the new stories, Disney wiped the slate clean. While this allowed for creative freedom, it also resulted in a rush to fill in the gaps.

I haven’t read very much of the new books or comics or played all the new video games, but some are much better than others. The Battleground games were a dumpster fire, for example, but the new Timothy Zahn Thrawn books have been well received.

The original Extended Universe was often hit or miss as well, so we’ll call this one a wash.

3. Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens is a well made, entertaining film. Critics and audiences loved it at the time, and re-watching it a few years later, I find it holds up extremely well. It may not be the most creative film, though, since it borrows heavily from the original Star Wars (Episode 4: A New Hope).

Was it a missed opportunity to borrow so heavily from Star Wars? Did we really need another Death Star? Certainly Disney left some of the creative cards on the table here. In fact, trying to establish a brand new story while at the same time trying to connect to the older story resulted in the Sequel Trilogy’s biggest flaws.

4. Rogue One

Rogue One, also known as “The One Where Everybody Dies,” had production issues, but the final result was a bold, propulsive action movie of the highest caliber. I have no complaints about the film itself.

Rogue One’s success gave Disney too much confidence in it’s strategy to make a “side-quest” movie every other year. Disney couldn’t reasonably expect to pump out a Star Wars movie every year, AND have all of those movies finish in the top ten of the highest grossing films of all time. However, that seems to be exactly what Disney expected.

5. Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi

I’ve defended The Last Jedi for over two years, but even I have to admit that the film is a house of cards. It looks spectacular for the most part, and it certainly contains a new take on Star Wars. It certainly has its champions. In retrospect, however, I think we will grow to see it as the weakest film of Disney’s initial five film output.

Too much of The Last Jedi simply does not work. Leia’s “flying through space” scene should have landed on the cutting room floor for bad shot composition. The Canto Bight detour robbed us of the best character interaction set up by J.J. Abrams: the friendship between Poe and Finn. In exchange, Johnson gave us dumber, more isolated versions of both characters.

The list goes on and on. What we’re left with is a Star Wars bottle episode that feels out of place given what J.J. Abrams did with Episode 9.

6. Star Wars: Resistance

Did you know there’s a cartoon created by the Rebels/Clone Wars team set during the Sequel Trilogy era? I didn’t either until recently. It’s been somewhat well reviewed, and I’ll check it out on Disney Plus. Disney has no excuse for any Star Wars series having such anonymity, I’ll tell you that much.

7. Solo

Ron Howard turned around a hellish production and gave us a solid, enjoyable film. It’s not exactly The Godfather, but it’s fun and pretty damn rewatchable. It also made so little money at the Box Office (relatively speaking compared to other Star Wars movies, it still made a ton), that it killed Disney’s “Star Wars movie every year” strategy. That will serve us well in the future.

8. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker

Want to piss off the entertainment media? Make a move like Episode 9, apparently. I’ve purposefully avoided reviews and commentary online about this film, but critics can’t help but take pot shots at it even while discussing other topics. I really enjoyed it, and I saw it twice just to make sure. What I like most about it was how heavily J.J. Abrams bought into the high fantasy elements of Star Wars to create a movie that felt big enough to conclude a nine movie epic.

Episode 9 does feel like Abrams cramming two movies into one at times, however, and that was entirely avoidable.

As a completed product, the Sequel Trilogy feels like a push and pull between two filmmakers with wildly different ideas as to what direction to take Star Wars. If J.J. Abrams took too few risks in Episode 7, Rian Johnson took too many in Episode 8.

Watching all three in order, it feels like Johnson throws out everything Abrams set up in Episode 7. Then Abrams throws out most of what Johnson did to do what he wanted to do anyway. The lack of a central creative focus, or in fact, any plan makes the Sequel Trilogy enjoyable, but a missed opportunity.

In retrospect, I think that Disney would have been better served by adapting Timothy Zahn’s groundbreaking “Heir to the Empire” series for the Sequel Trilogy instead of starting wholecloth. People would have gotten over re-casting the main characters with younger actors. If that was Disney’s only hang up, it’s a massive, unforced error on its own, but there’s no evidence that Disney even considered adapting Heir to the Empire – a bantha sized mistake.

10. The Mandalorian, Clone Wars, Cassian Andor Series, and the Future.

First of all, The Mandalorian rocks. It rocks harder than any of the five Disney Star Wars films.

Additionally, The Clone Wars series will finally get the wrap up it deserves. While we know what happens to Cassian Andor, Diego Luna is one of the most underrated actors of his generation, so I’m looking forward to that series too. On Disney Plus, Star Wars has found a good home.

Game of Thrones ended with a thud, but it also demonstrated that a television series is a better platform for high fantasy storytelling than the “film trilogy” model. The Mandalorian has more room to breathe in its world than the Sequel Trilogy, for example. Then again, that’s also part of why The Clone Wars is light-years better than the Prequel Trilogy.

Conclusion

Is Star Wars in a better place now than in 2012? The Sequel Trilogy contains better films than the Prequel Trilogy, but it largely left creative capital on the table. Rogue One and Solo are solid films, but also showed Disney why they couldn’t water down their product. The “new” extended universe content does not appear better or worse than the old extended universe content.

That said, the television output of Star Wars has gotten better and better.

While there have been missteps, Star Wars also has a bright future ahead of it. I for one, am excited to find out what the future holds for Baby Yoda and company.

(C) 2020 D.G. McCabe

Something Rotten in the State of Criticism

“Tis hard to say if greater want of skill,

Appear in writing or judging ill,

But of the two, less dangerous is the offense,

To tire our patience than mislead our sense.”

– Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, 1711

I’ve spent countless hours reading lazy, shallow, repetitive criticism of film and television online. For the last week, I purposefully avoided all critics in anticipation of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I deleted social media apps from my phone, blocked popular culture websites, avoided aggregators like burning sulfur.

I saw Episode IX. I quite enjoyed Episode IX. Then, having no need to avoid the critical “conversation,” I ended my embargo and found a “conversation” that I had no interest in joining. It was the same conversation that praised David Simon’s dumpster fire “The Deuce” and awarded the three worst seasons of Game of Thrones with the Emmy for best drama series. The same conversation that told fans that hated Star Wars: The Last Jedi that their opinions were wrong, and the critics knew best. It’s the same conversation that recognizes movies as “films of the decade” that weren’t well reviewed or widely seen at the time.

The state of film and television criticism has descended into a culture of mindless aggregators, shallow hot takes, and a devaluation of successful storytelling tropes in favor of what’s new and shiny. However, I outlined three very different points of contention above, so I’m going to give each one its space.

1. Against Aggregators

Aggregators offer quick, ultimately meaningless data points for whether or not a movie is “good” or whether the intended audience will actually enjoy the film.

For example, the Rotten Tomatoes score for the classic, original Anchorman (66%) is lower than its pointless sequel Anchorman 2 (75%). Star Trek: Into Darkness (84%) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (87%) have similar scores, even though the former is a far inferior remake of the latter. The viewer scores for Star Wars Episodes 8 (43%) and 9 (86%) are the opposite of the critical scores (91% and 57% respectively), demonstrating an extreme disconnect between reviewers and audiences. Did I cherry-pick these examples? Of course. Are they the only examples? Hardly.

An aggregation of reviews diminishes the value each individual review, while providing an ultimately useless number that may or may not reflect the actual quality of the film. Aggregators give the appearance of advice, while, in fact, providing very little useful information.

2. Against Recapping

I admit, I used to love episode by episode recaps. About ten years ago, this format greatly contributed to the conception of a “golden age” of television. I’m not disputing that. What I take issue with is not what recapping was, but what recapping has become.

In a rush to be the quickest to publish, episode recaps have become sloppily written, and at worst, lazy descriptions of what went on in the episode that add nothing of value.

Recaps can also mislead about the quality of a show. Take for example HBO’s “The Deuce.” The Deuce was an unfocused endeavor that spent too much time on too many boring characters. David Simon and George Pelacanos intricately recreated a setting no one wanted to revisit, to tell a story no one asked for. However, if you didn’t actually watch the show and just read the episode by episode recaps, you’d think it was phenomenal. In a rush to publish, it was faster and easier to simply praise a show created by previously successful producers than to question the show’s quality.

3. Against Challenging Successful Tropes Just for the Sake of Challenging Successful Tropes

On the one hand, I get it. We can’t forever keep calling back to the same properties that were popular in the 1980’s, can we? There certainly have been lazy, unnecessary remakes. I argue, however, that there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to give fans of a property something they’d enjoy or calling back to an earlier film that worked well.

I enjoy Star Wars, The Last Jedi, and so did critics. The latter mainly did so because the film challenged established Star Wars tropes and answered the questions posed by Episode 7 in unique ways. I’m always captivated by the film’s images while I’m watching it, but I admit that its story is a house of cards.

Many, many people did not enjoy The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson challenged established Star Wars tropes, but never asked whether those tropes needed challenging.

Successful tropes are successful for a reason, and this is nothing unique to Star Wars. After all, one of the main sources of Star Wars is Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” which is entirely about the common themes that exist between popular myths throughout human history. Sometimes challenging those tropes in popular media is simply unnecessary.

As for nostalgia – the greatest advantage of film as an art-form is its ability to create an emotional response in the audience. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. There is nothing inherently wrong with using it to tell a story.

Conclusion

I’m done with aggregators and re-caps. I’m also done with this idea that using nostalgia and fan service are automatically negative things. More on Star Wars, Episode 9 later.

(C) D.G. McCabe

A Decade in Review: The 2010’s

There are only three weeks left in this decade. It makes me think about the movies that will turn 100 during the “new 20’s” and the images from those films that still inhabit our popular imagination, like the vampire walking up the staircase in Nosferatu (1922), the birth of the machine-man in Metropolis (1927), or the tramp befriending a youngster in The Kid (1921). The 1920’s forever changed the art form of the motion picture with the invention of sound, and with due respect to Roger Ebert, it was the last decade that film could be described as an entirely visual medium.

What about the 2010’s? The decade’s most important picture from a commercial standpoint was certainly 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, which wrapped up a story told across almost two-dozen previous films, and made more money than any movie before it. Endgame will not win any Oscars in February, except maybe for Visual Effects. It won’t make many critics lists of “movie of the decade” either. And, if I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t love Endgame. However, it demonstrates a triumph of serialized filmmaking beyond the “trilogy” model pioneered by Star Wars.

And what about Star Wars? The Sequel Trilogy has made money hand over fist, and the films so far have certainly surpassed the…ahem…quality of the Prequel Trilogy. Overall, I cannot judge the Sequel Trilogy until next Friday. Stay tuned.

Speaking of Star Wars, I’m currently very much enjoying watching The Mandalorian and Rebels on Disney Plus. That brings me to television in the 2010’s. I cannot understate what television achieved this decade in terms of art and technology. In the 2010’s, shows like The Americans, Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones (for better or worse) demonstrated that television may be a better place to tell certain stories that the cinema.

Has the explosion of television options during this time of the “Streaming Wars” watered down the cultural impact of the medium? Yes, and no. A mere six months after the end of Game of Thrones was supposed to end appointment television, we can’t stop talking about Baby Yoda. It has become harder for television series to capture the attention of a distracted public, but certainly not impossible.

That brings me to lists. Top ten movies and television shows of the 2010’s:

Movies

1. Gravity (2013)

2. Black Panther (2018)

3. Get Out (2017)

4. Toy Story 3 (2010)

5. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

6. Lincoln (2012)

7. Nebraska (2013)

8. Twelve Years a Slave (2013)

9. Roma (2018)

10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Television

1. The Americans (FX)

2. Mad Men (AMC)

3. Breaking Bad (AMC)

4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

5. Game of Thrones (HBO)

6. Fargo (FX)

7. Stranger Things (Netflix)

8. Better Call Saul (AMC)

9. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

10. New Girl (Fox)

(C) 2019 D.G. McCabe

A Summer of Movies, and New Name Too!

Hello again everyone!  I took an extended break after the final season of Game of Thrones, but I have returned to Cinema Grandcanyonscope!  Oh wait, I got rid of that name six years ago because of its wordiness, among other things.  Anyway, I’m bringing back a modified version of it.  Welcome back to Cinema Canyonscope!

Now that I have gotten that particular piece of business out of the way, the summer movie season wraps up in, well, it has wrapped.  An odd thing: we now have a “summer” movie season that really begins in the middle of spring and, for all intents and purposes, ends the first weekend of August.  If we loosely define summer as the period between the  summer solstice and autumnal equinox…oh no, I’m losing you, aren’t I?  Absolutely nobody cares that the summer movie season starts around Easter now, do they?  Well, this is no way to welcome you all back, is it?

Here are some highlights from Summer 2019 in movies. By “highlights,” I mean the movies I actually saw in a theater.

Avengers: Endgame

Is anyone else concerned that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has run out of steam, or at the very least, is currently running on fumes?  Old Endgame, lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing!  That’s the wrong Endgame – or is it?

I enjoyed Endgame, but the film had a disposable quality that I can’t shake.  Part of that comes from too much familiarity with the main characters, and by that I mean decades of comic book backstory.  

The comics weave complex tales filled to the brim with alternate histories, resurrections, and some of the most gonzo storytelling this side of a Phish concert.  The key point here is that decades of comic book lore written and drawn by wildly creative individuals developed dozens of complex and interesting versions of the Marvel characters.

In contrast, the folks behind the MCU have cherry-picked the elements of these characters that work best for a wide audience. This makes the Avengers movies wildly successful, so from a business standpoint, it’s absolutely the right move.

However, as a comic book fan reared on the wild comics of the 80’s and 90’s, I can’t connect the main characters in the MCU because I already feel more connected to different, more complex versions of the same characters.

Spiderman: Far From Home

Case in point: I like the 90’s, thirty-something, broke, tired Spiderman a lot more than I enjoy Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character.  Holland acts well considering what he’s given, and, after all, a young actor like Holland just does what he is told to do, so it’s nothing against him.  The Spiderman I grew up reading about had an edge to him, and that, to me, made him much more relatable than a Spiderman who, let’s face it, is more Dick Grayson than Peter Parker.

Like Grayson, MCU Parker has a wealthy, somewhat misanthropic benefactor with tons of gadgets.  That alone ruins the central and defining aspect of the character.  Parker is supposed to be an everyman superhero.  I mean, c’mon, in every iteration of Parker except for the MCU version, he actively avoids fighting with the Avengers, or any group really.  Who are his closest hero allies?  Certainly not Iron Man or Captain America, but other grinders like Daredevil.

I have read countless hot takes on how refreshing the MCU Spiderman movies are for not killing off Uncle Ben.  While we certainly don’t need to see the gruesome murder of family members in every iteration of the character, the fact that it’s not even mentioned causes problems.  MCU Parker does not feel the same weight on his shoulders, he does not fully understand the great responsibility that goes with great power, and the attempt to ret-con that into his character in Far From Home does not work for me.

That said, it was a fun movie to watch.  See, I’m not all negative about it!

Rocketman

Which one of these is not like the other ones…let’s see…superhero movie….superhero movie….superhero movie…aw man!  Actually, never mind, in Rocketman, the hero is real!

The world knows present-day Sir Elton John as a pillar of his London community, a philanthropist, a family man, a model citizen in every respect.  The man has a “Sir” in front of his name and scored a Disney movie (well technically two Disney movies, but let’s not get into that)!  But it wasn’t always this way, it wasn’t always this way at all.

I’m not saying that Rocketman is a classic of modern cinema by any means. However, the true, if not entirely factual, story of Sir Elton’s triumph over addiction inspired me to revisit Sir Elton’s music. Watching the Avengers triumph over Thanos or watching Spiderman triumph over Mysterio inspired me to do absolutely nothing.

Overall, I enjoyed all three movies I saw in theaters this summer while I was watching them. Afterwards, the Marvel movies just didn’t resonate with me. I can’t blame super-hero fatigue entirely, although I am concerned for the MCU’s future. After all, as I mentioned above, isn’t Elton John a real-life superhero?

As Aristotle once wrote, spectacle ranks as the least important element of drama. With few exceptions (Iron Man (2008), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Black Panther (2018)), the MCU emphasizes special effects over character development. As the MCU moves on from characters in the “popular among comic fans but not well known to the general public” category to the “obscure even to comic book fans” category, character development will become more important than ever before.

In the meantime, to paraphrase Sir Elton’s best friend and go-to lyricist Bernie Taupin, you can’t keep me in your special effects penthouse, I’m going back to my character development plough.

(C) 2019 D.G. McCabe

The Lion King, Star Wars, and Adaptation Fatigue

 

This teaser looks great right? I mean, it’s one of the most viewed movie trailers of all-time, and the film it promotes, this summer’s “live action” remake of The Lion King (1994) is going to make over a billion dollars.  Who wouldn’t be excited for it?

Me, for one.  It looks like a shot for shot remake of a perfectly good, existing film.  Check that, it looks like a shot for shot remake of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, animated films of all-time.  Disney says it isn’t, but they’re awfully cagey about it.

It’s one thing to re-imagine Dumbo (1941) or The Jungle Book (1967)  to better appeal to modern sensibilities.  I’m not 100% on board with that either, but at least there’s some redeeming artistic value in updating those stories.  Other than “Mickey needs money” (he doesn’t, by the way), I’m at a loss for the purpose of re-making a great movie just because there is new technology to play around with.

Yes, yes, perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions, and I shouldn’t be criticizing a movie that I haven’t seen.  Perhaps Jon Favreau has found a valuable new perspective on a classic film, and this summer’s remake will win multiple Oscars and be hailed as the second coming of Citizen Kane (1940).  I wouldn’t hold my breath, but it’s certainly possible.

That said, the problem I’m pointing out isn’t a new one – it’s a feature of all adaptations.  I mean, the Lion King is an adaptation of Hamlet, which itself is mash-up of Scandinavian and Roman legendary histories and perhaps even a lost play known to scholars as “Ur-Hamlet.”  Successful adaptations tell a stories from new perspectives, comment on previous versions, or re-imagine the stories to appeal to modern audiences.

That’s the difference between Maleficent (2014) and Beauty and the Beast (2017).  While Maleficent is not a great film, it at least tells the story of Sleeping Beauty (1959) from a new perspective.  Beauty and the Beast made a ton of money, but at the end of the day it’s little more than an inferior remake of the 1991 animated version.

While less true than it used to be, motion pictures are expensive to make.  Movies, to some extent, remain our most commercial art-form.  There are no university presses, community theater labs, or hobbyists – film studios have to make money in order to create more films.  One can’t blame Disney, therefore, for mining its existing catalogue for old material that can be repackaged using new technology in an ultimately lucrative endeavor.  Disney doesn’t exist to maintain the artistic integrity of the motion picture, it exists to make profit.  Beauty and the Beast (2017) made $1.2 billion, after all.

I’m picking on Disney, but re-boots, remakes, prequels, are way too abundant in modern Hollywood.  The commercial proposition is an easy one to understand – it’s lower risk to take an existing property and do something slightly different with it than it is to make something new popular.  At the same time, pumping out the same material over and over again has to have diminishing returns at some point for the audience.

Maybe this could be a “problem” that solves itself.  Take Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), for example.  Ron Howard may have performed a minor miracle turning a dumpster fire of a production into a fine movie, but a fine movie it remains.  Other than the Clone Wars animated movie and the Ewok movies, it’s also the lowest grossing Star Wars film by a wide margin.  After decades of Extended Universe stories and the Sequel Trilogy, there just wasn’t an appetite for yet another tale about Han Solo, even a competently crafted one.

On the other hand, the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy also serves as the best example of why creating something new from an existing story is playing with fire.  The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017) both made a ton of money and were lauded by critics and fans alike – well, most fans.  There was an extremely vocal group that absolutely hated one film, the other, or both for very different reasons.  The merits of Episodes 7 and 8 (of which there are many, by the way) aside, the Sequel Trilogy’s biggest flaw so far is that it is trying to continue the story from Return of the Jedi (1983) AND tell and entirely new story at the same time, which leaves both stories somewhat watered down.

I’m going all over the place in this article, but my central point remains that certain stories can’t really bear the weight of being adapted in a repetitive or overstretched manner.  What is there to do?  I would recommend telling new stories within the framework of the old stories, rather than overstretching existing plots and characters.  The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy partially succeeds at this so far, but Episode 9 has some heavy lifting to do in order to really stick the landing.

For the Lion King (2019)?  The success of the animated children’s series “The Lion Guard,” shows that there is interest in using the framework of the Lion King to tell new stories, so there are promising directions for Disney to go.  After all, Disney can only do a “live action” shot for shot remake once, right?

(c) 2019 D.G. McCabe

 

Us (2019)

Us (USA, 2019)

Directed by Jordan Peele

After I saw Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In” (2008), I would joke that the message of the film was that the real vampire was the vampire within.  That particular joke played not only upon the movie’s content, but on the type of Scandavian existential dread often found in the films of Ingmar Bergman.  Due respect to Mr. Bergman’s vision of God as a hideous spider in “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961) or Mr. Alfredson’s star crossed vampire, there is a new existential nightmare in the cinema canon, the “tethered” in Jordan Peele’s “Us.”

Many great horror movies lull the audience into a sense of comfort.  Peele certainly did that in 2017’s “Get Out.”  Us isn’t one of those films.  From the first frame, Peele brings the audience into a nightmare that doesn’t let up.  There are lulls in the action, but nothing long enough to give anyone the type of familiarity or comfort that one might feel when watching Psycho (1960) for the first time.  The viewer is allowed to catch their breath, but can never let go of that awful feeling that nothing is ever quite right.

To give away too many plot details of a suspense/thriller/horror film can inadvertently ruin the film.  I won’t do that in a short, initial review.  I can tell you that the cast is perfect, particularly, if Lupita Nyong’o isn’t a shoe-in for a Best Actress nod they should just cancel the Oscars next year.  The score is one of the best I’ve heard, up there with Metropolis (1927), Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), and Fargo (1996).  Michael Abels creates the perfect complimentary sound to Mike Gioulakis’ cinematography – eerie when it needs to be and epic when it needs to be.  

After “Get Out” and its biting commentary on race relations in America, it wouldn’t be surprising if Peele created a companion piece.  “Get Out” is a great film in its own right, but in some ways the two films couldn’t be more different.   There are certain stylistic similarities, but “Get Out” satires monstrous elements of society, and overall, is a much funnier movie.  “Us” has its moments of humor, but it is a nightmarish meditation on the nature of evil in general.  In short, the monsters in”Get Out” were concrete, the monsters in “Us” are the wind.  

Which one is more horrifying?  It depends on your fears, and to some extent on your experience.  I’m going to watch “Get Out” again this weekend and think about how to answer that myself.

(C) 2019 D.G. McCabe  

2019 Oscar Preview: Everything Else

I’m glad I previewed Best Picture first, yikes. The time I have to write movie articles grows short. Anyway, here’s the rest of the categories that I typically preview.

Best Actor

It depends which biopic transformation that the Academy likes better – Christian Bale’s or Rami Malek’s. I’m leaning towards Malek. Vice got savaged by critics, failed to connect with audiences, and Bale already has an Oscar. I think Bohemian Rhapsody’s box office success will compel the Academy to honor it in some way, and honoring Malek is the most reasonable way to do so.

Best Actress

The other nominees did great work, but Glenn Close has been a fixture for a long time without an Oscar. The Academy loves nothing more than to give legendary performers awards late in their careers, and Close will be the latest beneficiary of this sentiment.

Supporting Actor

I’m torn on this one. Green Book is losing all momentum, so I don’t see Mahershala Ali winning. Otherwise, I’ll pick Adam Driver, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

Supporting Actress

Emma Stone and Rachel Weiss will cancel each other out here, so I’m going to go with Regina King. If Beale Street Could Talk was a great film that got snubbed in too many categories. It should win at least one Oscar.

Animated Feature

I think this one goes to Spider-Man. I think the Disney movies cancel each other out, and the other two nominees just aren’t getting enough buzz.

Best Director

I really, really hope Spike Lee wins, but pragmatically speaking, I think it goes to Alfonso Cuarón. Roma is probably Cuarón’s best film, and that’s saying something. Plus I don’t think Roma wins Best Picture, so the Academy might split the difference.

Visual Effects

The Avengers will win this. Hollywood is getting nervous about awarding popular movies, and giving at least one Oscar to the biggest movie of the year globally (along with Best Picture to the biggest movie of the year domestically) should quiet things down.

Oscars on Sunday!

(c) 2019 D.G. McCabe