Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WEEKENDS and SHOPLIFTERS (2 Film Review) Oscar Catch Up Part 9

Update: By Monday, I will end up seeing every single nominee for the 91st Academy Awards, all 121 of them (some are the same obviously as some films have multiple nominations). This series of Oscar Catch Up will ironically end on Part 11, which I will then call Chapter 11 since it is the end. But anyway, two quick short reviews:

WEEKENDS (Nominated for Best Animated Short)

WEEKENDS is a short 15 minutes. The animation is easy on the eyes (kind of messy/classic, you’ll get what I mean when you watch it, it’s on YouTube now), and other than a score and a couple of repeating rock/pop songs, there is no dialogue. It is about a boy that is dealing with the separation of his parents. His mother gets him during the week, his father on the weekends. He tries to move on with his life as they move on with theirs.

It’s quite emotional and stays with the theme of all the shorts basically being about growing up and dealing with your age. I have now seen all 5 of the nominated ones now, and while I think Bao will ultimately win, (I mean Pixar, come on) I really hope instead that it is One Small Step. This one would be a close third.

SHOPLIFTERS (Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film)

I have one Foreign Language film left to see (Never Look Away, this Friday), but I’m going to go ahead and call that SHOPLIFTERS will be my least favorite of the bunch. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but this one might have been a little over hyped for me. The film is a Japanese drama film about a family, who are not really related at all we come to find out, that steal from shops and do other scams to deal with a poverty type lifestyle.

You probably won’t know any of the actors/actresses in it so I won’t waste my time, but the acting is very solid. The story itself and the motivations and secrets of these characters is like peeling layers off of a fruit to get to the sweet juicy center. Some of the revelations are sad, some are downright shocking. The ‘family’ mentioned above is a family of five at the beginning, and then it turns to six when they take in a girl that seems to be abandoned and abused by her mother and father.

The ending is sure to leave a lump in your throat and the film is very engaging on a story and character developmental level. Everything technical about it could’ve used some work. The cinematography isn’t all that special, and some scenes were too dark to work with to see what was going on. It felt like a point and shoot kind of movie. However, going back to a positive light, the film has probably the best child acting since IT in 2017. But yeah, the movie is available to rent on all your Movie On Demand providers. It’s worth checking out completely story wise, as it is really original and is something that Hollywood in America wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole now, due to the fact we are in sequel/reboot land for the next 1,000 years.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: All 5 of the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts (Oscar Catch Up Part 7)

Okay, I went to a theater this weekend to cross 5 more nominated things off my list. Since my wife and I are having our last Oscar party this year, I’m trying to see the most nominations I ever have, in case any guests have any questions. I will definitely never do this again, as all 5 of the Live Action Shorts were depressing as fuck (they were all well told though and well made). Was there really no happy shorts? So let’s do one or two quick paragraphs on each shall we?

DETAINMENT

The longest and depressing of them all, let’s rip it like a band-aid. This is based of the true 1993 England tragedy of two year old James Bulger, who was tortured and murdered by two ten year old boys, the youngest convicted murderers in the history of the world. This 30 minute short basically covers the initial taped interviews when they were first brought in for questioning. I read about this haunting case about a year ago, and it has haunted me ever since. Do everyone a favor and don’t look up this case anywhere on Wikipedia or other news sites, as if you do, you might end up depressed for hours/days, and this whole ordeal haunting your nightmares, especially if you have a little toddler in your life right now.

I’ve listened to the tapes awhile ago in real life (they don’t replay the real ones here, it is re-enacted by actors and actresses) and everything here is dead on. The child acting is phenomenal, and seeing the two boys abduct James in the mall and walk him to his death was very hard to watch for me. This short is controversial out of the whole bunch because the mother of James Bulger has tried to get this film boycotted because she feels like the movie humanizes the two monster. Quite the contrary, it made me hate the little fuckers more and wish that I could kill them both myself. Especially if you read how their lives have basically moved on after they turned 21 years old and the whole anonymity bullshit. I really hope this short doesn’t win, as I do agree that the filmmaker not getting permission from Bulger’s mother beforehand makes me think he really is trying to get ahead by creating art out of tragedy. I’ll tell you one last thing, if I had a time machine, this would be the first thing I would stop.

MADRE

This shortest of the shorts is a one take depressing wonder. Basically this mother receives a phone call from her six-year-old son, who is on a beach in France waiting on his father to get back with something (why the father left him alone? No clue, this doesn’t answer it. Marta quickly realizes that something is very wrong and that she has almost no time to solve the problem as her son’s cell phone battery is low.

The one take thing was pretty genius. The acting from both the mother, her son’s voice, and then the grandmother are excellent (I wonder how many whole takes it took to get the thing in the can). You might be asking if this is more of a thriller and how the hell is it depressing. Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I bet you could probably guess how this thing ends. Anyway, the short, while depressing, was short and well made.

FAUVE

On the Quebec countryside, two young boys are playing around in abandoned areas and objects. They keep challenging each other to certain tasks, and one of these tasks will change their lives forever. Yep, this one is still depressing, and very haunting to the point where you don’t want to ever lose sight of your young child. It’s not as bad as having them abducted and murdered, but it’s still very bad.

The child acting is great, and the short isn’t that long. So yeah, that’s all I have to say about that. Great camera work in this one as well.

SKIN

A racist red neck asshole beats up a black man outside a grocery store in front of both their families. The black man did absolutely nothing wrong, in fact, he was just playing with the boy with an action figure from a distance. Then this racist red neck asshole gets abducted by some people as revenge from the encounter. Anyway, where it goes from there, I will not say. As the revenge is pretty genius, and the depressing part is the initial racism beat up scene and then the ending.

The acting here is excellent. It actually have people you may know such as Jonathan Tucker (in a bunch of shit) or Danielle McDonald (the girl in Patti Cakes and Bird Box). And like I said, the revenge part is pretty genius. You’ll see.

MAGUERITE

Last, but certainly not least. This is the one posed to win the Oscar, and it deserves it. It is the least depressing of the bunch, more of a bittersweet depressant. A very old sick elderly woman, who needs dialysis but refuses to get it, is taken care of by a nice younger woman, and the two become friends.

When the elderly woman finds out things about the younger woman’s life style, she reminesces about her past and then shares some things with the younger one that she didn’t think she could tell anyone. I won’t giveaway what these things are, but they are depressing in that what the elderly woman’s dreams when she was younger was considered a mortal sin back then, and she just didn’t live in the right time. Great acting, great short, hope it wins, and that’s it, I’m tired of talking about depressing films.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: COLD WAR and OF FATHERS AND SONS (2 Film Review) Oscar Catch Up Part 5

Yes, I know, how many parts is this Oscar catch up? I’m thinking its possible it might get to 8, 9, or 10, so just bare with me. Here is another two quick reviews on movies I needed to watch to cross a couple of more nominees off my list:

COLD WAR (Nominated for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film)

COLD WAR was wayyyyyyy too short. I know right? You thought I was going to say long there for a second, but no, at 90 minutes, this movie is too short and not fleshed out enough. That’s not to say it was bad at all. Far from it. The direction is great, the cinematography (of which it is nominated and I wouldn’t mind it winning) is stunningly gorgeous and beautiful to look at, the acting is good. It’s a very well made film. But with a tacked on WTF really? ending and not enough screen time for the destructive romance to blossom and blow up between the two leads, it’s just short of becoming great or even a masterpiece.

The movie mainly takes place in the 1950s (it goes a little before and a little after), and it is about a music director that casts poverty people that have talent and does a musical roadshow in and around Poland. He casts a younger singer, falls in love with her, and tries to persuade her to run away with him to France, but the love between them is not so simple. With the acting between Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Knot, their romance is actually a little believable and they have good chemistry. But oh man, add 30 to 45 minutes onto this film, show us some of the grittier things that happened to them in between all their get-togethers and delete and re write that ending, wouldn’t been something truly something.

But all you people that love cinematography out there, this one is a must see for that reason alone. Every fucking shot of this movie is gorgeously detailed and beautiful. The film is in black and white, and thankfully so, I don’t think it wouldn’t worked as well in color. The three nominations for this film are well deserved, director Pawel Pawlikowski did a fine job. But it if were longer, it could’ve beaten Roma for me, and I am a little disappointed that it didn’t.

OF FATHERS AND SONS (Nominated for Best Documentary Feature)

Damn, if you ever want to see how truly hatful, awful, and shitty it is in the radical parts of Syria, watch OF FATHERS AND SONS. It is a documentary feature made by Talal Derki, and he goes back to his homeland of when he was a small child, and realized it has changed into a nightmare. The filmmaker gains the trust of this Islamic family and stays with them for two years it’s about radical jihadism and has terrorist training in the documentary. How this guy escaped from there alive and not once being suspected of not being someone like them, I have no clue how he pulled off.

It really is terrible over there, a very harrowing documentary that capture my attention for the entire short 98 minute run time. The radical Islamists are just awful human beings. They beat and yell at their wives, for which they have multiple. They let their kids to mean things to the other little girls around their area, make dangerous bombs that could seriously hurt them. And one of them even goes off to terrorist training for several years. Some of it is really hard to watch. The father of the family gets his foot blown off mine tracking (it doesn’t show this), and sacrificing a ram because their religious dictates it (it doesn’t show the actual neck slicing, but it shows blood going everywhere and the father chopping off its feet).

There is little narration but at the beginning and the end from the director, which was very appropriate. All the images and shots spoke for themselves, I didn’t need to be explained what was going on (its subtitled BTW). If people ever tell me their live is absolute shit, I am going to tell them to watch this documentary, to see how much of an actual living nightmare over there. I get the shivers just thinking about this documentary. Definitely deserves its nomination.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: Three of the Five Documentary Short Subject Academy Award Nominees (Oscar Catch Up Part 4)

Alright, here are three quick reviews of the two Documentary Short Subject Academy Award Nominees that were available to watch

BLACK SHEEP

This one is available for free if you have Amazon Prime. A mother of Nigerian descent moves her children from London to Essex after a killing of a 10 year old boy also of Nigerian descent (but unrelated to the family). The story is told from a point of view of one of the boys grown up. He talks up close to the camera and it goes from his face to a re enactment of events of what happened when they moved to Essex. You will realize why it is called BLACK SHEEP by the end of the short 26 minute run time.

Basically this man describes how racist Essex was when he moved there. He got beaten up badly by white teenagers that would call him the C and N word. After he got beaten up, he saved up his money to buy more expensive clothes, got blue fake cataracts for his eyes, and tries to bleach his skin white. The white people end up accepting him, but then still terrorizes other black teenagers and such. It’s a pretty harrowing documentary of the man describing why he did the things that he did and didn’t try to go into another direction. I’ll ruin anything else in the short run time but, basically, I definitely see why it was nominated.

END GAME

END GAME is a short 40 something minute doc that is available on Netflix if you have it. Like Black Sheep, this one is hard to watch without getting a little depressed. It’s about sick people in a hospital and/or hospice where social workers and counselors work with the families of those sick to make sure that their end of life care is comfortable to the best of their abilities. It has about 5 to 6 patients that it focuses on, and goes extensively into one or two of them, specifically with an Arabic women in her 40s that is dying of cancer who will leave behind a husband and child.

*Spoiler alert* There are no happy endings in this short documentary. If you are hoping for a miracle, don’t. End Game means End Game. But the doc does show you that a place of people that deal with this can be very compassionate and helpful till the end. So combining that with these people dying of their illnesses makes sort of a bittersweet affair by the end of the documentary. I can see why this one was nominated as well, but don’t recommend it to those that get very upset easily. I’ll leave that choice up to you.

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN

How an individual is nominated for an Oscar for the 7 minute bit (that’s available for free on YouTube, I will never understand. There is no narrator dialogue, and just ominous music, and old footage restored and edited. It’s footage of an American Nazi rally of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden in 1939, shortly before the beginning of World War II. If 15 – 20 minutes would’ve been added on to this thing and gave us a little insight into the event or the events surrounding it, instead of just an end title card describing what was going on, they may have had something. Other than that, I really hope this doesn’t win, because there is no way it deserve an Oscar. Sure the footage is haunting, but he didn’t shoot the God damn haunting footage…

If I happen to find a place to watch the other two for free I will update this blog.