2019 Movies: Rate Or Hate?

In Memoriam

Posted in News on February 12, 2020

This year’s Oscars brought a lot of buzz, not because it was the second time the awards had decided to go ‘host-less’, nor the Cats made an entrance, but that the major awards (Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay) all went to Parasite, a South-Korean film, who by the way had already bagged Best Foreign Film earlier in the night.

Was an institution, marred years previously by the #OscarsSoWhite, finally becoming diverse? Shamefully not, for although Parasite may have broken many records, it itself was up against a stream of what could be called ‘self-congratulatory’ films, quality films but reminiscent of an era long past. The question of diversity in the Oscars is not only to do with ethnicity or race, but also to do with talent, going to the symbolic question concerning the Oscars: is it still the paradigm of the best in film or has it become an ancient, self-reinforcing relic? Particularly in the age of experimentation of films, be it in substance or style, the question has become all the more heightened.

As such, this article is not only to give you the real take on which Oscar films I hate and which ones I rate, but also to the hidden gems completely shut out of the awards frenzy.

OSCARS: Rate or Hate

  • Parasite: Rate

Hands down Parasite is worth the watch. Admittedly, as someone who regrettably gets turned off by watching a film through subtitles (albeit more to do with what’s lost in translation than any cultural sentiment), Parasite is the proof of the hidden world in foreign film; a world promising the just as rich, if not richer, stories in an age creeping on ‘franchise fatigue’ in Hollywood.

Although the plot takes its time to kick-off and the gravity of the film may come off as over-the-top, Parasite has some interesting social insights into the socioeconomic divide and how the radical ripple effect caused when the wedge is deepened. Not to mention the style of the film and how the richness of its story and message are delivered entirely through the casual conversations the characters have and not having to rely on exposition.

I say stick persevere with the subtitles – your future self with thank you.

  • Ford v Ferrari: Hate

Think of it as the Le Mans version of the 2014 movie ‘Rush’. The movie had a lot going for it in terms of its talent both in front of the camera (Matt Damon & Christian Bale) as well as behind (James Mangold), the story in which it wanted to tell about the vexation of corporate interests and the passion for racing, and its seeming balance of both the big but also the small through the deep friendship embodied by Damon and Bale in the film.

So why do I hate it? Well because for a film that has a considerable run time (2.5 hours) it lacks anything interesting to say. Adding onto that the seeming resemblance to Rush and you get a well-crafted yet ultimately dull film. Don’t get me wrong, while it’s a joy to see Damon and Bale quip each other on-screen and watch a group of old cars race each other, it could’ve easily shaved off half its runtime and I would’ve left from the cinema just as content, if not more seeing as I had an extra hour and 15 of my life to spare.

  • Richard Jewell: Hate

Clint Eastwood is a titan in Hollywood, still directing at the age of 89. Unfortunately for him, his age is starting to show in terms of the quality of the films he directs. With the possible exception of American Sniper in 2014, Eastwood has failed to make a good film since Gran Torino or Invictus back in 2008-2009. His recent trend of ‘people-of-interest’ stories have all turned out as duds, and this one is no different. Focusing on a Paul Blart-like security guard who gets his 5 minutes of fame after sniffing out a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics before becoming the target of a character assassination by the media and the FBI, Richard Jewell relies on the contemporary relevance of the ‘trial by public opinion’ and parasitic nature of the media to garner interest in this famous case study. However, much like Eastwood’s recent films, he fails to maintain any meaningful momentum in the film, and when the film does ultimately reach its inevitable climax; it’s underwhelming.

  • Bombshell: Hate

Unlike the title, this film went pretty much ‘under the radar’ in audience’s views, only popping its head for a couple of award nominations including Charlize Theron for Best Actress and Margot Robbie for Best Supporting Actress. Only upon watching the film do you see why it did; Bombshell is an underwhelming take on the high-profile #MeToo scandal of the founder of Fox News Roger Ailes and how the story ultimately broke out. The film attempts at both addressing the power dynamics of sexual harassment as well as the dogma that is Fox News but ultimately spread itself too think, leaving both undeveloped. 

Fortunately for those interested in the story, I recommend watching mini-series The Loudest Voice where Russell Crowe pulls off an unforgettable Ailes and the source material is done greater justice.

  • 1917: Rate

Originally I thought 1917 was going to take home the Best Director and Best Picture prize: a WW1 epic featuring a ‘Saving Private Ryan’-like storyline coupled with a quasi-one shot take style.

Common to all viewers is the inability to pinpoint the exact reason for their enjoyment of the film, and perhaps that’s because the film never gives you a moment to reflect on that – its one-shot take facilitates a state of constant immersion sprinkled in with subtle yet powerful asides with revered supporting cast about the dangers and horrors of war.

If you can, do yourself a favor and watch this film in cinemas, for a Netflix & Chill sesh will not do this film justice.

  • Marriage Story: Hate

Much buzz was generated around Noah Baumbach’s Netflix film, featuring Kylo Ren and Black Widow out of their superhero suits and into the realistic and mundane world of divorce. While many praise the film for its ‘realism’ of divorce and the animosity generated by seemingly fee-hungry lawyers, the film fails to live up to the hype. Perhaps it’s a personal indifference to Baumbach’s mild black-comedy film style or the fact that realism isn’t my primary driver to see a film (if I wanted to know what divorce looks like I would just sit in family court), but either way it seemingly failed to click with me. Luckily for you, the film’s currently streaming on Netflix, allowing you to stop watching as soon as the story gets dry (i.e. the opening credits).

  • Joker: Rate

Happy that Joaquin Phoenix got the Best Actor award he so thoroughly deserved. And although the activism speeches could've been spared, Joker is a mesmerizing 'activism-free' movie you must watch.

As stated in my full review:

For all the controversy over the film’s ‘glorification of violence’ and ‘shallow social commentary’, the truth is Philips and Phoenix were making a film that was ruthlessly unapologetic, unaccountable to the rules of superhero films let alone traditional movies, and filled with complete savagery. It was euphoric.

  • Once Upon A Time in Hollywood: Rate

Happy that Brad Pitt got an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, apparently his first acting Oscar as well! 

As stated in my full review

Albeit lengthy with its 2 hour and 40 minute runtime and arguably pointless, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is a true marvel to watch, Tarantino’s mise-en-scène of 1960’s Hollywood is a world you want to immerse yourself in as you watch your classic A Star Actors be … regular people. And for those worried about Tarantino going soft, fear not for not even Quentin’s new diet can prevent him from indulging in an all-out gore fest in the end.

  • Jojo Rabbit: Hate

As stated in my full review:

Director Taika Watiti’s sin is not his light-hearted approach of Nazi Germany, but rather that the film lacks any originality, it being entirely derivative of better-known films. It is almost as if producers gave Watiti a chance to go Wes Anderson-esque on The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

  • The Irishman: Rate

As stated in my full review:

The Irishman plays out like a 40-year old reunion of Goodfellas. No one is phoning in a performance or taking themselves too seriously. On the contrary, they all seem to be having a good time going down memory lane with notable homages to old mobster films.

Hidden Gems:

  • Queen & Slim

A film which undeservedly went unnoticed by all major award shows, Queen & Slim is the modern-day ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ story. Set against a background of police brutality and the ease of which a single event can take on a life on its own as part of a political and cultural conversation, the magic of Queen & Slim is that it does not depend on these major talking points as a crutch for its story. It much rather prefers to focus on the developing relationship between the two protagonists and how their crusade together changed their life perspectives on what it means to build a legacy. The reason this awards snub stings, is that the film, in all its audio and visual brilliance, was the directorial debut of a director whose past credits were Lady Gaga music videos!

  • Uncut Gems

If Clint Eastwood hasn’t directed a good film in years, Adam Sandler hasn’t acted in a good film in decades. And yet, just at a point where Adam Sandler was the equivalent of a cash-grabbing comedian, comes a film showing the actor has still got acting talent in him. Pairing up with the Safdie Brothers, best known for their film Good Time with Robert Pattinson, Adam Sandler stars in perhaps what will be the most stressful 2 hours of your life. As artsy-fartsy as the Safdie Brothers may be, through their evocation of psychedelic visuals and soundtracks throughout the film, they nevertheless manage to not only sustain but also consistently build tension in a film where you feel it could all go to hell at any moment.

  • Hustlers

A con run by a group of strippers seeking to escape the hardship of the financial crisis doesn’t seem like Oscar material on paper, but much like what Uncut Gems did to Adam Sandler’s acting career, Hustlers did to Jennifer Lopez’s (living proof that age is just a number). A film entirely told from the female perspective, beyond the superficial glitz and glamour of con-artistry, Hustlers reveals the gritty picture of the stripper industry whilst at the same time fostering a dynamic friendship arc between J Lo and her mentee Constance Wu.

  • Knives Out

When Daniel Craig said he’d rather slit his wrists than do another Bond movie, little did people know that what Craig’s true passion project was playing a red-neck Texan detective.

As stated in my full review:

Director Rian Johnson is known for two things: pissing off the Stormtroopers and wanna-be Jedis of the Internet with his iteration of Star Wars:The Last Jedi; and doing so unapologetically. In other words, for those of us who aren’t invested in Star Wars, Rian Johnson is relatively new and unheard of. Few might remember his 2012 sci-fiLooperwith Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt which was well received back in the day. Johnson’s style is quite radical in that he emphatically likes to think outside the box and is not worried about appeasing box office numbers or hardline critics, even if it costs him. This what makes Knives Out so enjoyable: if you can forgive the occasional and questionable leaps in logic, the film proves to be an enjoyable ride.

  • Us

It is shocking to think that the film was actually released this time last year, when in Hollywood terms it seems to be eons ago. And yet, Jordan Peele’s cinematic brilliance was left unnoticed this time around, seemingly conveying that the new-time director can’t strike gold twice in a row. Aside from its thought-provoking metaphorical analogies towards race and class separation, Us’s true snub was the fact that Lupita Nyong'o was not at least nominated for her powerful performance as the film’s protagonist.