A lousy year for movies, as shown by the Oscar nominations for Best Picture:
BlacKkKlansman and Vice are bad movies with bad directing by Spike Lee and Adam McKay, respectively. Vice has good casting but McKay isn’t content to let his expert actors (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, all nominated in their categories) carry his movie, but insists on loudly calling attention to his own shortcomings as a writer and director.
Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody are competent crowd-pleasers, but that’s about it.
The Favourite and Roma are decent upscale efforts, but they can be a little disappointing if your hopes are too high. I would rank The Favourite (about intrigue at the court of Queen Anne) as about as good as Iannucci’s similar The Death of Stalin. But the latter is a guy movie while The Favourite is a gal movie so in the current year The Favourite gets the nominations.
Roma is seen as anti-Trump because it’s message is assumed to be: What America needs is more Mexican maids.
I haven’t seen A Star Is Born, which just about everybody liked but it hasn’t been sweeping the awards season, or Green Book. The latter’s trailer is lame, but I hear it’s not bad. It’s directed by one of the Farrelly Brothers (Dumb and Dumber, Something About Mary). But neither director got a nomination, while Spike Lee and Adam McKay got nominations.
The only surprise in the Best Director nominations is Cold War, a black and white Polish romantic drama. The trailer looks terrific, a much better use of B&W than Roma, but I haven’t seen it.
In other categories, I liked Best Supporting Actor nominee Richard E. Grant (not Hugh Grant) in C an You Ever Forgive Me as a cheerful, not very bright extremely effeminate gay.
The rest of the movie, with Melissa McCarthy as a broke lesbian biographer who turns to forging letters by dead celebrities, didn’t do much for me.
Forging relics is pretty interesting both technically and philosophically, but the movie didn’t delve into either angle much. It mostly seemed obsessed with mid-20th Century celebrities who were either homosexual, bisexual, or whom homosexuals wish were homosexual, but it never quite got around to offering any insight into its obsession. The film would have been more entertaining with flashbacks to forged scenes of Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich being witty.
I guess the main message is that the literary life is mostly for homosexuals because people with kids need to make more money.
The movie has its stars playing against type: McCarthy plays a high IQ writer and Grant plays a low IQ former pretty boy/petty criminal who got by on his charming English accent and high cheekbones, but is now old. It’s a great role for Grant, whom I was a big fan of when he was popular 25-30 years ago (e.g., Withnail and I, L.A. Story, Bright Young Things). Stupid people are often more appealing onscreen than smart people and casting Grant, who seems like a character out of a Waugh novel, as an 85 IQ character is pretty daring. But maybe the movie would have worked better playing to type with Grant as the high IQ master criminal and McCarthy as his not so smart helper?
Having two high IQ characters would have allowed for more interesting dialogue. But the usual way movies make good use of a high IQ main character and a low IQ supporting character is to have the dumb character laboriously come up with toward the end of the movie one shockingly insightful question that forces the smart character to confront his or her main self-delusion. (This is kind of a cliche, but it can be a great cliche. It’s rare enough that I can’t think of an example offhand.) But Can You Ever Forgive Me never quite does that.