January 2020 Movie Roundup

Happy 2020 friends! The Oscars are four days away — voting is closed, all precursors have been awarded, the race is slowing down, and the bets are on. January was a bit of a slow month, mostly trying to catch up on all of movies that were on streaming since I couldn’t make it as often to the theater.

SO we’ll just have to spend the rest of the time talking about predictions for Sunday and thoughts on the race thus far.

Ready? Let’s go.

The Two Popes
“Can one ever live simply enough?”

I really don’t know what I was expecting from this movie, but I must say I like what I got. While the camerawork was a bit uneven and the documentary-style approach felt a little strange at times (especially as it wasn’t consistent throughout), I found it to be a profoundly moving and surprisingly dynamic (and funny!) story of two very influential and controversial characters at one of the most prevalent institutions of our world. Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins have such great chemistry and both deliver brilliant performances. Also ABBA is now a hymn. Confirmed. Catch it on Netflix while you can.

“One act of goodwill leads to another.”

Yes I know I’m like two months too late for this Christmas movie. I was originally going to save it for next Christmas since I didn’t have a chance to watch it this past holiday season but when it got nominated for Best Animated Feature, I figured I might as well check it out. And I’m glad I did — truly breathtaking animation accompanies a lovely and unique story about the origins of Santa and the tradition of gift-giving. It’s a perfect feel-good Christmas movie and definitely worth a yearly holiday rewatch. The type of movie to make you feel less alone. Save it for December or for whenever you want to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Currently streaming on Netflix.

“Am I the story?”

I wanted to like this so bad but sadly it was not the masterpiece it marketed itself to be. Honestly it was a poor imitation of the Adam McKay / Big Short style that really just needs to die already. Despite great performances all around, I still felt as if there was something lacking in the story. It was somehow both too general and too specific? By the end of it, all I could think about was how these stories deserved a better movie. Only redeeming quality is the actresses really giving it their all so watch it for them I guess.

The Report
“Democracy is messy.”

Here’s my hot take — Adam Driver should have been nominated for this instead of Marriage Story. This was so much better than I expected it to be, and I’m really surprised it’s received so little attention. I can definitely see where some might find it a bit boring as it’s a very dry, clerical drama, but weirdly enough that’s what made it so much more watchable for me. I think the approach (while no David Fincher) worked well. Currently streaming on Amazon and definitely recommend checking it out.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
“You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

I was so bummed to have missed this when it first came out as I had been hearing about the raves since Sundance. But now it’s on Amazon and none of y’all have any excuse not to check it out. If there was any justice in the world, it would be all over the Oscars. But alas. Earwax. Beautiful, captivating, and so different — for a debut feature, it is quite impressive in its own signature style. Coupled with incredible performances and a gorgeous score, this is easily one of the loveliest movies of the year. Don’t sleep on it.

And that’s it! Like I said, a very short month but I’m essentially all caught up and ready for Sunday. The only ones still on my leftover list are Harriet (which went out of theaters before I could see it and hasn’t debuted on streaming yet) and Motherless Brooklyn (which I’m planning on watching next weekend when I go home because my parents have it on Pay-Per-View). For movies currently in theaters, I only have left Just Mercy and Uncut Gems, both of which I’ll try to catch at some point in the next couple of weeks since neither are nominated.

So I’ll wrap this up with some quick thoughts on Sunday. The biggest question mark for me is the Best Picture Race. For the first time in a long time, the math doesn’t necessarily seem to favor any one film over the others. I would argue that there are five frontrunners (1917OUATIH, Joker, The Irishman, and Parasite) and all can make strong cases. The first four all have 10+ nominations with Joker leading the pack with 11. But that doesn’t mean Parasite is at a disadvantage — aside from The Irishman, it’s the only film with nominations for Best Picture, Director, Film Editing, Production Design, and Screenplay.

Personally, I’m rooting for Parasite but wouldn’t necessarily hate a 1917 win (though it would be disappointing to see yet another foreign-language film only recognized within that category and not in the coveted Best Picture, especially one this globally critically acclaimed). It will also be interesting to see the split between Best Picture and Best Director. If Sam Mendes wins for 1917, might that affect Bong Joon Ho’s chances for Best Picture? And vice versa? The preferential ballot system can really send things either way. As long as it’s not Joker, I’ll be happy.

Which brings us to the acting categories, which honestly it’s a good thing the Best Picture race is so interesting because these four wins have been essentially locked in for months. Fully expect to see Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger, and Laura Dern making speeches on Sunday. As much as I disliked Joker, I can’t begrudge Phoenix’s win as he is exceptionally talented at everything he does — just one of those cases where I wish he would be winning for another role. Same with Brad Pitt honestly as I wish he was being recognized for Ad Astra (though I did thoroughly enjoy his performance in OUATIH). None of the four (except maybe Laura Dern, though I preferred her performance in Little Women) would have been my choices for the win but you work with what you got.

Well we can go on forever here but apart from the acting categories, Sunday should definitely be very interesting. Will be submitting my predictions by this weekend (as always, keeping it a secret), and will likely be back with post-ceremony thoughts sometime next week.

So until then, happy Oscars!


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