Monday, December 13, 2021

Oscars voting - and viewing

It's voting time for the Academy Awards, at least in some categories.  I've just handed in my ballot for the animated shorts - Danny Leonard and I have a film in the competition, "Demi's Panic" - it's very different from my comedy films, and very timely - so we have high hopes for the short.  The voting taking place this week will determine what's called the "Short List", this year it's 15 animated shorts chosen out of the 84 eligible, and then in January, another round of voting will choose the 5 films nominated for Best Animated Short out of the 15 on the Short List.  

In the meantime, I've been able to see a few of the new features eligible in other categories.  

Being a big fan of Guillermo Del Toro, I was happy to see "Nightmare Alley", a remake of the 1947 Tyrone Power film that is equally squalid and perverse - and apparently it failed at the box office because it was so "sordid". But now today's audiences are looking for something dark and sinister.  So here comes the "Nightmare Alley" remake, starring Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett.  I thoroughly liked the film's visual style and sense of evil - being a fan of noir, this film has no characters at all that are model citizens. I give "Nightmare Alley" a B+.

Another hot film coming out soon is "Licorice Pizza", directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  I thought it was a very curious title, until someone told me it was slang for vinyl record discs (LPs), which seems appropriate, because the film is also very curious.  Basically, it's about a long-term courting process involving a high-school boy and a young working girl.  It includes a series of vignettes showcasing their up-and-down relationship.  Of course, it's all played out against constant 60's and 70's music.  Also there are some surprising cameos by Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper (he's everywhere!) and others.  I'll give it a C+.

And the final film I saw - but it came out a while ago - was "The Mitchells vs. the Machines", a crazy animated feature directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, and produced by Chris Miller and Phil Lord.  It is, without a doubt, the craziest animated feature I've ever seen.  I was laughing audibly throughout the film.  It's very inventive and surreal.  You'll love the lines: "Is that a dog or a pig or a toaster?" when the robots are talking about a dog that looks amazingly like my "Guard Dog" character.  By the way, a little bit of trivia, Chris Miller actually interned at my studio when he was in college.  Now he's a mega-legend and deservedly so, he's a genius!  I give this film a solid A.

--Bill Plympton