Velvet Goldmine (1998) – I’m going to call this Citizen Bowie, okay? Is it weird to feel nostalgic for the nostalgia of the late ’90s which was all about the early ’70s? I wasn’t there in the early ’70s, but that time when everyone older than me was fondly remembering that time was nice.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999) – I had jokes all lined up for this, but then all of a sudden, the movie about a brutal rape and murder in early-’90s Nebraska got really heavy and dark, and it felt inappropriate to joke about it. But hey, did you know Hilary Swank was left-handed? Either she is, or Brandon was left-handed and Hilary Swank is just super method about these things.
The Trip to Italy (2014) – If Rob Brydon is even half as affable as he claims to be—and he claims to be much less affable than he appears to be—I still love him. Steve Coogan is unobjectionable. Altogether an agreeable diversion, but not nearly as strong as the original The Trip. If you only see one Brydon-Coogan road-trip movie, watch the other one.
Birdman (2014) – An amusing story wrapped in an ambitious and impressive technical experiment. Emma Stone will someday rule all of entertainment.
Django (1966) – All the misogyny and machismo you expect from a western from the ’60s, plus all the gorgeous people and gorgeous filmmaking all Italians are apparently genetically prone to making.
And the Oscar Goes To… (2014) – Such a pointless documentary, but it does show what the Academy really thinks about animation. As they go over the history of each category and what those people do, they come to animation. The narrator mentions that the Academy added a category for Best Animated Feature, then they cut to Chris Rock explaining how voice acting is the easiest thing he’s ever done, basically reminding us that they will never, ever take vocal performances seriously. They then move on to another category.
Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, 2001) – Miyazaki is a treasure. Is he even capable of making a bad movie?
Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animated
- Me and My Moulton – A little girl is jealous that the family downstairs isn’t as interesting as hers. I usually love Torill Kove’s stuff. The Danish Poet was great. This… is not.
- Feast – Disney provides us with some fluff. IMDB thinks I might also be interested in Paperman. I am not, but I can see where you draw that connection.
- The Bigger Picture – This is the closest thing the shorts come to Cancer Ward or Scandinavians with Daddy Issues this year, but at the very least, it’s visually compelling. The animation style is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.
- A Single Life – Points awarded for an amusing concept and a brief runtime.
- The Dam Keeper – Kids can be cruel, and if you piss off the wrong kid, he’ll doom your town to rolling clouds of poisonous gas.
Other Highly Commended Short Films also Shown
- Sweet Cocoon – That is not how cocoons work. That’s not how any of this works.
- Footprints – Jesus Christ, Bill Plympton, just die already. Who keeps adding his shit to these screenings?
- Duet – It is described as a “celebration of life”. Spoiler: it only goes up to young adulthood, after which, presumably, the characters lives don’t merit celebration. And that is one extraordinarily long-lived dog.
- Bus Story (Histoires de bus) – If you’re not already in love with hand-drawn Canadian animation, you never will be, and we might be enemies.
Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Live-Action
- Parvaneh – I would pigeonhole this with a category I’ll call The Plight of Immigrants, but it’s also a lot of Being a Woman Is Hard Sometimes. Neither bad nor great. Acceptable. Probably my least favorite to win, which I mean only to say that it was a good selection this year.
- Butter Lamp (La lampe au beurre de yak) – Surprisingly effective for how little appears to happen. There is one moment of the briefest exposition that puts the actions of one character into context, but otherwise so genuine and natural that I couldn’t be sure that it was fiction at first.
- The Phone Call – My pick to win, so obviously doomed to lose. Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent are magical.
- Aya (איה) – Someone does something completely insane and isn’t arrested for it. Jerusalem must be a nice, safe place.
- Boogaloo and Graham – Better title: The Troubles with Chickens.
Gaslight (1944) – What a charming name for a very specific type of horribly abusive relationship. I do so love a movie about descent into madness, and this was so well done.
And so begins my tenth year of deliberately misinterpreting the meaning of sacrifice.