On the heels of last year’s Rome, Netflix has some of the biggest contenders in the awards race this year. Have you seen any of them?
The Race opened with the Golden Globes this past Sunday. I skipped it in a one-woman protest over When They See Us – the best mini-series of the past year (both topically and creatively) – being snubbed. But I am as ever looking forward to the Oscars (or at least the Oscar nominations when I’ll know how mad to be because #Oscarssowhite remains a thing). So I don’t know who won at the Globes or who’s in front so far – I did catch Ricky’s opening monologue on youtube though and it was funny.
But I can say that I’ve seen three out of these four Netflix films being pushed for Awards consideration. Here’s what I thought (and before you jump on me remember, per Salt ‘n Pepa, that opinions are like a**holes and everybody’s got one…and we’re entitled to them too, so chill and just state your dissenting opinion without calling me out my name).
Dolemite – Eddie is back baby! Eddie Murphy’s had some hits, critical and/or commercial or should’ve been critical and commercial (48 Hours, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Coming to America, Boomerang, Life, Bowfinger, his previous Oscar nominated performance in Dreamgirls, voice work in Mulan and the Shrek films, stand up films like Delirious and Raw, his entire SNL catalogue including his 2019 guest hosting stint) and misses (most of the other stuff, though those aren’t without their inspired moments – I’m thinking of that film where he played a senator or congressman which was funny-ish – and I’m sure the kid films like Daddy Day Care and Dr. Doolittle have their fans, just not me). Dolemite is My Name is in the hits category with Eddie hitting the comedy notes effortlessly and yet with great energy (i.e. not phoning it in) but also bringing nuance and complexity and great humanity to the depiction of the blaxploitation era independent filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore. A great ensemble piece too with costumes (by the great Academy Award winning put some respec’ on her name Ruth Carter) that is historic and inspirational and just fun. I want to see both Eddie and Ruth get a nomination for this, maybe Wesley Snipes too who hasn’t been this delightfully outside his comfort zone since To Wong Foo.
Marriage Story – this is my second favourite of the Netflix awards hopefuls. I liked this film more than I expected to. I thought it was going to be just a re-tread of a film I saw as a kid and loved, Kramer vs. Kramer but its quiet yet ugly (that fight!) devolution of a relationship was its own thing (with the kid striking the one sour note for me; the kid in Kramer vs. Kramer was more endearing). I kinda maybe get the Adam Driver thing after this (in a way I didn’t with his turn as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo). I still don’t stan but I get it. I also enjoyed the supporting players like Merritt Wever (last seen in my second favourite mini-series of the year, Unbelievable) and Julie Haggerty (of Airplane fame, so you know she was funny), and the lawyers (Ray Liotta, love him, loved him since Field of Dreams, and Laura Dern especially, Hawkeye was quietly distinctive as well). But Adam playing hubris and befuddlement to desperation was truly gripping. Scarlett J. didn’t stand out for me as much but it was a solid performance – though I found her wardrobe oddly distracting with its almost 1980s-ish ordinariness, especially considering that she was playing the actress with Hollywood aspirations to his New York theatre snob. Joker (a film I won’t see) seems to have the momentum but Adam deserves a solid shot.
The Irishman – sigh. I feel like I’m missing something but I just don’t get the hype about this film. It’s not that it’s overlong and slowly paced, though it is, but I’ve sat through three hour movies before without feeling so aware of the slow trickle of time. I’ve liked all of these creatives – Scorcese, De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci – in the past but this just felt self-indulgent to me (notably the unconvincing and distracting de-aging … just cast younger for the younger versions of the character jack because Lord the uncanny valley-ness of it all). That said, I appreciated some of the directing choices (the death note with each minor character introduction) and how they tied in to the film thematically. Because the film really is a treatise on death and life – the bloody uncertainty of the gangster life yes but also the sad note that survivors of the life face the same fate we all do, aging and still death…and because of the choices made, alone and undignified in the case of the titular character played by De Niro. Women and people of colour were absent or underused but what else is new, it’s a Scorcese film (I was surprised when Anthony Anderson showed up in The Departed). It was good to see Joe Pesci again – distracting face and all, and Pacino as the union boss was really good in his usual bombast but also in rare quiet moments the likes of which we haven’t seen since Godfather I. One thing, I’ve been saying it is what it is for years, so let’s not act like that’s a new catchphrase. Oh, another thing, I see some pushback trying to shame people who aren’t bowled over by this film (the leading contender for best picture) for not being cerebral enough, for leaning toward the Marvel films Scorcese dismissed as amusement park rides, and…no, just no. I like a lot of the Marvel films, yes, no apologies, but in the Scorcese oeuvre I also had a date threaten to fall asleep on me when I took him to see The Age of Innocence which I loved. So, don’t even.
Two Popes – no interest in seeing this. And I’m Catholic. Great actors though so I’m sure they’ll do well without my support.
Netflix continues to pull out all the stops on behalf of its bumper crop of Oscar-bait films. It has teamed with Dolby to set has set up an immersive exhibit in New York that will showcase Dolemite Is My Name, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes. The exhibit will be held at Dolby…