The Best of the Best Picture Winners (2019)

BBPW

A few days ago, a friend (and fellow Oscar buff) was telling me how upset she was that most of the Best Picture nominees (not just the winners) are not ones she would want her two daughters (one in Middle School, the other in High School) to see.

While I am not a parent, I can see the concern. Most of the best picture nominees these days are not exactly going to be “family friendly” (the last Best Picture winner that was not rated R was The Artist in 2011).

There are, of course, many other winners (and nominees) of the past nine decades that Hollywood has given these awards. Here are my views on all of them (while many are some I can watch time and time again, some are still question marks to this day).

And the Oscar went to…

91.

The English Patient

It is not the longest film to ever win best picture, but The English Patient (1996) easily seems like the longest. The story of a nurse (Juliette Binoche, who won an oscar for Supporting Actress and does a fine job here) who hears the story of a love story between a man (Ralph Fiennes) and a married woman (Kristen Scott Thomas) is beyond boring (unlike films it beat, mainly Fargo) and completely drawn out. Elaine Benes from “Seinfeld” was right about this film. True, the film does give sort of flashback vibe to old school Hollywood epics, but you are better off watching them.

Parents: Not for kids. Sexuality and violence.

90.

The Broadway Melody

One of the first musicals (and talkies), The Broadway Melody (1929) suffers mainly because it was in the first years of talkies, when Hollywood was still working with the new technology. It reminds me a little too much of the film they were failing to make in the film Singin’ in the Rain. Of all the winners of the Best Picture award, this is the film that is hands down the most dated.

Parents: Nothing bad for kids, but I doubt they will enjoy it.

89.

American Beauty

Even before the career downfall of Kevin Spacey, I didn’t feel like American Beauty (1999) has aged entirely as well as some would have hoped. It has great acting, but the film about a man having a mid-life crisis has far too many creepy moments in it that makes you feel a little uncomfortable, unlike better movies like The Green Mile. Now with the end of Kevin Spacey’s career, the film is very hard to watch.

Parents: Not, I repeat, NOT for kids. A lot of sexual stuff.

88.

The Greatest Show on Earth

Considered one of the worst Best Picture winners, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) does look nice, but the story of a circus behind the scenes is anything but great (yes, that is James Stewart next to Charlton Heston as a clown). It is certainly not better than High Noon, The Quiet Man, or (even though it was sadly not even nominated) Singin’ in the Rain. Director Cecil B. Demille has many more films that are far better.

Parents: It is okay for kids, but nothing they will really get out of it.

87.

gigi.jpg

A nice looking movie, with nice costumes, surrounded by a creepy story, Gigi (1958) is like a nice looking apple with worms on the inside. It is a musical, but with only one song that is sub par.

Parents: I guess if you kids really like costumes?

86.

Cimarron

The first Western to win Best Picture, Cimarron (1931) tells an somewhat decent story, but is easily forgettable. It is nowhere near as good as another film from 1931 (even though it was not nominated), Charlie Chaplin’s uncanny masterpiece City Lights.

Parents: Kids can see it, though I can’t promise they would like it.

85.

Tom Jones

The late great Albert Finney does fine work here as the title character, but Tom Jones (1963) is supposed to be funny and (while I know comedy is subjective) it really isn’t. It is a tad creepy. Unlike Lillies of the Field.

Parents: Not really for kids.

84.

Out of Africa

Out of Africa (1985) does give us a decent Robert Redford performance and a wonderful performance by Meryl Streep (no surprise). What is a surprise is how bland the movie feels. It is no match nowadays for Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, which was left empty-handed at the Oscars, still a travesty. Still, the film does have a gorgeous film score.

Parents: Nothing too bad, but I doubt kids would like it.

83.

Around the world in 80 Years

David Niven is pitch perfect as the man who wants to go on a huge expedition, but Around the World in 80 Days (1956) is full of wonderful sights with too simple a story to take seriously. Also, as a fan of Frank Sinatra, it was a big downer to see him in the film for nearly seven seconds. Perhaps the reason this beat out Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments (which I would argue is still the best biblical film ever made) is the academy was still questioning the win of The Greatest Show on Earth four years prior. That is my best guess, anyway.

Parents: Nothing bad for kids, if they can pay attention that long.

82.

The Great Ziegfeld

Despite being long and a little predictable, The Great Ziegfeld (1936) is worth watching for the performances, mainly Best Actress winner Luise Rainer, who is glamorous and transcendent. Still, San Fransisco has stood the test of time better

Parents: Again, it is okay for kids if they can stand the length.

81.

The Life of Emile Zola

The first half is very hard to sit through, but the second half of The Life of Emile Zola (1937) has the actual story to it. Paul Muni also does a wonderful job in the title role.

Parents: Nothing wrong here for kids.

80.

Shakespeare in Love

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who likes Shakespeare in Love (1998) more than Saving Private Ryan (or even Life is Beautiful), but it does not make the film any worse. Paltrow is very good here as well in the role that got her an Oscar. Still, a horrible shame it won over Saving Private Ryan. It also has the stench over it of Harvey Weinstein.

Parents: Not for kids.

79.

Cavalcade

A basic melodrama, Calvalcade (1933) does tend to drag at times, but the performances of the time do a nice job.

Parents: Ok for kids.

78.

Midnight Cowboy

One of the strangest on this list, Midnight Cowboy (1969) does feature career performances (mainly Dustin Hoffman), but I still admit to being a huge fan of Butch Cassidey and the Sundance Kid.

Parents: NOT FOR KIDS (At the time of this film, it was rated X, though today it would be a solid rated R).

77.

A Man for All Seasons

Though it is very slow at times, A Man for all Seasons (1966) has fine acting. The stand out is Paul Scofield (who won the Oscar for Best Actor) as a man who puts his loyalty to God over that of his to the King (Robert Shaw).

Parents: If your kids can endure the length, they are fine.

76.

Hamlet

Despite a great feel of the period and being a great example of an actor (Laurence Olivier) directing himself, Hamlet (1948) does not live up to another movie from the same year, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is far superior.

Parents: Okay for kids

75.

The Last Emperor

Another example of beauty over substance, The Last Emperor (1987) is a grand looking flick with lots of eye-popping visuals. Too bad the story is on one level, unlike other films that year like The Untouchables or Moonstruck.

Parents: Not for kids (some nudity, plus they will be bored)

74.

Mrs. Miniver

A nice portrayal of the beginning of World War Two, Mrs. Miniver (1942) is mainly known not for its performances (which include Oscar winners Greer Garson and the always lovable Teresa Wright), but for what happened on Oscar night. Garson gave the longest speech in Oscar history, nearly six minutes long. Because of this, the time limit was invented for future speeches of Oscar winners.

Parents: Decent for kids.

73.

All the King's Men

While it is not the best movie ever made about politics (that will always be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939), All the King’s Men (1949) is still one every politician should see. The acting is stellar, and it is a reminder that corruption is as easy to pick up in politics as ever.

Parents: Okay for kids

72.

Gandhi

There is no doubt in my mind that Gandhi (1982) gives a stellar Ben Kingsley performance that makes you think it is actually the real life activist has come back to life. Still, it does drag on at times, and is nowhere near as engrossing (let alone popular) as E.T. is.

Parents: Fine for kids, if they can stand the run time (should be watched in High School).

71.

Wings

The original best picture winner, Wings (1927) does drag on at times. Still, it does have some really nicely done fight scenes (especially considering the time it was made). Also, it is the first Best Picture winner, so that alone is still kind of cool.

Parents: One (very brief) glimpse of nudity, but that is it.

70.

Gladiator

I will probably get colorful feedback for this one. Afterall, I was in middle school when Gladiator (2000) came out, and I loved it back then. Now, a decade and a half later, it still has its moments (meaning yes, Maximus, I am still somewhat entertained),  but it wears thin after a while. Admittedly, it is not as good as the years other nominees, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Traffic.

Parents: This is one of the cases where a middle schooler would be fine watching an R rated film.

69.

The Deer Hunter

Coming out at just the right time, The Deer Hunter (1978) does go on a bit long. However, it does have great scenes including a wedding scene to inspire all wedding scenes, and, of course, Russian Roulette.

Parents: Not for kids, in any way shape or form.

68.

Gentleman's Agreement

Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) does give us great performances by Gregory Peck and (Oscar winner) Celeste Holm. It is also one of the best films made about anti-Semitism. Still, it is probably not as well-known now as Miracle on 34th Street.

Parents: Okay for kids

67.

Birdman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014) is definitely a film for the ages (the first to seem like it was done in a long take since Hitchcock’s Rope). The performances are uncanny throughout, though I still feel Boyhood is the better movie.

Parents: Not really for kids, though High Schoolers may be fine.

66.

Rebecca

While it is certainly not the director’s best film, Rebecca (1940) is the only film of Alfred Hitchcock to win Best Picture. It does build suspense, provides acting greats like Olivier and Fontaine, and has a delicious villain in Mrs. Danvers.

Parents: Suspenseful (of course) but not too bad for kids.

65.

spotlight

Despite only winning two Oscars (Best Picture and Best Screenplay), what makes Spotlight (2015) so engrossing is how tightly sealed the script is (as well as every actor on their A game). Sure, it is not as good as All the President’s Men (the Citizen Kane of journalism movies), but it ranks up there.

Parents: The subject matter is far too intense for kids.  High School and above.

64.

The Lost Weekend

Still the best film made about drinking, The Lost Weekend (1945) shows one of the best examples of a character battling their desires ever shown on film (thanks, of course, to the Oscar-winning performance by Ray Milland). The imagery he sees are rather frightening.

Parents: May be a bit intense for kids.

63.

All Quiet on the Western Front

While it was not the first war film ever made, the invention of sound in movies did help All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) stand the test of time. I would argue it is still the best film ever made about World War One, and still has images that will make you quiver.

Parents: It is a war film, but because of when it was made, it is not terribly violent.

62.

Driving Miss Daisy

I am still a bigger fan of Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, and My Left Foot, yet there is still something endearing about Driving Miss Daisy (1989). It must be the undeniable chemistry between Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

Parents: Okay for kids, though there is some swearing.

61.

Mutiny on the Bounty

Although Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) only won Best Picture and nothing else, it still does a nice job of being entertaining thanks to Gable and Laughton as one of cinema’s best bad guys. Still, I would rather watch Top Hat.

Parents: Passable for kids

Parents: The film is definitely not for kids.

60.

Going my Way

Going My Way (1944) may not be the main thing Bing Crosby is known for nowadays, but he definitely shines as Father O’Malley for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor. His co-star Barry Fitzgerald was also nominated in that category, but won for the same performance in the supporting actor category. I still need to find out how that worked out.

Parents: It is okay for kids.

59.

How Green was my Valley

I can’t help but feel sorry for How Green was my Valley (1941). Truly, it is a rather good movie. The problem is that it beat out competition at the Oscars that are far better than it. Films like The Maltese Falcon, considered the first (and best) film noir in history. Or that other movie, Citizen Kane.

Parents: Fine for kids.

58.

Oliver!

Oliver! (1968) was the last musical to win Best Picture in the 20th Century, and does not get the praise I feel it deserves. It is funny, charming, scary (Bill Sykes is creepy as heck), and delivers great numbers. Also, I would say how bad it is that this film beat 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the Kubrick masterpiece was not even nominated, which is beyond silly.

Parents: Okay for kids.

57.

An American in Paris

Their next film, Singin’ in the Rain (this is the third time I mentioned it so I think it is obvious I am fan), is far better. Still, An American in Paris (1951) has director Stanley Donen and star Gene Kelly giving great visuals and masterful dancing. Not bad, even though A Streetcar named Desire and The African Queen (not nominated) were better.

Parents: Okay for kids.

56.

Grand Hotel

In a way, Grand Hotel (1932) was a trend setter. It was the original all-star cast film (Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, John and Lionel Barrymore) that did not just rely on star power. It relied on stellar acting and a wonderful story.

Parents: Kid friendly

55.

Moonlight

It is still a shock to me how the Oscars managed to make a mess up of announcing Best Picture (which I still felt La La Land deserved). Still, it is hard to deny the poetic power of Moonlight (not to mention the solid acting of everyone involved).

Parents: Too intense for kids

54.

The Departed

Even if Goodfellas and Raging Bull are better movies in the long run, it was The Departed (2006) that finally brought Martin Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director. The story of mobsters has multiple layers and top-notch acting by all in the cast.

Parents: The film is definitely not for kids.

53.

Terms of Endearment

Even though I would prefer The Right Stuff and Tender Mercies, there is no denying the emotional power of Terms of Endearment (1983). Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger are perfect as mother and daughter, and no womanizing neighbor could be played better than anyone not named Jack Nicholson. It also has a tear-jerker scene for the ages.

Parents: Not really for kids

52.

The Kings Speech

While others prefered The Social Network (a very good film) , The King’s Speech (2010) was more entertaining for me. No small part goes to the acting (Colin Firth is spellbinding, and Geoffrey Rush is equally brilliant), about a simple story of someone who has a stuttering problem (mind you, he is a king).

Parents: There is one 30 second scene of swearing, and another of 5-10 seconds,  but that is it. Really, just fast forward through it, and you are ok.

51.

The French Connection

One of the more heart pounding films on this list, The French Connection (1971) is what shot Gene Hackman to film immortality. His Popeye Doyle is one character you better not have against you, especially in a car chase.

Parents: Not for kids.

50.

The Shape of Water

Weird, original, and as outside the box as most films, The Shape of Water (2017) was far from a typical Best Picture winner (minus the fact of great direction and sublime performances). Nevertheless, it remains one of the most moving love stories of recent memory.

Parents: Not for kids, as it has much sexual content.

49.

DF-02238.CR2

12 Years a Slave (2013) is easily one of the hardest films to watch on this list, but also one of the most important. It is one of those films you don’t watch as much as you can, but it is one that stays with you for the remainder of your life. All the actors are masterful here (mainly Oscar winner Lupita N’Yongo in her first film role).

Parents: Quite a bit of nudity, and the subject matter clearly makes it not for kids. Still, when you children get mature enough (High School or College) they should see the film.

48.

Rain Man

Rain Man (1988) is what most people think of when they think of autism. Dustin Hoffman is the one with the showier role (he won his second Oscar for the performance), but Tom Cruise does equally fine work as his brother. It is a hard call for me between this and Mississippi Burning.

Parents,: Despite one minor sex scene, middle schoolers should be okay seeing this.

47.

A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe may have won the Oscar for Gladiator, but I have yet to meet anyone who thinks it was a better performance than the one he gave in A Beautiful Mind (2001). The film is centered mainly on his performance (as well as Oscar Winner Jennifer Connelly’s as his wife). Now a random question: He is obviously a genius, but how on earth did he get those biceps? Just wondering.

Parents: Some sexual talk and swearing, but nothing else. Middle School and above would be okay.

46.

Crash

Yes, I really did like the film Crash (2005). I know a lot of people don’t like it, but I do. It has great acting (which no one can deny), and it is about the characters more so than the story. I still like it more than Brokeback Mountain (which I still feel is a little overrated, though Heath Ledger was magnificent).

Parents: A sex scene (with nudity), a ton of swearing, and violence. High School and above.

45.

In the heat of the night

Winning over films like Guess who’s coming to Dinner and The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night (1967) was a film for its time, a film about the tensions of racism (which, of course, still resonates today. While Rod Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar, it is easily Sidney Poitier you will remember as Virgil Tibbs.

Parents: High School and above, as this is when nudity started showing up more and more in movies.

44.

Titanic

I was in my preteens when Titanic (1997) came out (though I never saw it in theaters). I knew it was a big film when I saw it (and that there was a drawing scene). It was also what truly got me into the Oscars in the first place, so I owe it that.

Parents: There is the famous nude scene to avoid, and some swearing. Only High School and above.

43.

Ordinary People

Next to Raging Bull, Ordinary People (1980) is obviously not the clear winner. Still, the film by Robert Redford does tell a very intriguing story with acting you will remember. Mainly, it is Oscar Winner Timothy Hutton who gives a performance almost as perfect as Raging Bull‘s Robert De Niro. Almost.

Parents: The film is R rated for swearing. High School and above.

42.

Chicago

I can’t say how much I liked Chicago (2002) when it came out in theaters. I loved it. It is one of a few movies I have seen four times in the theater (my personal record). True, The Pianist was a better film, but seldom has a movie come out in theaters that I had a lot of true fun at. That surpasses the fact that Harvey Weinstein was involved. Barely.

Parents: It is a musical, but not for kids. High School and above.

41.

The Artist

The Artist (2011) made my job of telling people what movies to see and not see a lot easier. It reminded us all that films are not just about what you may or may not hear, but about what you feel. That, plus the movie has one heck of an awesome dog.

Parents: This has one “obscene gesture” (someone uses the middle finger) but that is it. The film is perfectly fine for kids.

40.

The-Bridge-Of-The-River-Kwai-1957

If you bring up the name Alec Guinness to anyone nowadays, they would most likely remember him at Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars. After that, it would be his Oscar-winning role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). It will be difficult seeing anyone else in the role. As for the film itself, while I do like 12 Angry Men better, there is no denying the gravity epic scope of this film.

Parents: May be a bit long for kids, but nothing too horrible.

39.

Platoon

Easily one of the best war films ever made, Platoon (1986) has about more grit than almost any film every made. This is thanks to director Oliver Stone (who was in the Vietnam War), and sums up the film perfectly with the line on the poster: The first casualty of war is innocence.

Parents: definitely not for kids (some nudity is shown but not for long), but should be watched at some point when they are in High School.

38.

Argo

In one of the best years for film, it was Argo (2012) that took the prize. It was a story that (at least for me) was not well-known (at least compared to other movies that year like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty), it was directed by an actor (which the Oscars like to reward a lot, despite the director not getting a nomination which is still a big question mark today), and it was (most importantly) entertaining as can be.

Parents: High School and above only.

37.

Patton

It is hard for one actor/actress to carry a film, but George C. Scott does that and more as the title character of Patton (1970). It does go on long, but every time Scott is on-screen, you can’t help but smile.

Parents: Some violence but nothing bad. Middle schoolers and above, provided they can stand a long movie.

36.

Sunrise A Tale of Two Humans

At the first Academy Awards, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1929) won Best Picture in the category of Unique and Artistic Production, the only time that category existed. Still, these days critics and film goers tend to like it more because of its authentic artistry that is standing the test of time a little better than Wings. I have to agree.

Parents: Okay for kids

35.

The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

I never read the books till I saw the first film, but I had a feeling that Peter Jackson was saving the best for last. That is exactly what happened with The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King (2003). It is a spectacle that is hard to ignore (even if great performances by Sean Astin and Viggo Mortensen were). Some could argue it won all of its 11 nominations (a record for a perfect score) for the trilogy as a whole, but the film is still easily the best of the whole series (including The Hobbit films, which I thought were just so so).

Parents: Some scary moments, but films your kids would want to see. Still, start with the first films or they will definitely be confused.

34.

No Country for Old Men

There are few filmmakers as diverse as the Coen brothers, and it was their film No Country for Old Men (2007) that brought them each three Oscars (for directing, writing, and producing). It is terrifying (Javier Bardem gives us one of the best villains of the 21st century), enticing (Bardem is the scene stealer, but every actor is on their A game here), and thought-provoking (I still have yet to find out what I feel about the ending). Also, don’t forget some of that awkward humor.

Parents: Another film not for kids. No real nudity (some talk about sex) but it is a really dark, violent film. High School and above.

33.

The Hurt Locker

It is the lowest money-maker of all Best Picture winners (its competition that year was Avatar, which is still the biggest world-wide money-maker), but The Hurt Locker (2009) is a better film. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (who was once married to James Cameron), it is as real a war film as you will ever see. I still feel like it is the type of film fans of first person shooter games would love. It is a film that should be shown to anyone even remotely interested in enlisting.

Parents: High School and above only.

32.

Braveheart

Although Apollo 13 is a better movie, Braveheart (1995) still holds a nice place in my heart. It was the first hard rated R film I saw (though obviously not in the theater, as I was only eight at the time). True, it is known to have historical inaccuracies (a lot of movies do), but it is still entertaining as ever. It is also proof that, regardless of his personal life, Mel Gibson knows how to make a movie.

Parents: High School and above only. There is one scene of nudity, but nothing explicit. Lots of violence.

31.

Unforgiven

Unforgiven (1992) is Clint Eastwood’s love letter to the Western. Like all of the films Eastwood directs, it is a simple story with multiple layers that have unforgettable characters. There are a lot of tough guy actors, but seldom have there been any as memorable as Clint Eastwood. No man on-screen has ever looked as scary holding a gun.

Parents: Not for kids, but should be okayfor High Schoolers (a brief sex scene at the start, but no nudity).

30.

Slumdog Millionaire

Probably my favorite thing about the first time I saw Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was that I knew next to nothing about the film. It is almost Capra-like in the way it tells the fairy tale story of how fighting for the one you love,  no matter what, is really wonderful. That, and an awesome ending dance number.

Parents: There is no real sex scenes, just swearing and some violence. I would think Middle School and above.

29.

The Sting

The Sting (1973) was the first encounter I had with its two stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Each are as charming as ever, and it is their presence alone that makes the film worth watching. That, and awesome music.

Parents: There is some swearing, and one scene of nudity (a strip show type of thing), but that is it. Skip that scene, and middle school and above.

28.

Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur (1959) is a remake of a 1925 film that is easily more remembered. It is long, but it is carried by a performance by Charlton Heston, great sweeping images, and a chariot race that has never been matched. The scene where he first meets Jesus is the best biblical scene ever put on film.

Parents: It is long, and full of some violence, but middle school and above are fine. Just keep them far away from the 2016 remake.

27.

Kramer vs Kramer

I am going out on a limb here: I think Dustin Hoffman gives his best performance in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). He plays one of the most relatable fathers in movie history, and Meryl Streep is equally good as his ex-wife. Of course, there is no doubt it is not as good a movie as Apocalypse Now.

Parents: There is a scene of nudity, a little violence, and swearing. High School and above.

26.

Amadeus

Movies are not the best source for accurate details (except for Documentaries), but are awesome at entertaining. That is what makes Amadeus (1984) so wonderful. If you are looking for accurate facts,  you won’t find many. If you want entertainment, you sure as heck will.

Parents: The extended version has nudity, while the normal (PG) version does not. Either way, I would say High Schoolers and above.

25.

From Here to Eternity

When I saw the preview for the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, I thought it looked like sure oscar bait (I was 14 and stupid). Later, I discovered From Here to Eternity (1953), and what a good movie about Pearl Harbor can be.

Parents: Aside from the beach scene (which is not that bad at all), middle schoolers and above would be fine.

24.

Chariots of Fire

I am a bigger fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark and On Golden Pond. Still, there is something very uplifting about Chariots of Fire (1981). Mainly, it is the way the story is told, and that immortal music that has been parodied to death.

Parents: Okay for kids.

23.

The Silence of the Lambs

JFK is one of my all time favorite movies, but the Academy went instead with another masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs (1991). One of three films to win the top five Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), it set a new standard for horror that many these days are trying to duplicate but none really have (to be fair, it is hard to top a villain like Hannibal Lecter).

Parents: High School and above. No one else under that age group.

22.

Million Dollar Baby

Regardless of whether you agree with the ending. you have to love how Clint Eastwood got there. His Million Dollar Baby (2004) is one of the best sports films ever made. Each of the three main actors are at the top of their games, and it gives us the best Morgan Freeman scene ever.

Parents: It is difficult to watch at times, so I would think High School and above (or at least really mature Middle Schoolers).

21.

Dances with Wolves

First, the obvious. Goodfellas is far better of a movie. Even so, Dances with Wolves (1990) gets bad raps for beating it. It is still glorious to behold, and deserves more love. It is gritty, realistic, and deserving of respect.

Parents: Middle Schoolers would be fine as long as they don’t mind a long run time.

20.

Forrest Gump

In one of the best years for movies, it must have been difficult to pick Forrest Gump (1994) over better flicks like Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. Still, the Tom Hanks film (which he is remembered for most) was the first real “drama” I had seen in my life. It still touches the heart every time I watch it.

Parents: Middle School and above.

19.

All about Eve

It must have been a hard choice to choose between All about Eve (1950) and Sunset Blvd. I do prefer the latter, but the former is still wonderful entertainment. With stars like Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and Marilyn Monroe, it indeed is a bumpy night of enjoyment.

Parents: Middle School and above. Any younger would get bored.

18.

The Best years of our lives

It’s a Wonderful Life is loved by pretty much anyone who has seen it, but it lost to another great movie, The Best Years of our Lives (1946). No film about return soldiers has topped it, and while all the actors are great, the best is Harold Russell, an actual war veteran.

Parents: Fine for kids

17.You can't take it with you.jpg

Bette Davis was wonderful in Jezebel, as was Spencer Tracy in the wonderful Boys Town. Also, color films were in the arena with films like The Adventures of Robin Hood. Still, You Can’t Take it with You (1938) is definitely one of Frank Capra’s best. I smiled the whole way through. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling you won’t forget.

Parents: Okay for kids.

16.The Sound of Music

Although it was dubbed “the sound of mucus” by film critic Pauline Kael, The Sound of Music (1965) is one of the most loved films ever made. Even the hardest hearted person can’t help but get the songs in their head.

Parents: Easily, this is the first Best Picture any kid should start with.

15.

My Fair Lady

extravagant is the best word to describe My Fair Lady (1964). Even if Audrey Hepburn does not do her own singing, she give a beautiful performance. Also, no one can ever be Henry Higgins like Rex Harrison. No one. It is hard to find a favorite song here, but mine would be “I  could have danced all night”. Not bad for a movie that beat Mary Poppins and Dr. Strangelove.

Parents: A little long, but okay for kids.

14.

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

When one looks at One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), one sees how it would have been a totally different movie. Heck, it would have been horrible without Jack Nicholson and Louise Rainer. It became the second film to win all five top Oscars, and is also what every movie should be in the first place: Enjoyable.

Parents: High School and above.

13.

West Side Story

West Side Story (1961) was the first musical film I saw after seeing the stage version. It was my chance at seeing how a movie musical could, in a way, be better than the stage version. The choreography is stellar, and the songs are left in your mind, whether you want them to be or not.

Parents: Okay for kids, despite some violence.

12. Rocky

Network won three acting Oscars (only the second one to do so), Taxi Driver gave us Travis Bickle, and All the President’s Men was the best newspaper movie ever made. Still, like the character it is showing us, Rocky (1976) was the underdog winner for Best Picture. Despite  how you may feel about the sequels, the first was inspiring to everyone, including Charles Chaplin, who said he loved this as it was one of the last films he saw before he died.

Parents: Some violence, but middle schoolers and above are okay.

11.

Annie Hall

I apologize to all my fellow fans of Star Wars, but Annie Hall (1977) was the better movie. I have not seen all of Woody Allen’s films (yet), but I can’t see them being better than this. His writing, directing, and acting are all top notch.It has truly earned its place as one of the top three or four best rom coms ever made.

Parents: There is swearing, and some sexuality. I would say (mature) Middle Schoolers and above.

10.

Marty

The title character of Marty (1955) is one of the most realistic characters you will see in any movie, as well as one of the most relatable. It is the shortest Best Picture winner (90 minutes), but it packs in as much warmth, humor, romance, and realism as any film I have ever seen. Oh, how I wish this film was longer.

Parents: Okay for kids.

9.

The Apartment

A year after his comic masterpiece Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder came up with The Apartment (1960), equally as fantastic. Jack Lemmon gives possibly his best performance as a man who is as kind-hearted as ever, even if he rents his apartment out to his co workers. It is probably the best “dramedy” ever made.

Parents: The subject matter is a little adult, but nothing is ever shown. Middle Schoolers and above would be ok.

8.

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the number one movie to show that movies should be shown on big screens, not on hand-held devices (I have yet to see it in theaters). It is spellbinding, action packed, and gorgeous beyond belief. Only this movie could have stopped To Kill a Mockingbird from winning Best Picture (though Peter O’Toole lost Best Actor to Gregory Peck, which is pretty much impossible to argue).

Parents: Middle School and above.

7.

It Happend One Night

The first real sweep of the Oscars happened with It Happend One Night (1934), one of the funniest films ever made. Everything about the film has not aged, even over eight years later. Gable and Colbert are perfectly cast, and it set the standard for road comedies that none have been able to match. Actually, they have not even gotten close.

Parents: One of the best old school classics you can enjoy with your kids.

6.

On the Waterfront

At the time On the Waterfront (1954) was released, it was a statement that director Elia Kazan used as showing his stance for out communists in Hollywood. Thankfully, the movie is so great that all of that controversy is not even a factor these days. This is thanks to the storytelling, the music, but mainly the acting. While Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, and Karl Malden are fantastic, it is Marlon Brando who leaves the biggest mark on the film. His performance is the best in film history.

Parents: A little violent, but okay for kids. Middle Schoolers and above.

5.

The Godfather Part 2

Chinatown is one of history’s best film noirs, but it does not compare to The Godfather, Part Two (1974), arguably the best sequel ever made. Pacino gets more time to shine, and De Niro is mesmerizing as his younger father. Those last ten minutes are as haunting as anything you will see on film.

Parents: Not for kids. High Schoolers and above (though they better see the first one before hand).

4.

Gone with the Wind.jpg

Apparently, screen legend Gary Cooper once said that Gone with the Wind (1939) would be the biggest bomb ever. I doubt he has said much more that could be more wrong. Just shy of four hours (the longest of any Best Picture winner), it never drags at all. In what many consider the best year for movies (other nominees included The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, and Stagecoach), GWTW swept (most of) the awards. It is also (when adjusted for inflation) the biggest money-maker domestically and worldwide. Add in the acting, the music (my personal favorite of all movies), and the epic scope, and, frankly, you should give…well, you know.

Parents: Despite the length (and some minor violence, plus the obvious swear word), it is ok for kids. Middle Schoolers and above.

3.

Schindler's List

Schindler’s List (1993) is easily one of the most difficult films to sit through, as well as one of the most important. Director Steven Spielberg films the movie in black and white (had it been done in color, it would not have been good) to suck the life out of one of the worst times in human history. Nazis have always made memorable villains in movies, but not like this. They are not just evil-looking like in The Sound of Music or being stopped by Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here, they are human beings, doing unspeakable crimes. Except for one, who did the unthinkable act of saving nearly 1100 Jews.

Parents: Easily not for kids, though High Schoolers most definetly should see the film at some point.

2.

The Godfather.jpg

It is hard to believe, but The Godfather (1972) almost did not win Best Picture. It only won three Oscars (the main culprit was Cabaret, which, although a good film, could never compare with Coppola’s masterpiece). A friend of mine says it is the best film about family ever made, and I could not agree more. When one thinks of the mafia, this film is the first to come up in every mind. Even those who never have seen it. Although there are few roles for women in the movie, it is clear why it is one of the best movies ever made in so many people’s hearts.

Parents: High Schoolers and above.

1.Casablanca.jpg

Time has always been the best judge of movies, and no film has ever aged better than Casablanca (1943). There has never been a better romance, a better cast (especially the supporting), or (most of all) a better script (seriously, I have seen the movie a number of times, and still don’t know how many quotable lines there are). It is like wine: it gets better with age, and with every viewing. It is cliché to say so, but it will always get better, as time goes by.

Parents: Okay for kids.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

the ballad of buster scruggs

Tim Blake Nelson as the titular character.

 

Over the last decade or so, it seems the western has been making a very small comeback. While it has lacked in quantity of films, the quality of a good selection of them have been noticeable (Hell or High Water, The Hateful Eight, and Django Unchained, to name a few). If someone were to ask me which film makers are the ones to rely on keeping the western alive, my first response would be, without hesitation, the Coen Brothers (they did the wonderful remake of True Grit back in 2010). Their latest film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (distributed by Netflix), is not their best film, but does have their signature flavors all over it.

The film is really six vignettes of stories of the old west. The first involves Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), one of the more charming singing gun slingers in recent memory. The second is about a bank robber (James Franco), who can’t always catch a break. The third is of an impresario (Liam Neeson), who travels with his limbless artist (Harry Melling) as they try to make money. The fourth is of a Prospector (Tom Waits), though elderly, still optimistic as he lives day by day. The fifth revolves around a wagon train and the story of a young woman (Zoe Kazan). The final is of an encounter of five strangers on a stagecoach en route to a mysterious destination. The only true connection all six stories have in common is that they share the dark comedy, zaniness, and pure film making of the Coens.

Still, as I was watching, I was asking myself: do young people still watch westerns? And if not, what would be the movies to start them out on? I am afraid The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would not be a viable candidate. The lack of one plot (let alone one story) would probably not appeal to others. There are certainly lessons that can be learned and characters to connect to (my personal favorite was that of the old prospector in story four), and it certainly does not lack in the area of true grit (pun intended).

That all said, parents, this is not the best of films for kids. There is some swearing, and sexual dialogue (mainly in the fifth story), but the main reason for the R rating would be the violence. Kids see enough violence these days, but they may not get the comical reasoning behind all of it. I would say High School and up.

The more I think of it, the more I am happy that the film was not one story. After all, Christ told parables (never thought I would mention Jesus and the Coen brothers in the same sentence, but here we are). In the end, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a solid Coen brothers flick (though it does not rank alongside films like Fargo or No Country for Old Men), and is more than a decent western. Yet the classic westerns of old (Unforgiven, High Noon, Red River, and nearly any film by the legendary John Ford) are where Westerns really hit their peak. If you want to start kids off on Westerns (and I hope you would), start there first.

Old Westerns did not always go for realism so much as they went for art, imagery, and emotions. Consider the aforementioned John Ford (one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, not to mention winning more Oscars than any director in history). His eye for imagery is still unparalleled. He is a great introduction to the western because it brings the audience (whether new viewers or seasoned ones) back to the old west, where water was scarce, guns were a sign of manhood, and wearing big hats were totally cool. Throw in actors like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Clint Eastwood, and you have a base for where people of any age (not just kids) can start to love the idea of westerns.

Eventually, that audience will arrive at The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

The Top 10 Most Anticipated movies of 2019

ma2019

The 2019 Cinema Forecast…

While we are still in the bulk of the 2018 Oscar Season, there is no actual real season for movie goers. This list is not meant to be a predictor of any kind (thought it would be ideal), but to just show the ten films that have me the most excited to make my way to the theater no matter what.

 

 

10.

10

Of all the live action remakes Disney has done (including the upcoming Dumbo and Aladdin), none has me more anxious than that of The Lion King. Not excited, but anxious. This one needs to be perfect.

 

9.

9

 

With the perfectly cast Tom Holland returning as the titular hero, and Jake Gyllenhaal as the villian Mysterio, expect another big solid hit for the MCU in Spider-Man: Far from Home.

 

8.

8

 

With stars like Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Ansel Elgort, and Finn Wolfhard, The Goldfinch looks like a drama we could be talking about for the 92nd Oscars.

 

7.

7

 

After 2017’s amazing first chapter, we fast forward twenty-seven years to IT: Chapter Two. With a cast such as James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader as the part of the adult “Loser’s Club”, I will gladly float to the theater in September.

6.

6

 

The year will see some more animated sequels such as How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Frozen 2. Yet even after the perfect ending of the third film in 2010, Disney/Pixar still feels they have more to tell with Toy Story 4. Oh, how I hope they are right.

 

5.

5

 

Okay, I am more excited for the 2020 release Godzilla vs. Kong, but this year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters had one of the coolest trailers I have seen in the last few years. So, yeah, I am hooked to seem some awesome monster mashing.

4.

4

Anytime Quentin Tarantino has a movie coming out, I am pumped. His next film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is no exception. Add in a cast including Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), and Al Pacino, and you have the workings of what may be a classic.

 

3.

2

 

The title has yet to be released, but Episode 9 will more than likely bring an end to the Skywalker timeline (Mark Hamill will be in it, despite Luke’s fate in The Last Jedi). Also, how bittersweet it is that this will be the last time John Williams scores a Star Wars film.

 

2.

 

3

 

Remember back at the start of the 21st century, when we all thought it was hard waiting for the newest film of the original Lord of the Rings films to continue. That almost seems juvinile to having to wait for the conclusion of MCU’s Thanos storyline. Avengers: Endgame is more than likely to make a good amount of money, but more importantly, give us closure on some great film characters.

As said in the trailer, “Part of the journey is the end.”

 

1.

 

1

 

It may not be a certified blockbuster, but when a movie has a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, ones heart is in shock. When it is discovered that film is directed by Martin Scorsese, ones heart does a backflip. There is no actual release date yet, but the Netflix film The Irishman, revolving around the infamous Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) is one that has me more ecstatic than ever before.

The Top 20 Movies of 2018

2018 best

The honorable mentions…

Another great year of movies is in the books.

Toward the end of 2018, I realized I actually was able to see nearly all of the movies I wanted to in time (though there are a few I admit I am still on the look out for).

As was the case for the 2017 list, I decided to make a top 20 list , because numbers 11-20 were too good to ignore. If you really want to cut the list in half, gather all six infinity stones, put them in the infinity gauntlet, and…SNAP! (Too soon?)

 

As the title character in the next film would say, “Off we go!”…

 

20.

mpr

The minds at Disney are no strangers to taking risks, and doing a sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins is one of their biggest risks yet. Still, even 54 years later, Mary Poppins Returns is a success due to new original music, fine performances, two amazing cameos, and the practically perfect Emily Blunt.

 

19.

tf

There is no doubt that The Favourite will not appeal to everyone, as it has a very dark sense of humor. In time, you will be able to see the film for its witty script and impeccable acting.

 

18.

bp

As 2018’s highest grossing film, Black Panther was also one of the best critical successes in the history of superhero films. Cultural relevance, sublime action, and wonderful acting were sure helpful, as it may become the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture.

 

17.

fr

Deep, thoughtful, and chilling are some of the best ways one can describe First Reformed. As many great movies do, it provides more questions than answers. Not to mention Ethan Hawke’s uncanny performance.

 

16.

cra

 

In one of the biggest surprises of the year, Crazy Rich Asians told us the story of characters that are relatable and worthy to cheer for. Based off of a book, there are more films to come, of which I am looking forward to with a big smile.

 

15.

 

mid90s

 

In his directorial debut, Jonah Hill’s Mid90s explores the lives of kids growing up in the search of someone to look up to. The result is one of the years most authentic films.

 

14.

cyefm

 

Lee Israel was an author who made money by forging fake letters from popular authors, and the portrayal by Melissa McCarthy of her in Can you ever forgive me? is a revelation (Richard E. Grant is great as well). She has had strikeouts in her film career, yet this is a home run that clears the stadium.

 

13.

widows

 

The heat is on blast in Steve Mcqueen’s Widows, with an all-star cast on the top of their game (led by the always wonderful Viola Davis). Just because it is being somewhat overlooked does not take away from its brilliance.

 

12.

ibsct

 

One of the most human love stories in the last couple years of cinema, If Beale Street could talk is one that may not have the outcomes most are wishing for. They are the outcomes that are the right ones.

 

11.

 

8g

 

Newcomer (and Golden Globe nominee) Elsie Fisher shines through all of Eighth Grade, another coming of age story that oozes with real authentic material. Gucci, indeed.

 

10.

 

gb

 

Your heart may have been rock solid if it wasn’t feeling warm after witnessing Green Book. Both Ali and Mortensen give Oscar caliber performances, giving us the ultimate bromance of 2018.

 

9.

 

smitsv

 

As of this writing, I have yet to meet anyone I have mentioned Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to come back to me saying it was a bad movie. Believe the hype, for this is the best Spidey cinema has produced, the best animated film of 2018, and easily a post credit scene better than anything the MCU has offered.

 

8.

aiw

 

Sorry if the above image brings back bad memories, but that is how big of a movie Avengers: Infinity War was. Even before the “snap heard round the world”, the film was unlike any superhero film we have seen before. Endgame cannot come soon enough.

 

7.

hereditary

 

A Quiet place had a nice premise, as did the currently popular (but not entirely great) Bird Box, but no film this year left me with such dread as Hereditary did. This movie will leave a unique bitter taste in your mouth for sometime after the credits, and I mean that as a compliment.

 

6.

blackkklansmen

 

In no way would BlacKKKlansmen have been as wonderful as it was if it weren’t directed by Spike Lee. Only he could do justice to a true story about an African America undercover cop (an awesome debut by John David Washington, son of Denzel)  who joins the KKK. Yes, it gets political, but it is super intriguing.

 

5.

asib

 

Having a good directorial debut is one thing, but there is another level that Bradley Cooper is on in A Star is Born. He gives one of his best performances, does the fourth remake of a movie, and lets Lady Gaga show she has more than singing talent. Yeah, expect this to be mentioned more than once come Oscar night.

 

4.

wybmn

You can name any superhero you want, but none could hold a candle to the bravery of Fred Rogers, even if he is not completely well-known to kids today. Thankfully, the ever charming Won’t you be my Neighbor? is a chance to remind us not just of the man, but (more importantly) his ideals. A lovely day indeed.

 

3.

fm

 

Not since 2013’s Gravity has flying seem so realistic. Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong (an understated Ryan Gosling) walking on the moon, brings tension and grit to the highest of levels. Months later, the sound effects are still giving me the chills of space.

 

2.

roma

 

I have mentioned how Netflix’s original films are not always great, and while I have not seen all of them, I doubt many can come close to Roma. Director Alfonso Cuaron (director of the previously mentioned Gravity) delivers a passion project that is nothing short of sublime. It may be on Netflix, but the film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can see it on. Hands down 2018 most gorgeous film (even the cleaning of dog crap looked beautiful).

 

1.

LNT.jpg

 

Throughout 2018, I wrestled up and down between my favorite film of the year, and then I came across a hidden treasure, Leave No Trace. The first film in eight years from director Debra Granik (her last film was the masterful 2010 film Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence), the simple story of a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (amazing new comer Thomasin McKenzie) who try to avoid civilization is both heartbreaking and beautiful. It hit me in the feels more than any other film last year. You may not have heard of it, but it is out on DVD, and is more than worth looking for. Scratch that, it is worth buying.

The Top 10 Worst Movies of 2018

2018 Worst

Thankfully, the films above were ones I avoided.

 

My love for movies is vast and may have no limits. So much so that, once in a while, my mind tricks me: “Yes, the movie is supposed to be bad, but it might show that you are willing to sit through anything in order to be a professional critic”.

It is true I am willing to sit through any film if it brings me closer to being a professional movie critic, but the following ten films were the ones that tested me more than any other this year.

 

10.

10 Aquaman

With the exception of 2017’s Wonder Woman, DC really is not hitting hard on the cinema front, and it continues with Aquaman. Yes, Jason Mamoa was good, but anyone with a brain stem could have predicted every possible outcome of this watered down material.

 

9.

9 FBTCOG

As big of a fan as I am of the original Harry Potter films, the newest ones are lacking in the department of character development and grace. Even with a plot twist at the end that had some bit of interest, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald was nothing short of exhausting.

 

8.

8 Venom

Say what you will about the MCU, but at least they don’t fail when it comes to plot (mostly) and villains. The same cannot be said about Venom, which is sad because I would love to see Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock again if these companies could just get along.

 

7.

7 JWFC

There was new promise in 2015 when Jurassic World came out, reviving the dinosaur universe. Then came Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which, while it looked nice, put the movies back near extinction.

 

6.

Irreplaceable You

 

 

No spoiler: Netflix original films are not always great, but Irreplaceable You is beyond the level of sappy and impossibilities you find on the Hallmark channel. I would call it the worst romantic film of the year, however…

 

5.

5 The Kissing Booth

I am a fan of romantic comedies when they are smart and witty, both of which The Kissing Booth is not in the same time zone of. Good young actors are caught in a script that just gives the taste of blah.

 

4.

4 TCP

 

 

Okay Netflix, I promise this is the last time you will have a movie on this list. Marketing of The Cloverfield Paradox was well done, but that is the only thing that can be said positive about this sci-fi crap fest.

 

3.

3 The Meg

I have seen all but the last of the Sharknado movies, and those were better than The Meg.  A bucket of chum has a much more pleasant smell than this film.

 

2.

2 Slender Man

If my good friend James in Michigan is reading this, consider this my deepest apology. When we last saw each other, I went with you and your family to see Slender Man, because nothing else was out. You paid for my ticket, and I would not blame you for pressing charges against me.

 

1.

1DOAN

 

Of all the movies I have seen in 2018 (both good and bad), I have talked about none more than The Death of a Nation. At the end, Dinesh D’Douza gives us the website to go to if we want to learn more. When I went, I saw no facts there. Perhaps most painful of all for the film is that, at only three in a half minutes in, Hitler commits suicide. If Hitler killing himself because he does not want to be in your movie is not a metaphor for how much your movie sucks, I don’t know what is.

If Beale Street could talk (2018)

If Beale Street Could Talk

Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James)

There is so much rarity that oozes out of If Beale Street could talk that at times it is hard to describe. Here is a romantic drama that does not rely on fantasies or hopes but on the pluses and minuses of reality. No other tag line has rung more true for a 2018 film: “Trust love all the way”.

Based off the book (which I am hoping to read soon) by James Baldwin and written for the screen by director Barry Jenkins (whose last film, Moonlight, won the Oscar for Best Picture), we meet the young lovers Tish (Kiki Layne) and Alfonso (Stephan James), or “Fonny”. She is 19. He is 22. They have known each other since they could take their first bath together as kids. Their lives in  New York are marred with troubles, but they remain faithful, even when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Things get a little more complicated when we find out that Tish is pregnant. While her family is supportive, his family is…well, to say they are against it is putting it very mildly. The scene between the two families sets the absolute mood of the film.

The movie is told sometimes in flashback (as told by Tish), showing her relationship with Fonny before his arrest. The rest shows their attempts to get Fonny out of jail, but certain complications arise (and they don’t come cheap). Thankfully, Tish has very supporting parents. While her  dad Joseph (Colman Domingo) is there for his daughter, it is clearly the mother, Sharon (Regina King) who is the should Tish leans on the most. Every scene King is in explodes with talent, proving she is a strong contender for best supporting actress in the next few months. That would not be the films only nomination, as it also has possibly the best musical score I have heard in 2018.

The film also supplies other strong performances, but the crystal clear heart of the film is the chemistry between the two young leads. Layne plays Tish as soft-spoken, but not one who will let you step on her toes. James allows us to see Fonny (as Tish hopes all call him) as a young man who knows the hardships of life, but still is kind-hearted.

Parents, the movie is rated R, and should be. While there is a lot of swearing (including racial slurs), there is not much violence. There is, however, one of the more longer sex scenes (nearly five to seven minutes) that occurs and has nudity. Mature High Schoolers and up.

There are some parts of the movie that seem a little off (I am not sure yet how I feel about the trip that Tish’s mother makes, despite how undoubtably heartfelt it is), and the outcome of the movie may not be for everyone. I was fine with it. The message was simple: Even in the worst of circumstances, you must, in all honesty, trust love. All the way.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

Vice (2018)

Vice

Christian Bale as Former Vice President Dick Cheney.

 

Very few actors do as well as Christian Bale when it comes to immersing into a character, and his take on Dick Cheney in Vice is no exception. It is a knockout performance, but it is one that I wished were in a better movie.

The film begins by telling us that the makers of the film did the best they could since Cheney is such a private man. As is the case with most biopics nowadays, we get a bit of jumping back and forth thru points of history (though thankfully it is not too confusing). We see the beginning of the marriage of Dick and his wife Lynn (Amy Adams, who always does even better work when working with Bale), his meeting of Donald Rumsfeld (an oddly cast Steve Carrell), and his workings all the way to the post of VP to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell).

The biggest flaw I feel the movie does it is goes for more exaggeration over realism. That is not to say some of the exaggerated parts aren’t funny (such as rolling credits a little too soon). I knew little about Cheney going in, but enough to know how much the man has suffered from heart problems over the years. Eventually, too many heart attack jokes can be pushing it.

Still, none of this takes away from the acting, and while most are well cast (even Tyler Perry does well as Colin Powell), it is clearly all to show more proof how ridiculously talented Christian Bale is as an actor. Yes, the make up department did a fabulous job, but acting is far beyond make up or even imitation. It is about connecting to one’s inner feelings, which Bale is always great at doing (though at some times, it seems he isn’t. This is not because he can’t, but because Cheney struggles to).

Parents, the movie is rated R for good reason, as it is filled with swearing and footage of violence. High School and up.

It seems that the only thing harder than playing Dick Cheney would be making a film about him. Director Adam Mckay (who won an Oscar for helping write 2015’s The Big Short) has given a movie that, even with a wonderful lead performance (and a nice post credit scene), seems a bit too off-putting.

 

Overall: Three and a Half Stars ***1/2

First Reformed (2018)

First Reformed

Ethan Hawke as Toller, the minister of the First Reformed Church.

 

The term “career best performance” is one I am not fond of. How do we know it is the best performance of a career, provided they will be in more films in the future?  Also, any audience member (critic or not) will not be able to see every film a certain actor (or actress) has starred in.

That all being said, it is hard to argue with those who have said that Ethan Hawke gives the best performance of his career in First Reformed. Even if the Oscars don’t come calling, it does not take away how authentic and down right brilliant he is. He stars as Ernst Toller, a minister at the First Reformed Church in present New York. The normal daily routine for Toller consists of reporting to his supervisors, waiting on the organ to be fixed, and taking care of the plumbing. He fails to see that he is also having a moderate drinking problem. His narration is from a journal he has decided to keep doing daily for a full year.

One day, he is visited by a member of the flock, Mary (Amanda Seyfried). Her Husband Michael (Philip Ettinger) is a form of environmentalist (as is Mary), but also suffers from depression, and he seeks out the Minister after Mary becomes pregnant. His beliefs do become somewhat of an interest to Toller.

The movie is much more than just what happens to characters we meet: It revolves mainly on Toller’s own faith in God as well as humanity. Director/Writer Paul Schrader (who penned Scorsese classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) gives us still shots with little to no movement (reminding me of that great Japenese master Ozu) yet still allows the story to boil with electricity.

As stated before, the performance by Hawke cannot be understated enough. He gives this character as much depth as any I have seen in a film this year. Consider the scene he has with Esther (Victoria Hill), a co-worker who it is hinted that Toller has had a history with before. This scene happens later in the film, and is the one where Toller completely draws the line. You will know it when you see it, and it is the one that would most likely be playing come Oscar night should Hawke get the (much deserved) nomination.

Parents, the film is not for kids. Though it is not a hard R, it does have some good amount of swearing and violence. The subject matter would be far too intense for anyone younger than High School age.

The movie does has flaws (though rather suspenseful, the last two minutes or so disappointed me a little). There is also a possibility that some may be turned off by the politics mentioned in the film. Thankfully, regardless of your beliefs, the performance by Ethan Hawke will appeal to anyone who likes cinematic acting.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman

“Permission to come aboard?”

For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.

The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).

Fast forward to present day, and we see a grown up Arthur being visited by Mera (Amber Heard). Turns out that the new heir is Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who wants to rage war on humans above (you know, for all the stuff we have done to the ocean in the past). One of the kingdom’s long time subjects (and Arthur’s former teacher) Vulko (a nicely cast Willem Dafoe) works behind Orm’s back to prevent such a war from occurring. For Arthur to succeed, he must find the long-lost trident that would prove his worth. There is also the subplot of Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), out for revenge on Aquaman after an event at the start of the film.

There are some rather wonderful underground imagery here, but it would be even better if the script had not been so ridiculously predictable. The movie is basically if Thor (or even Black Panther) had lived underwater (claiming a birthright, evil family member villain, etc) . All the fights were nice to look at, but no points in knowing the outcome: you can see it the moment they announce it. By the end, we do get another CGI battle that seems almost off the shelf.

It should also come as no surprise that superhero flicks need a good villain, and the DCU has not been the best at that (though Michael Shannon was good as General Zod and Margot Robbie was really effective as Harley Quinn). Sadly, Patrick Wilson does not measure up, and his villain is nothing short of forgettable.

Parents, the movie should be fine for kids (some swearing and action/violence, but nothing they have not seen in superhero flick before). Middle School and up.

In a year that gave us Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the best was clearly not saved for last (despite some moments I liked, especially where Arthur got his idea of how to use a whale for escape). Still, rather than giving us a breath of fresh air, Aquaman leaves us gasping for it.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Mary Poppins Returns

“Off we go!” with the new Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt)

 

“So long, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.”

So was one of the last lines of the 1964 classic that, 54 years later, is still arguably the best Disney live action film. Well, it has been over half a century since she graced our screens, and now we have Mary Poppins Returns, which does not live up completely to the original, but still is a delight to behold.

 

The sequel takes place about two decades after the first, during the great depression. It has been a year since the sudden death of the wife of Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw). He still is a loving kind father to his three children Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson). His sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) is still trying to help him out, even when it is discovered that Michael has to repay a loan or they will lose their house on Cherry Tree Lane. Things obviously do take a nice turn when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt, more on her in a bit) swoops back into their lives.

As in the original, there is a plethora of characters. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a light keeper named Jack, who takes on the counter-part to Blunt. Colin Firth is effective as the villainous banker Wilkins, and David Warner has fun as Admiral Boom, who still keeps the time on the hour.

There are some points where the movie does have faults. The action scene toward the end does seem a little far-fetched, and there is one scene involving Meryl Streep that, although a blast, does seemed a little tacked on. It does not completely add to the story.

The key to the movie is Emily Blunt. The original film made a star out of Julie Andrews (and won her an Oscar): It is an immortal performance. That being said, if there was any pressure for Blunt stepping into the role, she does not show an ounce of it. She is so effortless in her performance it is hard to remember we had worries about her being cast in the first place. Simply put, Blunt is practically perfect in every way.

Parents, there are some thematic elements, but as long as your kids have seen the first one, they are fine.

I have yet to mention the cameos at the end. It may be known to you who they are, but I won’t say in case you don’t. What I will say is that these two (undoubtably) legends still have gas in the tank at their ages.

Apparently, there are much more people out there than I thought that don’t like this movie. After you see it, you response will be along the lines of “Can you imagine that?”

 

Overall: Four Stars ****