.By Original-Cin staff
There’s snow on the ground, Christmas music in the air and the movie awards season race is on, baby, with several high-profile films throwing their hats into the Oscar ring this weekend.
We’ll start with Widows, a heist thriller starring four women (Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Arrivo), whose criminal husbands died leaving them carrying a debt which can only be resolved by another job. Reviewer Karen Gordon says, that director Steve McQueen, after three “searingly effective” dramas (Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave), dips into popcorn thriller territory, featuring an excellent cast and undercurrents of race, politics and grief - an enjoyable, if not always entirely credible, film.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Original-Cin: B-plus) from Joel and Ethan Coen (fourteen Oscar nominations and four wins) is an anthology of six Western tales (it goes directly to Netflix as a limited series). Liam Lacey says Scruggs is a dark and silly Western pastiche, mixing windy dialogue, and meditations on horse opera violence and pulp fiction fatalism.
While you may not associate the name Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber) with “awards contender” his film, Green Book (Original-Cin: B-plus) already won the Oscar-predicting Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award this year. Mahershala Ali stars as a classically-trained African-American musician and Viggo Mortensen plays the Italian-American bouncer he hires as a driver on a tour of the Jim Crow Deep South of 1962, in what Jim Slotek describes as a heart-warming drama, with Mortensen and Ali working off each other beautifully.
Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner (Original-Cin: C) stars Hugh Jackman as eighties’ politician, Gary Hart, who was brought down by a sex scandal in a moment that redefined relations between politicians and the press. Liam Lacey says this is a decent middle-brow backroom political drama, undermined by the dubious premise that scrutiny of politicians’ private misconduct is a bad thing.
You might also expect an Oscar nod for Rosamund Pike’s fully-committed performance in A Private War (Original-Cin: B) in which she stars as the late celebrated Sunday Times’ war correspondent, Marie Colvin, who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder in the midst of covering war zones. Liam Lacey says it’s an intense, if over-schematic, portrait of flawed heroism.
Otherwise, Jim Slotek reports that the Harry Potter-spinoff series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald (Original-Cin: C) has too much geneaology and not enough beasts. Jim also reviewed and the Canadian psychological thriller, Touched (B-plus), featuring a terrific performance from Hugh Thompson, who Jim also interviews.
Finally, Bonnie Laufer Laufer interviews Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne about their new “heartwarming, realistic, at times pretty funny” dramedy, Instant Family, about a couple dealing with the rigors and joys of foster care.
Have a great weekend!