WOMEN MAKE HISTORICAL ADVANCES IN THE 2021 OSCAR RACE – Susan Granger reports

History was made when the Oscar nominations were released for the Best Director category. Only five women have ever been nominated before. This year, Chloe Zhao was chosen for her elegiac road-trip drama “Nomadland,” along with first-time feature-filmmaker Emerald Fennel for her #MeToo revenge comedy “Promising Young Woman.” Chloe Zhao, the first woman of color nominated for Best Director, is the most nominated woman in a single year in Oscar history, since she’s also competing as Best Picture producer, along with Adapted Screenplay and Editing. That’s a record-breaking four nominations in a single year.

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EXAMINING OSCAR’S BELOW-THE-LINE NOMINEES – Susan Granger reports

Without doubt, movies are the most collaborative artistic medium, and streaming has made this year’s contenders more available than ever before. Some of the most memorable artisan aspects of filmmaking are Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Costume Design and Sound, all contributing to the ultimate success of a film. Directors of Photography honored by the Cinematography branch are Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”), Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”) Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”) and Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”).

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THUNDER FORCE – Review by Susan Granger

Unfortunately, inept writer/director Ben Falcone forgets about essential character depth and development, telegraphing the lame slapstick gags, which lack any sense of pace and timing. Worse yet, he totally wastes the considerable talents of Olivia Spencer, whose underwritten Emily is simply steadfast, drifting along for the ride as a relationship sidekick.

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COMING 2 AMERICA – Review by Susan Granger

If you never saw or can’t remember Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America (1988), you might enjoy the original before tuning into this comedic sequel, newly released on Amazon Prime. But it’s not necessary. Director Craig Brewer, working with writers Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, supplies all the background information you’ll need to follow the fairy tale.

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DEBRIS – Review by Susan Granger

I was eagerly anticipating J.H. Wyman’s new NBC-TV Monday night drama Debris, which looks like an amalgam of X-Files, Lost and Fringe, Wyman’s previous show. Set in the near future, it focuses on an international team of spies and scientists who examine mysterious material that fell to Earth after the destruction of an alien spacecraft.
Unfortunately, the pilot episode – which should be so compelling that you want to stream the series – left much to be desired.

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THE WHITE TIGER – Review by Susan Granger

“The Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere – all at the same time,” says Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourv) as an introduction to India’s immobile, insidiously complex caste system. Balham comes from lowly candy-makers. A precocious student, Balram’s potential is so stellar that he’s dubbed “a white tiger,” indicating he’s a rare, symbolic, once-in-a-generation phenomenon.

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MALCOLM & MARIE – Review by Susan Granger

After winning an Emmy as a stressed-out teenage addict on HBO’s Euphoria, Zendaya was ready to go to work on the second season – but then COVID-19 sent everyone home. So she decided to make a movie. Actually, she was approached by Sam Levinson, creator of Euphoria. He was working on a script about a rising director named Malcolm and his much-younger girl-friend Marie, who get into a long argument late at night after the Los Angeles premiere of his new movie.

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LAND – Review by Susan Granger

Building on the experience of helming several episodes of House of Cards in which she also starred, Robin Wright drops all vestiges of glamor to direct and star in this wilderness saga. Following a devastating, unfathomable loss, Edee Holzer (Wright) is determined to leave Chicago and all civilization far behind her. Buying an old cabin high in Wyoming’s Rocky Mountains, she discards her cellphone, returns her rental car and tries to live off the land: “I’m here in this place because I don’t want to be around people.”

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THE CLIMB – Review by Susan Granger

Scheduled for theatrical release last year, The Climb is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital – which is probably where this dark-toned comedic chronicle of male friendship belongs. Adapted into a full-length feature by Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin from their 2018 Sundance-selected short, it awkwardly follows two bickering buddies – played by themselves – through vignettes, each set in a different time and place, chronicling their uphill battle to maintain a viable, if dysfunctional relationship.

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FRENCH EXIT – Review by Susan Granger

Michelle Pfeiffer’s icy, incandescent performance garnered her a Golden Globe nomination, even though Azazel Jacobs’ film leaves much to be desired. Pfeiffer plays elegant, entitled Frances Price, a once-wealthy Manhattan widow who has fecklessly blown through her late husband Frank’s fortune.

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