June 4, 2023

Go “Across the Spider-Verse” in an Astounding Multiversal Sequel (Review)

In 2018, Into the Spider-Verse blew away any preconceived notions of how a Spider-Man movie, and even a superhero film in general, should operate. It introduced Miles Morales, the first Black Spider-Man, to mainstream filmgoing audiences. It completely flipped the expectations of how animation can behave on the big screen.

Unsurprisingly, it also cleaned up at the box office. A sequel was inevitable, and after a hefty half-decade wait, Across the Spider-Verse is now upon us. Nearly half an hour longer than its predecessor with a monumental weight on its shoulders, this may be the most pressure a superhero sequel has ever been under (excepting, perhaps, Avengers: Endgame). It had to deliver in ways that were previously unprecedented.

May 22, 2023

The Eras Tour is an Epic Showcase of Range, Style and Personality (Review)

“This is one of the reasons you’re on the Eras Tour,” proclaimed Taylor Swift, holding a sparkling microphone on the very first performance of her three-night run in Massachusetts.

“We refer to you as many things, one of which bring Foxy Foxborough!” Swift grinned, before doing a spin in her glitter-studded opening outfit. “Another reason we refer to this place, Gillette Stadium, as the most joyful place on earth!” That remark elicited cheers from the crowd, a move the famed singer/songwriter was clearly expecting — she threw her arms in the air, ready to dive into her rich catalogue of award-winning music.

I was lucky enough to attend opening night of the Eras Tour performances in Foxborough, one of fifty-two shows Swift will be performing during the five-month tour, which is her first since 2018. I used to consider myself only a casual listener of hers, and then her two COVID-era albums (folklore and evermore, both released in 2020) caught my attention and turned me into a fan very quickly.

The Eras Tour is not just a concert; it’s a performance. Over the course of three-plus hours, Swift took us through her entire discography, performing a range of songs from her different “eras” as a singer/songwriter, going in non-chronological order between her beginnings in country rock, her time as a pop icon, and her revolutionary rebranding during the pandemic. Despite seamlessly moving from one to another over the last seventeen years, Swift has kept the best aspects of each era, and utilized them to improve her music going forward. The Eras Tour also serves as an exhibition of just how far she’s come, and how she’s learned from everything she’s done.

May 17, 2023

“Book Club: The Next Chapter” Puts Down the Prose in Favor of Insipid International Travel (Review)

I was only a young, doe-eyed theater worker when Book Club was released in 2018, but it dominated in my small community cinema. I myself saw it later in its run, and although my developing sense of film criticism appreciated its cheesy charm, I could not stop asking myself “how did this make over $100 million?!”

The (debatably) long-awaited sequel Book Club: The Next Chapter mostly abandons the titular element, instead taking the central ladies out of their comfortable homes and flying them to Italy, jumping from one unexpected adventure to the next. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen all make a triumphant return (and no, even though it might seem like it, this is not the same crew from 80 for Brady — at least not entirely) as seniors seeking a new lease on life. And since this is a feel-good comedy, that’s exactly what they find across the pond.

May 15, 2023

“Crater” Transcends the Direct-to-Streaming Standard (Review)

Disney+ originals are quite hit or miss for me, with the ones I enjoy the most usually being complete surprises. I hadn’t heard much about Crater, so I didn’t expect much. But to my delight, the tale of Caleb, a newly-orphaned teenager living on the now-colonized moon, teaming up with his friends to explore a crater that was significant to his parents, was unexpectedly delightful and earnest.

At its core, the film is about friendship and adventure, but it surprised me by exploring some intense themes. There’s an emphasis on class inequality that borders on critique of capitalism (because no one hates the exploitation of workers more than Disney). The parents of the children in the film are essentially trapped in a form of indentured moon servitude, which was not what I was expecting from this Goonies-esque kids movie about a group of friends on an expedition. Watching a movie geared towards kids explore these real-world issues from the point of view of relatable adolescent characters was a refreshing treat.

May 7, 2023

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is an Emotionally Devastating Final Ride (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is perhaps Marvel Studios’ most exciting project since Avengers: Endgame. It’s been long-delayed, and more newsworthy than most Marvel projects (especially considering writer/director James Gunn’s firing and subsequent rehiring), and as many consider the Guardians series to be among Marvel’s best sub-franchises, expectations are high.

Image courtesy of Marvel

I am one of those people who was absurdly excited for Guardians Vol. 3. It’s been my most anticipated Marvel movie since 2021’s No Way Home, and I (along with many others) were eagerly, and somewhat nervously, anticipating how Gunn would end his trilogy of wackos and weirdness. This is one of those rare Marvel films where anything can happen, and the stakes are exponentially higher than normal (after all, are they going to make any massive story swings in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, or save the big moves for the next Avengers movie?). With unpredictability at an all-time high, it’s time to return to a cosmic corner of the universe for a grounded space adventure with the capability to absolutely destroy me emotionally.

May 3, 2023

“Peter Pan & Wendy” Lacks the Magic of the Original (Review)

Most mornings in the shower, since I hate being alone with my own thoughts for too long, I listen to a podcast. One podcast I listen to frequently is a Glee rewatch show, And That’s What You REALLY Missed, and for a few weeks, the same ad played during every episode, advertising for Disney+’s newest live action remake, Peter Pan & Wendy. “If you think you know the story, think again,” the ad claimed. It called the movie an “all new adventure.” My hopes were high. My interest in poorly-lit live action remakes of movies that were always intended to be animated has never been high, especially in the last few years.

Still, the
Glee podcast had given me hope. Would this take the Cruella route of taking beloved characters and completely reimagining the story surrounding them? I thought perhaps. I was, sadly, disappointed. Instead of a creative new take on Neverland, I got yet another poorly-lit live action remake of a movie that was always intended to be animated.

May 1, 2023

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is a Classic Adaptation Done Right (Review)

I should start out by saying I have never read the classic Judy Blume book that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is based on. It was a valuable part of the childhoods of many, and so beloved that Blume was resistant for nearly half a century for the book to be adapted to film. It took the brilliant brain of legendary writer/director/producer James L. Brooks (The Simpsons, Broadcast News) and the keen eye of writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig (who burst onto the scene in 2016 with the marvelous coming-of-age story The Edge of Seventeen) to convince her that it deserves to be brought to life on the big screen.

This is Craig’s first film in seven years, and what a fantastic project this is to mark her return to the directorial landscape.
Are You There God? tackles the struggles of a young pre-teen girl, and contextualizes them with other massive life changes happening, both at her age and in the early 1970s. It follows sixth-grader Margaret Simon, whose family moves from metropolitan New York to the suburbs of New Jersey, and who finds herself religiously torn within her family (one of her parents is Christian, while the other one is Jewish) and struggling with her oncoming puberty.

April 24, 2023

“Sisu” is a Wickian Action Story of Epic Proportions (Review)

I always respect when a film is willing to commit to a bare bones narrative. Not only does that instantly set it apart from most complex blockbusters of the modern era, but it allows the filmmaking team to focus on making the final product as aesthetically appealing and narratively satisfying as possible. This isn’t to discount complex stories (that umbrella comprises most of my favorite movies), but there’s something special about keeping things simple.

That is exactly what Sisu does. At risk of calling it “the Finnish John Wick” (especially because the studio is very content to promote it that way), I will say that Sisu shares only the broad strokes with its counterpart, and that is the arc — the mostly silent protagonist has a personal mission, and that mission involves killing several bad guys along the way. These two movies are proof that you can have a brilliant, incredibly simple story to work with, but you must have the filmmaking prowess to back it up and ensure that it gets told in a visually interesting way.

April 20, 2023

Little Richard Documentary “I Am Everything” Spares No Expense in the Life of a Superstar (Review)

I am ashamed to admit that before watching Little Richard: I Am Everything, my awareness of the rock and roll legend was limited to Kennedy Davenport’s portrayal of him on the Snatch Game during Season 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. When given the opportunity to watch this documentary about the life and influence of the queer, black icon, I was excited to expand my knowledge and regretful that it took so long for me to truly become aware of his legacy. To my surprise, the documentary eased my guilt, highlighting exactly how important Little Richard was to rock and roll while also acknowledging the lack of recognition he has received over the years. If the film’s primary goal was to convince the audience why Little Richard was a trailblazer despite never being given the credit he deserved, I would call it a success.

Little Richard’s complex relationship with his own sexuality, made even more complicated by his relationship with his father and with religion, is at the forefront of the documentary. In a tactful choice, the film chooses not to pass judgment on Little Richard’s later attempts to denounce his homosexuality, but instead contextualizes them and encourages the audience to empathize with his position. The discussion is not lacking in nuance however, with the ultimate conclusion being that even though Little Richard was unable to accept himself, his existence and self expression was liberating to so many.

April 18, 2023

“Renfield” is a Fun, Tonally Uneven Gore-Fest (Review)

Universal hasn’t been doing well with their monster-related cinematic universes since the 1950s, when the overlapping and screen-sharing came primarily in Abbott and Costello crossover movies. The “Dark Universe,” which was supposed to kick off with 2017’s The Mummy (a favorite of both critics and fans), was a catastrophic failure. It’s astounding when you think about it — you’d think that a studio that owns the rights to such iconic characters and stories would know how to handle them, and give them the films they deserve.

The solution? Begin again, of course — but not overtly. Start off with a film that establishes the world in a unique and exciting way, but could function as a one-off if it all goes south. Throw in Chris McKay, director of The LEGO Batman Movie, and Rick and Morty writer Ryan Ridley and you have a certifiably bonkers movie on your hands.

April 16, 2023

You’re Not Ready for the Final Season of “Barry” (Review)

There have been very few times in my life that I have been so floored by a television series that I want to sit with it for a while before going out and telling everybody about how absolutely incredible it is. The only show that has done that more than once (to the best of my knowledge) is HBO’s Barry, which is now in its fourth and final season.

Image courtesy of WarnerMedia

Barry, which premiered in 2018, stars former SNL star Bill Hader as the titular ex-military hitman who struggles with anxiety and focus in the very profession he’s gifted in. After a job goes awry, Barry decides to dedicate his life to acting, choosing to forsake the world of crime in favor of taking a class with washed-up performer Gene Cousineau (Happy Days’ Henry Winkler). Soon after, Barry begins to learn it’s not that easy to quit the world he’s so deeply ingrained himself in, and maintaining a life in both of his chosen worlds is only viable for so long.

Through a complex web of events, Barry has found himself in prison by the beginning of the show’s fourth season, as his relationship with nearly every single other character has been irreversibly changed and, in some instances, destroyed entirely. There’s an air of seriousness and solemnity settling over this season, as every choice that every character has made thus far comes back to haunt them. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s Barry’s final season, and it’s the last chance for bold tonal swings — but maybe it’s because everything that has happened in the show’s first three seasons causes the stakes to feel so real and grounded (and sometimes downright scary), in addition to being even more crucial for the eventual outcome. The words ‘final season’ only add more urgency.

April 4, 2023

Disney+ Original “Chang Can Dunk” is What a Kids Movie Should Be (Review)

Whether or not Chang actually can dunk I will not reveal, but this movie is about what hard work can achieve in the abstract. It’s not about whether or not a miracle will occur, it’s about a boy working the hardest he possibly can to reach his goal. At least ten minutes of the runtime is just dedicated to Chang doing workouts.

Chang is one of the easiest-to-root-for protagonists I’ve seen in a while. Despite the classic “main character gets so overhyped on his success that he forgets to prioritize the people he cares about” trope that I tend to despise, Chang spends the majority of the movie effortlessly making you fall in love with him. He’s passionate, driven, and a little bit dorky about it. He’s articulate about his needs and his feelings, and he’s respectful of others (except for a notable few, but to be fair they are actively bullying him). He also does a fantastic job throughout the film of taking accountability and apologizing when he needs to, and then he follows those apologies up with actions that prove his sincerity.

March 27, 2023

The Final Season of “Succession” Arrives with a F***ing Bang (Season 4 Premiere Review)

Succession is my latest obsession. For years, I’ve been hearing all sorts of talk around every corner of the internet about how incredible it is, how it outpaces nearly every other HBO original series, and how it elevates every single one of its performers to the next level of their acting careers. In the second week of March, with three weeks until the premiere of the fourth and final season, I decided I would stop missing out. I pressed play, and my perception of what makes a dramatic series succeed irreversibly changed.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

On average, I watched two episodes a day, somedays so much as five. I became enthralled with its characters and fascinated with its penchant for playing out its biggest drama off-camera, instead primarily dealing with the way the characters react to these events. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and it’s one of the things that sets Succession apart from the rest in an incredibly unique way.

The final season premiere turned into an event. Even though I had just finished the show-stopping third season two days before, it felt like I had been waiting far longer to see how it would all resolve. And just like that, it’s back to live TV again — no more binging, no more auto-play that would resolve the previous episode’s cliffhanger in an instant. We have to wait a week to see how it all turns out, and that’s part of what makes shows like this work so well. They make you wait, they make you theorize, and they make you excited to see more.

March 14, 2023

Spy Comedy “Operation Fortune” Entertains Despite No Surprises (Review)

I have a special relationship with Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. It was originally slated for release in January 2022, before a standard push-back two months to March. Then, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, it was “indefinitely delayed”…a sentencing with the potential to kill a film’s release entirely. I was assigned the review for SiftPop in December 2021, and I have been eagerly awaiting the film ever since.

It would eventually come out that Operation Fortune was locked back in the vault for a bit due to the presence of some notably Ukrainian bad guys, and its release may have seemed in poor taste (or, at the very least, badly-timed) due to the inception of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which began to dominate headlines on nearly every major news site.

But now, a year later, Operation Fortune, the latest from action director Guy Ritchie, is finally in theaters. Comparatively, a year’s delay isn’t too much (The King’s Daughter, the last film to feature William Hurt, was finally released in 2022, a full eight years after it was filmed), but I didn’t let the delays hinder my excitement. I like Guy Ritchie, and the cast seemed like nothing to scoff at. I kept my faith, and I was rewarded for it.

March 13, 2023

Rowan and Davis Discuss the 95th Academy Awards

In the latest episode of Runtime, BabeRowan and Davis discuss their experience with this year’s Oscars ceremony, analyzing each category and nominee and recapping notable moments and wins!

Dont forget to subscribe to the podcast and give us a rating on Apple Podcasts!

March 12, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Picture (Part Two)

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will finish by discussing the nominees for Best Picture!

The Fabelmans

“A coming-of-age story about a young man’s discovery of a shattering family secret and an exploration of the power of movies to help us see the truth about each other and ourselves.”

An emotionally resonant journey that brings us through the early life of famed filmmaker Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans shows us a fictionalized version of how the man himself became one of the most accomplished directors of all time. Through the perspective of budding moviemaker Sammy Fabelman, we get a very personal look at his family life, school days, and direct inspirations (including some anecdotes lifted straight from real life!). Movies are dreams that you never forget, and I won’t be forgetting this one anytime soon.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

“An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save what’s important to her by connecting with the lives she could have led in other universes.”

What more can be said about Everything Everywhere All At Once? I’ve seen it five times, and it gets better with every viewing. This is a story about aging, immigration and human connection, done beautifully with the backdrop of an insane multiversal war. This film doesn’t stop for a second over its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, and whether that’s to your liking or your distaste, it commands an undeniable respect for its scale and vision.

March 11, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best International Feature

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best International Feature!

All Quiet on the Western Front

“Paul Baumer and his friends Albert and Muller, egged on by romantic dreams of heroism, voluntarily enlist in the German army. Full of excitement and patriotic fervor, the boys enthusiastically march into a war they believe in. But once on the Western Front, they discover the soul-destroying horror of World War I.”

The third adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front — and by far the most technically advanced — is a haunting juxtaposition between the needless loss of life in wartime and the bureaucracy that acts too slowly to make change happen when it needs to.

Argentina, 1985

“In the 1980s, a team of lawyers takes on the heads of Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship in a battle against odds and a race against time.”

As hammy and procedure-ish it can feel, Argentina 1985 is an excellently rare exhibition of a systematic success and triumph over oppression. A competent script, beautifully naturalistic performances and a compelling score are just the icing on the cake.

March 10, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Production Design & Sound

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Production Design and Best Sound!

All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Production Design & Best Sound

Nearly everything nominated for Best Production Design this year is a period piece, which requires a definite skill in bringing everything to life, something that the All Quiet team excels in. The sound gets progressively louder, and bolder, as the weight of the characters’ situation sets in — after all, this is war; it isn’t pretty nor calm, and the sound sets out to hammer that home in a brutal and merciless fashion; whether it’s artillery falling, comrades shouting, or auditory death and destruction, there’s no break from the carnage.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Best Production Design & Best Sound

An alien planet such as Pandora takes several villages to bring it from concept to screen, and the visual factor is paramount, beyond even the effects. In Avatar’s case, inspiration can be taken from our world, especially in the depictions of the new Na’vi cultures that will have major roles going forward in the future of this franchise. The auditory elements are also incredibly important, as this is an entirely fictional world — every sound we hear is engineered, especially considering that the world is built from the ground up from scratch.

Read my review of Avatar: The Way of Water here.

March 9, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Documentary Feature

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Documentary Feature!

All That Breathes

“Against the darkening backdrop of New Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protecting one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the black kite.”

I know they never nominate documentaries for cinematography awards, but All That Breathes stunned me on a visual level I was not prepared for. It’s more of an experience than anything else — the story feels secondary, even molded by the camera’s eye, as we’re taken for a ride that can be best described as a stellar visual treat, with a heartbreaking story to ground it in the real world, beyond the bounds of the screen.

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

“Following the life of artist Nan Goldin and the downfall of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty who was greatly responsible for the opioid epidemic’s unfathomable death toll.”

We’ve gotten to the point where documentaries are incorporating news-worthy events I was actively plugged into — in this case it’s the trials involving the Sackler family and their bankruptcy bid for their company, Perdue Pharma — and All the Beauty and the Bloodshed weaves these modern events into the story of Nan Goldin and her active protest against the Sacklers. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a devastating takedown, showcased within a powerful personal story that speaks to both the enduring horror of controlled addiction and the perseverance of the human spirit. This is undoubtedly one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, and would be my personal favorite of this year’s Oscar nominees if it weren’t for Navalny.

March 8, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Picture (Part One)

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will start discussing the nominees for Best Picture!

Triangle of Sadness

Models Carl and Yaya are invited for a luxury cruise with a rogues’ gallery of super-rich passengers. At first, all appears Instagrammable, but the cruise ends catastrophically and the group find themselves marooned on a desert island.

As one might expect, Triangle of Sadness is nowhere near subtle with its messages. Everything has a point — the repeating motif of buzzing flies, the lavish production design, and the incessant use of the cell phone camera shutter sound effect, among pretty much everything else — which is impressive, to say the least. Though that care on the production side is present throughout the entire film, that effort becomes more noticeable as the events progress, eventually escalating to the ridiculous and absurd heights I expected from a two-and-a-half hour awards contender. Is it this year’s Parasite? Well, you don’t win the Palme d’Or for nothing, but it seems like these days you’re most likely to win if you’re a movie about how terrible and crazy rich people can be — especially when they come into direct conflict with those of a lower tax bracket. It can be tough to categorize exactly what the film’s attitude towards its characters is, but what’s crystal clear is that they don’t deserve salvation. It does not reject capitalism or socialism, but doesn’t endorse them either, giving us a statement beyond the par-for-the-course conclusion that “rich people are awful.” Despite how viscerally uncomfortable and explicitly gross it can get, that’s the way the world works…and we all know how difficult that is to change.

Read my review of Triangle of Sadness here.

Avatar: The Way of Water

“Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, learn the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.”

It would be hearsay to claim that Avatar: The Way of Water is not incredibly beautiful to look at. Every frame is rendered meticulously, and because most of what we’re seeing on-screen is composed entirely of visual effects, it’s unequivocally awe-inspiring. I also had the opportunity to see it in 3D, a medium I’m not always the biggest fan of — in fact, I was worried about subjecting myself to it for the three and a half hours this movie runs — but it seemed effortless more than anything else, like the 3D is a natural part of the world that Cameron has created. The biggest letdown was an issue that plagued the first Avatar as well: I couldn’t, for the life of me, care about most of these characters. They’re not developed nearly well enough, despite the inordinate amount of time we spend with them. For example, Jake Sully and Neytiri’s children are a major focal point of the film, and I couldn’t tell you any of their names without looking it up. The Way of Water’s story, by itself, is very interesting, but the characters are still not compelling enough to merit my investment. You’d think that after a cumulative six hours with them, I would have more of a stake in this world, but the sad truth is that the more there are, the harder it is to care. Regardless, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual spectacle on every conceivable level, yet there’s still something lacking here in the human (or, in this case, the Na’vi) factor. Unfortunately, it’s just about as testosterone-fueled and vaguely offensive as the original, and absolutely more indulgent than it should be. A solid 192 minutes is still 192 minutes.

Read my review of Avatar: The Way of Water here.

March 7, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Original Score & Original Song

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing and/or showcasing the nominees for Best Original Score and Best Original Song!

Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front

The score for All Quiet on the Western Front, much like the rest of the film, is haunting and unexpectedly violent. From the moment that the young protagonists are marching off to war, the unexpectedly harsh sounds of a harmonium are blown in our face, signifying that the characters have a very different idea of where they are going, and we as the audience are well aware of that. Composer Volker Bertelmann has said that his score was influenced by the “head-banging element” of Led Zeppelin, masterfully creating a further contrast between intention and appearance.



Justin Hurwitz’s juxtaposition of hyper swing and smooth jazz is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also beautiful to listen to, even on their own. Musical motifs, especially Manny and Nellie’s theme (various renditions of which are repeated throughout the film) are ever-present, and even harken back to Hurwitz’s themes from La La Land — which is sensible, especially considering the structural thematic parallels that are even stronger.


March 6, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling!

All Quiet on the Western Front

War takes a toll on a person, and All Quiet on the Western Front exemplifies that with both intense depictions of the battles themselves and the emotional and physical toll that comes with them. Aside from being a period piece — and, thus, obligated to accuracy when it comes to period styling — All Quiet commits to visualizing the descent of its central characters into very different versions of themselves as they endure more and more horrors of war. It’s terrifically effective, if a little terrifying in it of itself — it makes you wonder about how you yourself would be affected by a war like this, should you ever be so unlucky to fight in one.

The Batman

The Batman is my favorite nomination in this category — not in terms of overall quality (but I think it might crack that as well), but it’s largely because of the service it does for the superhero genre in terms of proving that technical prowess don’t need to be over-the-top to be excellent representations of their craft. In The Batman, Colin Farrell becomes the Penguin with flawless makeup and prosthetics that not only completely hide the actor’s identity, but make him fit in with the brutal, lived-in world of this Gotham City. Most of the other makeup and hairstyling is more under-the-radar, but if you want a better example of the great work that this team’s done, look up the deleted scene with Barry Keoghan’s Joker. Now that’s terrifying.

Read my review of The Batman here.

March 5, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Animated Short

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing the nominees for Best Animated Short!

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

“The unlikely friendship of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse traveling together in the boy’s search for home.”
A hodgepodge of fortune cookie slips and inspirational sayings isn’t a terrible way to shape a story, but it’s far from ideal. Granted, this is based on a children’s book, and that’s pretty much exactly what I would expect from a straight adaptation. The animation, on the other hand, is flawless and imperfectly perfect, and it’s always nice to hear the comforting voices of Tom Hollander, Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne.

The Flying Sailor

The Flying Sailor is based on the Halifax explosion of 1917 when two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour causing the largest accidental explosion in history. Among the tragic stories of the disaster is the remarkable account of a sailor who, blown skyward from the deck of a British cargo steamer, flew 4km before landing completely unharmed, but naked except for his boots.”

I’m not sure how convincing this is as a contemplation of life, the universe and everything, but The Flying Sailor is so gorgeously animated and well-structured that a nomination seemed inevitable. The fact that it’s based on a true story is only more impressive, and its poetic nature is even more potent when put into a real-world existential perspective.