The Oscar Project
If there is one thing I love about movies, it’s that they can take us to any time period and anywhere in the world. They can transport us to ancient Egypt, drop us on the front lines of WWII, or look at current events all for just the price of a movie ticket (and perhaps a bucket of popcorn). And movies don’t have to rely on existing material, they can look into the future and imagine what things will be like tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years in the future.
That brings us to our category for this week, a movie Set in the Distant Future. As always, I have a link to guide you from ScreenRant, listing “10 Sci-Fi Movies Set In The Far, Far Distant Future.” There is a variety on this list, including a few movies from the 1960s, more recent flicks like Dune, and even the animated Titan A.E.
I mentioned last week that I have been working on watching a certain show in preparation for this week’s movie and that show is the short-lived FOX series Firefly.
Firefly was one show that I’ve always wanted to watch. It was never even on my radar when it first aired, but something that piqued my interest when I saw it on Netflix some years ago. It’s been referred to throughout a number of other series, most notably on The Big Bang Theory with Sheldon Cooper’s long running hatred of Fox owner Rupert Murdoch over the Firefly’s cancelation. So not only am I watching a movie for this week, but have been hard at work watching the total 11+ hour run time of the series (in the intended order, not the order it was originally aired).
It's the end of April and before we heat things up in May with a bunch of big blockbusters, it's time to get a few more releases out of the way. There aren't any huge films on the slate this weekend, but the ones that are releasing give some variety to a box office that has seemed choked with horror titles for the last few weeks.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
If you've ever been in late elementary school, there's a good chance you've read some books by the acclaimed children's author Judy Blume. She has written such favorites as Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania, and Freckle Juice, but it's one of her other books that hits theaters as a movie adaptation this weekend.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret adapts the book of the same name and stars Abby Ryder Fortson, who you may know as young Cassie Lang from the first two Ant-Man films. She was great in that role and now that she's a little older, I am looking forward to seeing her tackle young Margaret who is struggling to figure out her religious identity while also dealing with just being a sixth grade girl. Rachal McAdams appears as Margaret's mother alongside Kathy Bates as her grandmother.
Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World
In possibly the film with the longest title in some time, this is our second major boxing picture of the year (after Creed III). The film is a biopic focusing on the life of boxing legend George Foreman.
Khris Davis takes on the mantle of the multi-time heavyweight champion of the world in a story that takes him from the ring, to a life as minister and preacher, before returning to the ring to reclaim his title. And based on the trailer, we might even get a little insight into the marketing of Foreman's famous countertop grill.
This film just came onto my radar this week and it's already generating quite a bit of buzz. Krit was already able to see the film and dropped a review video for the film.
The film is a story of two sisters, one of whom is training to be a stuntwoman, while the other is recently engaged. The film comes to us from the UK, and focuses on Pakistani culture as the sisters plot a "wedding heist."
It's not very usual to see a Finnish film getting a wide release in the United States, but this is an exception to that rule. The trailer for this film cites the creators of the John Wick films, so you know there will be some good action and violence in this film.
The story is that of a gold prospector in the Lapland area of Scandinavia in the latter stages of WWII. The prospector is accosted by a group of Nazis while trying to bring out a load of gold and must use his elite fighting skills to save himself and his haul.
I keep saying it every week, but there have been so many movies coming out in the last two months, it's hard to keep up with what's still playing. This isn't going to change in the coming months and there are plenty of limited releases hitting theaters as well this weekend.
In addition to doing my weekly preview posts, I have decided to add a monthly post to the roster of things you'll see on the website going forward. I already have a monthly preview video which is linked below for this month so check that out if you don't like reading the full post.
I'm going to start relatively simply with this month's post. The list of wide releases hitting theaters is outlined below and a simple slideshow of the movie posters as well
I can’t believe we are about 1/3 of the way through this challenge already. I don’t know about you, but I am so glad I have been given the push to watch some of the films on my list this year, especially the ones I’ve been putting off for a while.
This week we are watching an Animated Film and this was the first time in the challenge that I watched something I had already seen. Granted, I only watched this film for the first time back in January, but I had to watch it a second time in preparation for writing this post to refresh my memory on it. The film in question is the 1973 surrealist science fiction film, Fantastic Planet. The original French title is La planète sauvage which more accurately translates to The Wild Planet, which I actually prefer.
I originally watched this on a recommendation from someone in a movie roulette group I’m in on Discord. Each week we get a category from the organizer along with a randomized member to give a recommendation to in that category. We then also recommend a movie to someone else, watch our recommended film, and provide a rating. The idea is to watch films you’ve never seen and expand your horizons in film watching. I’m in two of these groups and several of the films I’ve watched from these recommendations have been fantastic. Unfortunately, there are some duds as well, but that’s all part of the fun.
The other piece of bonus information I got in viewing the film on physical media was an insert in the package that had the text of an essay about the film written by Michael Brooke. The essay “Fantastic Planet: Gambous Amalga” provided additional insight into the creation of the film and is still available to read on the Criterion website. When I first watched the film, I wrote that the simple animation helped me focus on the story, but what I hadn’t realized at the time was the actual method of animation used. As Brooke notes in his essay:
“the film’s real strengths lie in Topor’s bizarre designs and the way that character designer Josef Kábrt, background designer Josef Váňa, and their animators brought them uncannily to life by the simple but very effective method of combining paper cutouts and in-camera dissolves, the better to preserve Topor’s characteristic crosshatched drawing style while keeping the budget as low as possible.”
Understanding that the images we see on the screen are actually little pieces of paper drawings that have been cut out and then manipulated to give the illusion of motion only increases my appreciation of the technical abilities put into the film. At the same time, it also frustrates me that much more that such a cool method of animation was used when the story could have been even stronger.
The last thing I have to mention might seem a little prudish, but it annoyed me even more in my second viewing than it did the first. Throughout the film, the characters, specifically the females, show more skin than we would ever seen in a traditional American animated film. The alien Draags wear outfits that seem like they intentionally highlight the breasts and nipples of the females, and the Om (human) females mostly wear loose garments that expose their breasts in many scenes. After watching the Laloux’s short films noted above, I can tell that this is not unique to Fantastic Planet, but something we see throughout his work.
Now, I don’t have a problem with seeing those things on screen, and there are plenty of films out there with female (and male) private parts on full view, but this film almost seemed to include them just for the shock value of including them. Brooke writes in the aforementioned essay that “film is perfectly suitable for children, who’ll most likely be equally unfazed by that and the Oms’ casual nudity: it’s parents who’ll be squirming uneasily in their seats,” but I would politely disagree. It’s actually not the Om nudity that gets me as that’s more natural. It’s the Draag nudity and the fact that we often get closeups of the young Draag Tiwa holding her Om Terr in her hand, with a very large and prominent nipple in the background. I don’t have a problem with it, but I also don’t think it is necessary and it certainly doesn’t do anything to advance the story. For me, especially watching the film a second time and knowing it was there, it was incredibly distracting.
In the end, I’m glad I rewatched this film and gave it another shot. I would increase my overall rating for the film from the 6 I gave it in January to a 7. After watching some of Laloux’s other work and reading a bit more about him and the film, I am interested to see some of his other work. If you’re looking for a surrealist escape from reality, especially one that might be enhanced by watching in a chemically altered state, this is one to consider.
We’re coming to the end of April already and I’m planning out my next two-month review of the challenge so far this year. I will probably post that next week some time as I try to catch up on a certain TV series which will become clear next week.
This week, we are looking at an Animated Film. These are so easy to find, and even more so with the advent of streaming services which tend to gobble these movies up like candy. Every time I look on Netflix, it seems like there is another new animated movie there with lots of bright colors, talking animals, and fantastic worlds. If you do need help finding an animated movie, look no further than Wikipedia’s list of Animated Feature Films.
My Selection-Fantastic Planet
I’m cheating a bit on this one as I watched it earlier in the year. This was recommended to me by someone in a movie roulette on Discord and I wasn’t too terribly in love with it at first, but I’m actually going to re-watch it this week and give it another try. It’s a French animated film from the 1970s that I had never heard of until that recommendation, and definitely not your garden variety Disney, Illumination, or Dreamworks animated feature.
There is another big batch of wide releases coming out this weekend, with a wide variety of genres for you to pick from. It's hard to keep up with all these new releases, but hopefully this can help you narrow down your movie going plans.
If you're like me, you've probably never heard of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. I'm a bit upset that I'd never heard of him, since I price myself in knowing about some more obscure musical figures of the past, but this looks like an interesting piece and hopefully will provide some background on a historical figure not known to the masses.
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. stars in the title role in the film after appearing in last year's film Elvis (as B.B. King) and in Cyrano back in 2021. He appears to be a star on the rise and I will be interested to see his work in the coming years.
Evil Dead Rise
The latest in a horror franchise spanning 40+ years arrives in theaters this weekend. We are fresh on the heels of films like Nefarious, The Pope's Exorcist, and Renfield last week, and Scream VI back in early March, giving audiences plenty of horror films on offer at the moment.
I know this franchise is a beloved one and the last installment was ten years ago, but believe it or not, I've never seen a single one. I honestly could not recall a single frame of any of the previous films, so I may need to go back and check some of them out in due time.
Guy Ritchie's The Covenant
It seems like Ritchie has never been much for releasing films on a regular schedule, but he has been incredibly prolific over the last four years with five films releasing in that time (Aladdin, The Gentlemen, Wrath of Man, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, and now The Covenant). Operation Fortune and this film have both been released in the last month.
You might ask how he could possibly make two movies at once, but given the long post-production schedules of many films, it's fair to shoot two films back to back and hand off post-production on one while prepping and shooting the next, which is the case with Operation Fortune and The Covenant. This looks like a bit of a departure from his previous several films noted above, but I'm interested to see how Ritchie tackles the story and setting his violent action in a true war zone rather than more urban centers like many of his films.
Beau is Afraid
Everyone is raving about this film and praising the work of Ari Aster over the last half decade or so. If you don't know the name, you've probably at least heard of his first two films, Hereditary and Midsommar, both considered modern horror standards.
Beau is Afraid takes his work in a new direction but looks like it still feels like an Aster film. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Beau Wasserman who is on a journey to get home to his mother and explores the surreal path he takes to get there.
With that strong slate of wide releases, not to mention everything still in theaters from last week, it's hard to see where there will be room for anything else, but there are still new limited releases hitting theaters. Check your local listings for these movies:
It turns out I was wrong when I posted my pick for this week a few days ago. I mentioned having seen this before in college, but I think I had it confused with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari since this film was not the crazy German expressionist work I remembered. That said, I truly enjoyed it and was quite impressed by some of the things it achieved in the time it was made.
The film unofficially (and without authorization) adapts Bram Stoker’s classic story of Dracula, with some changes to character names and locations. These minor changes were not enough to prevent Stoker’s heirs from suing over the adaptation which led to a court ruling that al copies of the film be destroyed. Thankfully for us today, some prints survived and the film is readily available today for free online or through a multitude of different DVD and Blu-ray releases.
The story is quite simple. I real estate agent by the name of Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is sent by his boss Knock (Alexander Granach) to visit the mysterious Count Orlock (Max Schreck) who plans to purchase a house in their town. Hutter’s travels to Orlock’s castle lead him through some foreboding areas including a town near the castle where the mere mention of Orlock’s name evokes fear among the locals.
Upon reaching the castle, Hutter is welcomed with a feast. While he eats, he cuts his thumb and Orlock tries to suck on the blood. Hutter wakes the next day with what he thinks are two mosquito bites on his neck. That evening, Hutter and Orlock go over the paperwork for purchasing the house (which happens to be directly across the street from Hutter’s own home) and upon seeing a picture of Hutter’s wife, Orlock remarks that she has a “lovely neck.” Hutter begins to suspect that Orlock is a vampire, and his suspicions are confirmed when he finds Orlock resting in a coffin the next day.
The story here is one of fear of the unknown or the “other.” Some scholars believe this to be antisemitic in nature, especially given the time and place (post WWI Germany) of its creation. There may be a slight subtext along these lines, but I didn’t detect anything in my own viewing. What I did notice was a fear of something new and dangerous that sent people fleeing to their homes. This hit home that much harder after the events of 2020, when we all lived with the “plague” of Covid-19 and were sent to our homes, just as the mayor of the town does in Nosferatu.
There is also a minor theme of self-sacrifice at the end of the film. Hutter’s wife realizes she can end the suffering of others in the town by sacrificing herself. She also knows that her husband will never let her do it while he’s around, so she shrewdly sends him away to look for a doctor, knowing that Orlock will take advantage of his absence to come for her.
Now, a few weeks ago I wrote extensively on the silent film The Birth of a Nation and despite the technical achievements of the film, I wasn’t able to identify much in the way of redeeming qualities. This on the other hand, does have plenty to recommend it, even if it may not have made as many technical leaps forward.
In putting together my own rating for the film (8 out of 10) I landed on a few elements that I thought were brilliantly executed. There aren’t many special effects in the film, but enough to be noticeable in certain parts. With Orlock appearing and/or disappearing out of thin air at various times, the use of multiple exposures was prominent and well done. There are also a few instances where very simple stop motion is used to make doors open without anyone appearing to touch them. These are not nearly as fluid as you might see in something made today like Kubo and the Two Strings or Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, but for 100 year ago, they are effective.
I was also struck by the music for the film. I’m not sure if the music on the version I watched was the original music intended for the film, but it was an incredibly effective organ accompaniment that helped telegraph important story moments as they happened.
The acting was well performed throughout and for the most part not over acted like many silent films of the era. There were a few corny moments near the end, but for the most part, the action was performed naturally. The other technical elements were well done, from the production design of the town and castle to the period costumes and the great makeup on Orlock’s head and hands. Altogether these combine to form a very strong piece of film and something any true movie lover should watch at least once.
This week’s category might be just as difficult to pick from as the one about a month ago where we watched controversial films. I’m speaking of a Silent Film of course. And why is that going to be difficult you ask? Well, for one, we don’t watch many silent films today. Most people don’t understand the flow of a silent film and how the intertitles work, simply because we are so familiar with watching films with synchronized sound dialogue. But, it’s worth revisiting some silent films from the past because we can appreciate how much storytelling had to be done with the action instead of the words.
This week’s list comes from Open Culture and is a list of “101 Free Silent Films: The Great Classics.” Of course, you are welcome to pick films not on this list, many of which you can probably find at your local library. That said, there are some great silent films on this list, from the Russian Battleship Potemkin to Metropolis to Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 film The Gold Rush, there is something here for everyone.
I’m pretty sure I watch at least parts of this in college in some of my film history classes, but I’m not positive that I ever watched the entire thing, so I’m considering this a new movie for the purpose of this challenge. I also felt it was appropriate to watch an early adaptation of Dracula (albeit unofficial in this case) since we just had the release of the new Dracula film Renfield this weekend. Check out my weekly preview for more on that.
I honestly cannot remember a weekend where we had six movies opening in wide release and while not all of these will be successful, especially considering expected holdover from Mario's release last week, the fact that there is this variety at the box office right now is a welcome sign that distributors are continuing to push movies into theaters.
I'm not sure who I'm more excited to see in this film, Toni Collette as the American suburban mom trying to be an Italian mafioso don, or Monica Bellucci who I haven't seen in anything big since her appearance in the Matrix sequels two decades ago.
I loved Collette (and everyone else) in Knives Out several years ago, and this is certainly a departure from films like Hereditary or The Sixth Sense.
The early reviews for this film are not very favorable, but hopefully it can find a niche as a fun little comedy.
I haven't heard or seen much publicity about this film so it's a little surprising that it's getting a wide release, but the premise sounds interesting.
The film is about a death row inmate who claims to be a demon on the eve of his execution. What's more, he predicts that the man performing his psych evaluation will also commit several murders.
That said, this is probably the lowest performing release this weekend out of several horror releases.
The Pope's Exorcist
I'm not sure which is more fascinating to me, the fact that the Pope has (or had?) a chief exorcist (implying that he has or had many), that this particular one wrote down his experiences in several books, or that this is NOT the first film to be made about this particular person.
What's more, Father Gabriele Amorth, the exorcist in question, only passed away in 2016. He claimed to have performed over 60,000 exorcisms in his life which means that he would have had to perform an average of 3 exorcisms every day for the 62 years from his ordination until his death.
I assume Russell Crowe's version of the man will not be quite so busy as the film seems to focus on one main possession case, but there is certainly a good amount of buzz about this film's release.
I'm not normally crazy about horror films, but this one has been near the top of my list since the trailer released several months back. I always love Nicolas Cage and this looks like a role he was really able to sink his teeth into.
Nicholas Hoult has been a rising star for a while and seeing him in a big film like this is going to be a treat as well. Plus, to top it all off, I get to see one of my new favorite actors, Brandon Scott Jones, taking a break from playing Isaac Higgintoot on the CBS series Ghosts.
There is no shortage of Dracula adaptations, but I appreciate the attempt here to look at the story from the perspective of the servant rather than the master.
As with horror, I'm not normally a fan of the anime style of animation, but this particular film looks like something I could make an exception for. Just based on the trailer and images like the poster here, it looks absolutely beautiful.
The story seems simple enough, a young girl and a man travel through a mysterious door and attempt to stop some force that is threatening to destroy the world.
The poster says "The man who changed the game" at the top and while some people would assume that refers to someone like Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, or Magic Johnson, this film is about Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, one of the first African Americans to play in the NBA.
Just a few years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball's major league, the NBA crossed the same threshold, pulling Clifton from the Harlem Globetrotters to play for the New York Knicks and this film is the story of that transition.
While there are a ton of new wide releases this week, there are also a fair share of smaller films hitting theaters around the country. Check out your local theaters to see if they are showing the following films.
This week it’s time to intentionally choose a movie that might not be the best out there. Our category this week is a “B” Movie. No, not the animated Jerry Seinfeld film The Bee Movie. This is a movie that falls into the category that Wikipedia labels as a “low-budget commercial motion picture…intended for distribution as the less-publicized bottom half of a double feature.” In the Golden Age of Hollywood, these movies were often genre pictures falling into the broad categories of westerns, science fiction, and/or horror.
For help finding a movie here, I’ve included this list from Paste of “The 100 Best ‘B Movies’ of All Time.” Now, “best” might be a relative term here, but with 100 movies to pick from on this list, I’m sure you can find something that interests you.
My Selection-Plan 9 From Outer Space
This was labeled the worst film ever made by Harry and Michael Medved in 1980, which launched the film into a strange popularity, more as an oddity than anything else. It is directed by Ed Wood who is the subject of the 1994 biopic directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp in the title role. I’m interested to see just how bad this movie is and if it truly deserves the label ad the worst film ever made.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?