Academy Awards 2021 Postponed Two Months

For only the fourth time in its history, the Oscars are being postponed. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the ABC Television Network announced on Monday that the 93rd Academy Awards will now be held April 25, 2021, eight weeks later than originally planned because of the pandemic’s effects on the movie industry.

Obviously in these deeply uncertain times it remains to be seen what effect the global interruption in film production and cinema releases will have on exactly which of this year’s anticipated hopefuls will make it to audiences in time for consideration. But at least for now there will be an Awards season early in 2021.

The Oscars has only been delayed three times before – due to LA flooding in 1938; after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 1968; and following the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Ford v Ferrari Review TIFF 2019

The Plot

The true story of how iconic car designer Carroll Shelby and racing legend Ken Miles helped the Ford motor company tackle the seemingly impossible task of challenging Ferrari for racing dominance at the Le Mans 1966 24hr race.

The Good

This film is an astonishing piece of work that eloquently captures the exhilarating pain, passion and glory of motorsport. For the uninitiated it represents a perfect introduction to the sport via one of its most iconic moments, for seasoned fans it is an intricately crafted celebration that brings glorious memories vividly back to life.

Director James Mangold has a polished track record at delivering films that balance flawless production design with sincere storytelling. Ford v Ferrari does a sensational job at recreating the look and feel of one of the most astonishing periods in motorsport history. The classic vehicles of that golden era roar back to life, lending the film both instantly iconic personality and unquestionable authenticity.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are both on truly sensational form as the passionate partnership tasked with making unprecedented racing history. Damon plays visionary designer Carroll Shelby with a compelling mix of straight talking southern charm and obvious inner turmoil. Likewise Christian Bale delivers yet another amazing turn as Ken Miles, giving the flamboyant driver depth and heart. Bale expertly explores the nuanced contradictions of a man capable of being both a fiery tempered racing obsessed perfectionist but equally a tenderly devoted husband and father.

The dynamic friendship between these two motorsport icons is the true heart of this film. Bale and Damon work magic in capturing the frayed tempers and compassionate loyalty that helped these two friends ultimately archive iconic feats. It’s a relationship that enthrals and inspires in equal measure.

An outstanding supporting cast helps the film to further achieve unparalleled greatness. Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe are compelling as Ken Miles’ wife and young son. This authentic portrayal of a family that truly loves and understands one another crucially gives the film an additional emotional dimension.  At the same time Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas and Stacy Letts each play their roles to perfection as the various Ford company bigwigs struggling to fully comprehend the true nature of the history they’re making. The film’s cast is a well-oiled machine with everyone and everything in its perfect place.

Of course beyond the human element the film’s biggest character is undoubtedly the astonishing depiction of racing drama. Once again the film is an engine roaring success as it vividly brings to life the break neck speeds and exhilarating rush of drivers pushing unbelievable vehicles past the point of technical and human limitations. It’s hard to do justice in words to just how expertly crafted these portions of the film are. Packed with suspense, wry humour and buckets of raw adrenalin.

The Bad

It’s a rare delight to find so few flaws in a film. Obviously those with an existing distain for watching ‘fast cars drive around in circles’ will be prepared to dislike this film. But I defy them to watch it anyway. If it can’t persuade you to change your mind about the entire sport, you will at least find the underlying human story of a passionate friendship among those who push life to its absolute limits a compelling tale.

The Ugly Truth

Ford v Ferrari is high octane storytelling of the highest calibre that demands to be seen. It is a beautifully crafted and fitting testament to the ingenuity, sacrifice and friendship of iconic men who made breath-taking history in the face of abundant dangers and doubt. Whether you share a passion for cars or not, do not miss this film.

Review by Russell Nelson

Uncut Gems Review TIFF 2019

The Plot

Howard Ratner is a flamboyant New York jeweller desperately pursing a big score while his messy life teeters on the brink of total chaos and collapse. His increasing desperation to hold his family together and his mounting enemies at bay leads him to take a series of high stakes risks that will either save or doom him.

The Good

The Safdie brothers have rapidly established a reputation for unconventional storytelling with a rich flare for combining charismatic visuals and dark subject matter. Those that have seen their previous work will no doubt welcome another dose of their distinctive efforts.

In leading man Adam Sandler they have a much maligned actor who is evidently always capable of being much more than just the unashamedly moronic lowbrow comedy star he is best known as. Sandler occasionally takes welcomed breaks from the safe money of lazy studio comedies to partner with credible storytellers like Paul Thomas Anderson or Noah Baumbach on projects that make the most of the full range of his talents. Paired with the Safdie brothers, Sandler rediscovers a gritty tragic quality long absent in his recent performances.

Those that enjoyed Sandler’s turns in films like Punch Drunk Love or Funny People will welcome this return to a more hard edged and cynical performance that pushes Sandler’s most raw and vulnerable emotional side to the forefront. Restraining his flamboyant overacting just enough to expose his more sombre and subtle skills.

A competent supporting cast helps ground Sandler’s occasionally manic performance into a more grimly realistic world. Newcomer Julia Fox in particular will undoubtedly grab attention and inevitable praise for her smouldering turn as Howard’s young mistress, while Idina Menzel makes the most of her modest role as his long suffering wife.

The Bad

Adam Sandler is an actor who lurches wildly between increasingly silly comedic efforts and occasional dramatic turns. While this arguably makes him a versatile performer, it unfortunately also saddles audiences with firm expectations about his work. After churning out a recent string of disappointingly lacklustre and sometimes outright unwatchable Netflix comedies, it may be especially  jarring to some audiences to see Sandler try to once again switch seamlessly back into a credible dramatic role.

It doesn’t help that his character Howard is a flamboyant caricature complete with an absurdly comical voice, indescribably style and a chronic propensity for slapstick failure. It’s easy to see how this project could so easily have quickly devolved into another farcical Sandler comedy. Only the film’s generally bleak and cynical tone helps redefine Sandler’s character as a more sincerely tragic and restrained presence.

In particular those expecting the usual lazy parade of Sandler’s familiar comedic buddies will obviously be left instantly disappointed not to see Rob Schneider, David Spade or Kevin James pop up for friendly pay check cameos. This is NOT one of those Adam Sandler movies.

The Ugly Truth

Uncut Gems is likely destined to become a much debated cult classic thanks to memorable visuals, a pulsing soundtrack and an intriguing turn from the perpetually enigmatic Adam Sandler. Some people will undoubtedly love the film’s visual style and unconventional narrative, while others may be far less enthusiastic about falling down a dark psychedelic downward spiral. Much like Sandler himself the film will fiercely split opinions, but at least either way is guaranteed to produce strong reactions

 Review by Russell Nelson

Motherless Brooklyn Review TIFF 2019

The Plot

A lonely detective suffering from Tourette’s syndrome sets out to unravel the mystery behind his mentor’s murder, setting his sharp wits and determination against powerful men and the rampant criminal corruption of 1950s New York.

The Good

Edward Norton is on typically accomplished form playing the reluctantly heroic Lionel, a complex figure far more layered and nuanced than the usual cliché gumshoe. Norton’s method acting acumen allows him to authentically portray the character’s Tourette’s syndrome in a way that avoided either sensationalising of trivialising the affliction. Although there is certainly a very familiar trope of detectives being gifted/cursed with unique mental faculties, Norton manage to carve out something unique with his performance.

Norton as a director has managed to leverage his own acting pedigree to help assemble a supporting cast packed full of noteworthy character actors and familiar stars. Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale and Alec Baldwin being some of the instantly recognisable talents breathing life into the murky cesspool of 1950s New York.

Alec Baldwin in particular spars very well with Norton whenever the pair square off on screen. Baldwin exudes a genuinely menacing aura as a bullish and unrepentant tycoon of extreme means and power. The contrast between his unapologetic bullying ways and the current day climate of endless recriminations against so called ‘toxic masculinity’ is fascinating.

The look and sound of the film is another massively attractive attribute. The forlorn beauty of Daniel Pemberton’s score combined with a sepia tinted vision of a vintage era of New York gives the film an extra emotional dimension and pleasing personality.

Edward Norton deserves special praise for not only delivering yet another credible leading man performance but for also directing such a well-polished technical production.

The Bad

Motherless Brooklyn for all its pleasing soundtrack, competent performances and polished production value doesn’t quite succeed in doing anything truly original with a persistently popular genre. Scratching beneath the veneer of the ensemble acting talents on show reveals a fairly straightforward plot.

For all the films undeniably appealing qualities it can’t quite secure its status alongside some of true genre classics like The Big Sleep The Third Man or LA Confidential. Although Motherless Brooklyn is an enjoyable and rewarding watch, it isn’t perhaps as memorable or endlessly re-watchable as the finest detective dramas can be.

The Ugly Truth

Motherless Brooklyn is a sincerely crafted love letter to both detective dramas and an iconic era in New York history. Edward Norton juggles method acting and directing with evident skill, achieving much success on screen. A hauntingly melodic soundtrack, stellar supporting cast and Norton’s star turn will all reward audience.

Review by Russell Nelson

The Report Review TIFF 2019

The Plot

An idealistic senate staffer is tasked with helming an investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program launched in the wake of 9/11. Finding himself locked in a battle to discover harsh truths and share them with the world.

The Good

Adam Driver has emerged as one of the most redeeming features of the divisive new star wars trilogy. In the report the turns those considerable dramatic talents to an even more contentious subject matter in examining the complex aftermath of 9/11. As always he is an arresting on screen presence and he does his very best to convince an audience to share in his character’s earnest passion for the truth.

It is immediately clear that Driver has a very difficult task to maintain audience interest in a character who literally spends years drudging through CIA paperwork and virtually alone. Under the circumstances Driver does the best he possibly can to make that exercise feel urgent and compelling.

Beyond Driver’s own talents the film finds a host of familiar faces like Jon Hamm, Corey Stoll and Annette Benning willing to share the burden of fleshing out this overly familiar history on screen. Their collective star power helps keep audiences interested in spite of their likely pre-existing answers to all the questions the film seeks to ask.

The Bad

Audiences may understandably find their appetite for dwelling on this difficult period of modern history has waned considerably as the years have passed. By now most people already have well entrenched views about the actions of nations and intelligence communities around the world in the wake of 9/11. People will already either view these events as justified measures to fight unprecedented dangers or as misguided acts of evil in their own right. Little if anything this particular film has to offer will change those fixed opinions.

With nearly a decade of public debate, partisan political squabbling, endless investigations and introspective films about this subject, all that has really been accomplished is weariness and a growing sense of jaded apathy.

In a world beset by new problems, new leaders and new controversies audiences may already feel long disconnected from events already consigned to history books. Absent any new information or the ability to create meaningful sentiment there’s sadly little rewards to be found for any of the film’s well intentioned efforts.

At best the film is a weary rehash of familiar history, at worst the fiercely partisan nature of American political tribes means that the film simply cannot avoid painting Bush era republicans as unethical war criminals and Democrats as the de facto champions of truth and accountability. An obvious oversimplification of a murky political landscape where both sides are equally tarnished by rampant self-interest and amoral political expediency over real principles.

The Ugly Truth

The Report is another hand wringing look at a dark and divisive period of modern history that awkwardly feels too current to be rediscovered but increasingly irrelevant to the fast paced drama of