Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast represented near-perfection for an animated musical when it competed for Best Picture honors in 1991. So it’s hard to imagine that any reimagining of the “tale as old as time” could possibly hold a candle – or a lumiere – to that instant classic. But Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast does what it set out to do, and that’s bring a strong cast, a contemporary vibe, and a few new songs to audiences old and new. And while it’s not perfect, it is quite enchanting.

Toni Erdmann

This father-daughter dramedy/farce from German director Maren Ade may clock in at 162 minutes, but I never got bored and it certainly didn’t drag. The film starts with a familiar premise, but doesn’t go to the sentimental or obvious places you’re expecting. It pits Ines (Sandra Hüller), an über-focused young corporate consultant, against her semi-retired dad Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who just loves a good gag or practical joke. He drops in for an unannounced visit with Ines and tries to get her to loosen up and have a life, and all she wants is for him to go home so she can get back to business. Though it does lead to a happy ending, the journey is full of absurd scenes and uncomfortable moments.

Frantz

French writer/director François Ozon has made some of my favorite films these last few years. With The New Girlfriend, In the House,  and Potiche he’s shown himself to be very adept with comedy and unusual situations. But with his new film Frantz, he enters the realm of historical drama and shows he is equally skilled in more serious films. A semi-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby, it’s set just after the first World War, in a small German town. It’s the story of Anna (Paula Beer), a beautiful, young German woman whose fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) died in the war and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a sad young Frenchman, who comes to town having been close friends with Frantz in Paris before the war. She discovers him as he is laying flowers on Frantz’s grave, and he becomes a source of happy memories for her and for Frantz’s grieving parents.

Cinema Clash podcast: Kong Skull Island; The Ottoman Lieutenant; The Last Word; Neruda; The Marseilles Trilogy

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Charlie and Hannah: An epic monster movie that’s thin on story but big on spectacle; a love triangle wrapped in a weak war drama set in the Ottoman Empire; Shirley MacLaine gets the The Last Word in a film that Charlie detests and Hannah struggles to defend; a Chilean poet-turned-politician gets the fictionalized biopic treatment; and not one, not two, but three French films for the cinephilic Francophile (aka Charlie). Ooh-la-la! Listen now, or download for later!

Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie spectacle. If you like the likes of King Kong, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park, with a bit of Apocalypse Now thrown into the mix, then you’ll surely be satisfied with Kong: Skull Island. If the aforementioned titles don’t get your cinematic juices flowing, then you can skip this latest spin on a really, really big ape and the island he reigns over. I didn’t not like it, but I wasn’t blown away either, because I’m simply not a monster movie maven. It took me decades to get around to seeing the original Jurassic Park. This film has a similar vibe. Humans invade the turf of giant creatures and pay a hefty price.

Cinema Clash podcast: Logan; Table 19; Before I Fall; Land of Mine; My Life as a Zucchini

On this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast with Hannah (Mainstream Chick) and her movie nemesis Charlie: A grim final farewell to Logan; Table 19 serves up some lukewarm wedding comedy; Before I Fall aims for the YA crowd; Land of Mine wins Charlie’s vote for best foreign language film; My Life as a Zucchini (Ma Vie de Courgette) offers up a smart, animated tale about orphans, not veggies; and Hannah mixes up her mammals. #oops #BeerFail #WhatIsAWolverineAnyway?

Just click on the box and Tune in!

Cinema Clash podcast: Get Out; Rock Dog; Kedi; Bitter Harvest; Punching Henry

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Mainstream Chick and her cinema nemesis Charlie Juhl: The best movie of 2017 so far. You’ll want to Get Out and see it! Plus: the (pooper) scoop on the Chinese-American computer-animated comedy Rock Dog; the philosophical underpinnings of Kedi, a documentary about cats in Istanbul; the bitter truth about Bitter Harvest; a mockumentary drama about a struggling comedian looking for his big break in Punching Henry; a few wayward Oscar predictions; and beer. Let the clash begin!

Table 19

Table 19 is a so-so romantic comedy that practically screams CHICK FLICK from the get-go. We haven’t had one of those in a while, so for anyone craving the genre, it’s worth taking a seat at the Table. The film has some genuinely funny and poignant moments and is extremely relatable for anyone who’s ever been seated with a random group of strangers at a wedding reception. It’s a bit like The Breakfast Club – wedding edition. The plot centers around ex-Maid of Honor Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Up In the Air) whose boyfriend, the bride’s brother, recently dumped her via text message. After a raging internal debate, Eloise decides to attend the wedding as originally planned and is exiled to Table 19, along with five other misfits who fall into the category of obligatory invitees who “should have known to just send regrets – but not before sending something nice off the registry.”

Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

This is also a hard category, because the films are all so different, and the art of telling a story in a short time without either rushing it or shortchanging the narrative creates its own sort of film making. There’s dancing, and singing, and interrogation, and infatuation, and this year’s theme of the Islamic immigrant/refugee is included. They’re funny and romantic and sad and surprising. It’s really a great bunch of shorts. I am sure they will land their filmmakers a meeting or two with people who can help them and their careers along. See them if you can. They’re in theaters now and will certainly be streaming later. And once more I will plead with theaters to start showing shorts before the features. Please!

(Trailers for all the films below.)

Logan

Logan could be one of the most divisive Marvel movies of all time. Hardcore fans of the Wolverine mythology may appreciate this dark, R-rated send-off to the most iconic and sardonic of the X-Men superheroes. But I was not prepared for, and did not enjoy, the grim final farewell (or so it appears) to Logan/Wolverine, portrayed for nearly 20 years by the multi-talented and seemingly ageless Hugh Jackman. I’m not a huge X-Men fan (I prefer the Avengers), but I’ve always had a soft spot for the bitter, sexy, ripped, self-healing Wolverine who was blessed and cursed with immortality and killer claws. This Wolverine is different. He’s bitter, aging, self-loathing, and just no fun at all. Apparently, that’s what the filmmakers were going for. And that’s what some film critics and fanboys are raving about. But I don’t like hyper-violent, bloody, raw, and depressing. Especially in my Marvel movies. Deadpool earned its R-rating with unexpectedly entertaining raunchiness and wit. Logan gets its R-rating from a string of curse words and a very high body count. Heads will roll… literally.