MOVIES: an annual treat, the short Oscar nominees, plus the first Marvel movie of the year

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MOVIES: an annual treat, the short Oscar nominees, plus the first Marvel movie of the year


The Academy Awards are still three weeks away but they’re already on the menu today. A big winner from years ago, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is back in theaters, and looking good on the big screen. That’s only a week after Titanic came back.. It won 11 Oscars 25 years ago and is adding to its huge box office haul on this re-run.

Meanwhile the 20 short films the Academy has nominated for Oscars this year are now in theaters. Except for this presentation they’re hard to find. That’s especially frustrating if you’re getting into an Oscar pool. I’m told that some are already online, but I haven’t checked that out.

I did get to see them though and cover about half of them today. Along with these, including Marvel’s latest blockbuster.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA: It’s the first of three films we’re getting from Marvel Studios this year and it’s already divisive. One of their best films? Their worst? You can find both arguments on line, and much in between. I thought it was great fun, goofy and imaginative, playing out like an expansive dream. Well, about two-thirds of the film. Then it revertes to the usual Marvel style, a prolonged battle sequence, nicely staged but a repeat of what we’ve gotten many times before.

This is film #31 and trumpets that it’s the kick off to Phase 5 in the series. Ask a fan for what that means. To me it seems it’s simply to elevate a new super villain. Kang The Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). He’s made small appearances before but is a menacing prescence here. He’s been exiled to a subatomic world called the Quantum Realm, a sort of parallel world beneath our own. Time and space are almost non-existant down there. Kang wants to escape.

Courtesy of Marvel

Our other characters (Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Paul Rudd) are sucked into it because a teen scientist (Kathryn Newton) has been studying it and sending messages down there. It gets complicated, involves a suit that can change your size, Rudd’s as small as an ant, a previous time down there (30 years) for Pfeiffer and oddities like “neuro kinetic” powers and a former associate who is now just a giant head. Also a fomenting rebellion. Star Wars, Wonderland and others inspired parts, including the look. Expect a huge hit. (In theaters) 3 out of 5

OSCAR SHORTS: It’s one of my favorite tasks every year: to look at the short films The Oscars have nominated. They’re grouped into programs–four this year–and sent around to theaters. We can pick our own favorites before the awards show does.

It’s not work; it’s enjoyable because these brief films are like short stories, economical yet strong, or clever, or playful, or anything you can think of.

I’ve looked at some this week, and will consider the rest next Friday.

Note that among the animated shorts, one is not suitable for children, and will be preceded by a pause and a slide telling exactly that. Parents will have time to move their children out. Since it’s about a teen girl’s attempt to lose her virginity that might be advisable. It’s called My Year of Dicks and it’s very good.

As often happens, the LIVE ACTION shorts are especially interesting. Three are so good my vote would definitely go to one of them. If I had a vote that is.

Night Ride, from Norway, is about a woman’s frustration with an unhelpful tram driver. She inadvertantly drives the vehicle itself and then deals with some abusive passengers. The end is very satisfying.

The Red Suitcase, frum Luxembourg, is my favorite of the lot. It’s smoothly directed and very tense as a young woman from Iran arrives in a trainstation where her arranged fiance is waiting. Avoiding him and defying her father’s phone calls makes for a very suspenseful film.

Le Pupille is set in an orphanage run by nuns where a so-called “bad girl” turns the tables.

Le Pupille, courtesy of Shorts TV

An Irish Goodbye is also probing about Roman Catholic institutions and Ivalu, from Greenland, gets into a rarely discussed problem in aboriginal culture.

DOCUMENTARIES: They’re in two sections this year. The adorable elephant film from India is among the longer ones. (See the picture at the top).

There’s also a lively look back at Martha Mitchell the attorney-general wife who wouldn’t shut up (as she was told) about Watergate and is credited with helping to expose the scandal that ousted Richard Nixon.

Haulout is a startling film from Russia about wildlife studies in the Arctic. A researcher in a cabin is suddenly surrounded by sea of walruses. Climate change is the reason.

How Do You Measure a Year? is a stand-out for me. Jay Rosenblatt video taped his daughter every year from age 2 to 18 and asked the same questions every time. We watch her grow, mature and show how more aware she becomes at every step. It’s a simple idea that pays off immensely.

MARLOWE: Liam Neeson takes on the role of the iconic detective who was big in the 1940s, played by Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell and others, and again in the 1970s (Robert Mitchum, James Garner and Elliot Gould). And he does well, not as brooding as some, but world-weary and cynical as the best of them. And with Neil Jordan at the helm, the common features of the genre come on strong. A blonde (Diane Kruger) walks into Marlowe’s office, asks him to find her lover’s who has gone missing, and opens up a wide ranging picture of wrongdoing and corruption. Again this time, it’s in Hollywood, from a novel authorized by the Raymond Chandler estate.

Courtesy of VVS Films

The lover is dead. Witnesses and even his sister identified the body after a hit-and-run accident. But the blonde saw him alive, since then. A posh club may have something to do with it, although the manager played by Danny Huston denies it. The blonde’s mother played by Jessica Lange alledges corruption at the movie studio where she was once a star. Alan Cumming plays a struggling studio head, and Colm Meaney and Ian Hart are police detectives who share theories. Why so many actors from the UK? The film is Irish, but does replicate the mood we get so often from Turner Classic Movies. It’s not Chinatown Jake, but works as a somewhat pale wanna be. (In theaters) 2 ½ out of 5

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: It’s 22 years since it first wowed audiences and won four Oscars. So getting to see it back on the big screen is a treat. It’s been refreshed technically and content-wise is still the pure fantasy that we enjoyed so much back then. I guess Michele Yeoh’s new profile also helped to bring it back. She’s been in everything from Crazy Rich Asians to Star Trek and Marvel Movies and is the star of the current hit, Everything, Everywhere All At Once.

Here she plays a warrior who can face off against anyone, and does, particularly against a reckless aristocrat played by Zhang Ziyi. That character stole a legendary sword from a warrior played by Hong Kong stalwart actor Chow Yun Fat. That sets in motion an effort to find it and get the thief to admit what she’s done. And it starts a series of action scenes that has characters run up walls, over rooftops, fly through the air and in a spectacular sequence balance on swaying bamboo branches in a swordfight. It’s based on a novel about tradition, destiny and deception but is best remembered for the visual creations of the fight choreographer, Hong Kong’s Yuen Wo Ping, and the director, Ang Lee. (In 35 theaters across Canada) 4 out of 5

CAT DADDIES: Cat ladies we know. Vidoes and cartoons show them often. But what about men? We might think they only like dogs but this film dispells that pretense by visiting eight men who prefer cats. And dote on them in some cases. They’re not wimps either. There’s a long-haul trucker, a fireman and a movie stuntman among them. And in the most touching scenes a former construction worker who is now homeless and credits his cat for saving his life. It’s companionship helped get him through a medical ordeal.

Courtesy of Vortex Media

Filmmaker Mye Hoang brings us these and others, including a social media influencer who goes by the name “Nathan the Cat Lady.” He’s got lots of followers for himself and his pets Pickles, Ginger, Annie and Princess. There’s a hiker who takes his cat Zulu along with him in a backpack. A stuntman got together with a girfriend because she was charmed by his cat Toodles. One man because famous after he posted a picture of his cat’s curious habit of standing up and raising its front legs above its head. He’s managed to sell photos and merchandise of “Goal Kitty.” The film strives to re-define masculinity. Ok, but take it as the warmhearted charmer it is. (In a few theaters and available digitally) 3 ½ out of 5


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