Here’s a bunch of quick hitters for the best of 2021 as we ring in the new year.
Don’t forget to read my in-depth list of my favorite albums of 2021.
Movie theaters were open for like five minutes this year and it doesn’t look like their reopening anytime soon. Most all big movie releases this year were either delayed or went directly to streaming so it’s been a crap year for new movies. There were a handful that snuck out before the pandemic hit, but all the blockbusters haven’t seen the light of day yet. In fact, this past Christmas day, Wonder Woman 1984 was released on HBO Max, for no additional cost. This is the first giant movie to do this and Warner Media is continuing this strategy into 2021. All in all, 2020 was a crap year for movies, hopefully next year is better.
Back again for 2020 are the Beard Blog Oscars picks.
I made a determined effort to see as many nominated films this year before the awards.
Overall I feel like this year was a hell of lot better than last year. Some big names really showed out this year and put forth a plethora of legendary performances. This is a very difficult year to not only predict but also decide on which film / whom I thought was the best.
Overall, Once upon a Time…in Hollywood was my favorite movie but I’ll admit I’m partial to both QT2 and LDC3 and I think they put together a great movie. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie also had great parts in OUATIH.1
Parasite seemed to come out of nowhere and while I wasn’t excited about reading subtitles throughout an entire movie, they disappear into the great story behind them. This is also the 12th time a foreign language film was nominated for Best Picture. And also for the second year in a row after last year’s nomination for Roma.
1917 was a great war epic that was uniquely shot and looks fantastic. This will probably win a lot of awards thanks to the director/writer’s personal ties to the film.
I felt like Joker was a bit overrated, but I can see why people hold it highly just based on the performance by Joaquin Phoenix. This is considered to be another comic book movie, but if you’ve seen Joker, you’ll realize it was just set in the world of Gotham City.
One of the longest movies ever nominated (Gone With the Wind holds the record) The Irishman. This seems like the final chapter in a long career of great films between Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci. If you can get through the over three and a half hours this clocks in at, you’ll be delighted by how the story wraps up.
Knives Out was a great take on murder mysteries that also seemed to come out of nowhere. A great cast and superb writing could make this a sleeper this year.
I felt Ford v. Ferrari was a great bio film but may leave some audiences out if they don’t appreciate motorsports and/or the history of cars.
Jojo Rabbit is a weird look at WWII Germany. I found it entertaining and witty, but not Best Picture worthy.
The nominees are below, in bold is who I think should win, and in italics are what I think the academy will give the Oscars to.
Disclosure – Movies on this list I have not yet seen at time of publishing:
1 Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
2 Quentin Tarantino
3 Leonardo DiCaprio
Back again for 2019 are the Beard Blog Oscar picks.
I made a determined effort to see as many nominated films this year before the awards.
Overall I feel like this was a weak year compared to last. A lot of mediocre films made the list and we’ve now seen our film superhero / blockbuster move, Black Panther, make the nominee list several times. This could be signaling a shift in how the academy picks award winning films, but we shall see how the results play out.
My picks, based on my opinion, of which film or which person should win, are below in bold:
The Shape of Water is a fantasy love story about an amphibious god and a mute woman, taking place during the Cold War era. It’s a very simple movie that seems to draw some inspiration from The Beauty and the Beast tale. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The Shape of Water is filled with glorious scenes of cinematography and color.[/perfectpullquote]
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer. Sally Hawkins plays a mute middle-aged woman named Elisa who lives alone and works the night shift at a Navy research center near DC. Her neighbor, played by Richard Jenkins struggles with both his sexuality and his art career. Elisa and her neighbor Giles find comfort in each other during various struggles in this film.
Michael Shannon plays an eccentric antagonist who is set to torture and kill the amphibian man.
The Shape of Water is filled with glorious scenes of cinematography and color. The story is a little weak in the fact that we have no idea why the government wants this thing or what Elisa’s backstory is. There’s a lot of moving parts put into this two hour movie, but by the end, we’re left wanting more information about what just happened.
It’s easy to see what The Shape of Water won this year’s best picture award, but all in all it proved to be a weak year in terms of everlasting classic movies.
Who should see this movie? Fans of fantasy love stories, people who like the previous work of Guillermo del Toro, and if you want to see what the best movie of the year is.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who can’t grasp the fact of a “human” loving a “beast” and children because of sexual content.
8 / 10 – A great movie overall, still not convinced it was this year’s best. After watching The Shape of Water you might find yourself saying “That was weird…”.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
This is definitely a strong female year. Most of the great movies from this past season feature strong female performances and even a female director.
I have chosen my favorites from this past year and given out my own “awards”:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
* Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
* Francis McDormand – Three Billboards…
Best Supporting Actor:
* Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards…
Best Supporting Actress:
* Allison Janney – I, Tonya
* Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Best Original Screenplay:
* = correct prediction
In the early 1970s The Washington Post has to decide whether they owe it to the nation to publish secret White House documents or forever be controlled by the government.
Meryl Streep stars a Kay Graham, the first female newspaper publisher, as she navigates through one of the most important times in media / White House relations. The New York Times uncovers a report written by a former member of the Department of Defense that details the why the United States could not win the Vietnam war.
Tom Hanks co-stars as the editor of the Washington Post who desperately tries to get the papers published after the NYT was barred from doing so.
This movie is not that deep, not that complicated, and if you are up on American history, you already know the outcome. That being said, the acting in The Post is superb. Streep and Hanks show off their seasoned skills and Steven Spielberg shines through as usual.
The Post starts off slow giving us background information on how this whole thing came about. It isn’t until about half way through when it pulls you into the suspense.
This is one of the year’s best movies, but I wouldn’t call it the best. True to history stories can be entertaining and rewarding, but most of the time they are just average.
Who should see this movie? People who like American history especially dealing with Vietnam-era details, Fans of Streep, Hanks and/or Spielberg, and lovers of dramatic-suspenseful stories.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find true stories or political dramas boring and viewers who may not fully understand the relationship of the media to the White House.
8 / 10 – The Post tells the story of the Pentagon Papers very well and Streep & Hanks make it entertaining to watch.
If you want to know what happens, read this Wikipedia article.
Here are my picks for this years Oscars. These are not my predictions (those will come later). These are my votes as if they let me into the Academy.
My picks are highlighted in gold. Visit the links to see my reviews.
The true story of how Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding became one of the most well-known people in the world, for all the wrong reasons.
I, Tonya is told from the perspective of Tonya Harding through recreations of interviews over the last 40 years. She always maintains her innocence and we get to see the (supposed) true story of what really went down.
Being a young kind in the early 90s, I wasn’t fully aware of everything that had happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Up until seeing this film, I always believed the narrative that Tonya smashed Nancy’s knee with a lead pipe of some sort. This was incorrect, and I’m glad to know the truth.
This film’s writing is stellar and makes me feel like I’m getting the whole life experience of Tonya Harding. Better than the writing is the acting. Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Tonya; she is perfect for this role. Allison Janney steals the show with her tough love, foul-mouthed, hard working persona. I know Janney is getting a lot of press for this role, but I still think it’s underrated.
The other acting is passable by themselves, but without Robbie and Janney this movie would never leave the cutting room floor.
Before seeing I, Tonya I thought there would be less actual ice skating and more about her life outside of skating. I was wrong and that’s not a bad thing. Turns out, I, Tonya is a biopic that paints Tony Harding in a very good light.
This movie may also help victims in a abusive relationship see how things really look from the outside. Hopefully anyone going through that can find a way to get help.
Who should see this movie? Ice skating fans, people who follow(ed) the Harding/Kerrigan story, and viewers who like a good biopic with dark comedy.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? Viewers who do not like profanity or domestic violence, people who hate ice skating, and those who can’t find the humor in this story.
8.5 / 10 – I, Tonya is a fun, emotional, and riveting tale of one of the biggest news stories from the 90s.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is the true story behind skier turned poker criminal Molly Bloom. The film is based on the book by Molly Bloom of the same name and it’s referenced throughout the movie as it takes place after the books release.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen.”[/perfectpullquote]
As always with Sorkin films, there is a lot of intense, descriptive dialogue and Molly’s Game is no different. Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain are great on the screen together as they argue why Molly is not the real criminal.
The story is told in sort of a flip-flop fashion with the scenes cycling between early in Molly’s life and then after her book was published. This allows the story to be told from Molly’s point of view while her legal issues get worked out on screen.
I don’t recall a point during the whole movie that I was waiting for something to happen. The next scene is beautifully woven into the story as to not leave you hanging. It’s a long movie, but goes by very quick.
Can’t wait to see more movies from the great Aaron Sorkin. This is one of the few films I can’t wait to watch again.
Who should see this movie? Fans of Molly Bloom’s story/book, fans of crime and gambling movies, and those who like Aaron Sorkin’s writing style
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who find it hard to keep up with Sorkin’s writing style, movie-goers who aren’t into real-life drama tales, or those who can’t sit through a 2.5 hour film.
9 / 10 – Molly’s Game is a well-written, well-acted, true story with all the high stakes of an action movie.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise we will be treated to a new movie every year for the foreseeable future. In 2015, a new trilogy taking place after the original trilogy, started with The Force Awakens. With so many Star Wars fans having a salty taste in their mouth after the prequel trilogy from the early 00s, everyone was eager for a fresh start. Episode XIII brings us The Last Jedi.
The Last Jedi picks up right where we left off in The Force Awakens with Rey and Luke on some random island planet. That’s about all The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have in common. A new director brings new storytelling and style to the same characters. Rian Johnson lends his talents from directing Looper to Star Wars. The changes he makes are for the better, and hopefully this trend continues. The next episode will be directed by J.J. Abrams again who brought Episode VII to life. We will see how he brings everything together.
Due to the high profile-ness of this movie, I’m not going to go on and on and on about it. If you want to read more, just Google the movie and you can spend the rest of your life reading about rumors, spoilers, theories, and opinions.
However, I will give you my opinion about The Last Jedi, in short.
The Last Jedi was much better than The Force Awakens because we didn’t have to deal with backstories or introduction of characters. This is one of the few times a sequel excels and gets right to the action. We already know and love Rey, Finn, and Poe, so now we get to see them do what they do best, fighting the New Order.
Episode XIII is a great continuation of the story set by The Force Awakens. There are a few points where it could have been better, but that’s not worth mentioning. I’m definitely looking forward to the finale in Episode IX coming in 2019.
Who should see this movie? Star Wars, sci-fi, and Rian Johnson fans.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? Haters of Star Wars and people who aren’t into fake futuristic space tales.
8.5 / 10 – The latest episode of the Star Wars proves that similar stories can be retold in new and better ways.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
The Disaster Artist is the (mostly) true story of about how the cult classic movie The Room came to be. Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has been a hit since 2003 for all the wrong reasons. The production, writing, acting, and directing is awful, but that is what makes it so popular. The Room is one of those films where you just shake your head and laugh at the mess you’re watching. Fans now gather around the country at midnight screenings to watch The Room to laugh and carryon throughout the showing. Sometimes Tommy Wiseau stops by, adding to the fanfare.
I went to see The Disaster Artist knowing three things; 1. This movie was directed by and starring James Franco (I love most of his stuff). 2. It was a movie about making a movie. 3. It was a comedy. That’s all. I hadn’t seen The Room and never heard about what makes it so appealing. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”This is one of those movies you can quote with your friends and always get a laugh.”[/perfectpullquote]
In a crowded theater my wife and I sat through roughly 100 minutes of audience laughter and inside jokes we didn’t understand. The movie was very well done and I found a lot of it funny despite not knowing what they were poking fun at. After the movie I was kind of in shock, and continually asked myself, “what did I just watch?”.
I continued to think about The Disaster Artist for three days before writing this review. The more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed it. James Franco was great as always and he seems to have a knack for portraying Tommy Wiseau and his unusual accent.
This is one of those movies you can quote with your friends and always get a laugh.
I highly recommend The Disaster Artist, but please do yourself a favor and watch The Room first. Even if you can’t get through the whole thing, at least watch the first 45 minutes.
Who should see this movie? Fans of the subject matter The Room, comedy fans especially of James and/or Dave Franco, and people who enjoy true stories about movie production.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? People who have never seen The Room or viewers of The Room who thought it was not funny and stupid.
8 / 10 – The Disaster Artist continues to grow on me and I am already looking forward to watching it again.
Lady Bird is an odd-titled coming of age story set in the early 2000s. The film follows Christine “Lady Bird” MacPherson played by Saoirse (Sir-sha) Ronan as she navigates high school, sex, family, and getting into college. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”With great writing and even better acting Lady Bird will be a film to remember.”[/perfectpullquote]
To put in bluntly, Lady Bird is a roller coaster of emotions. You get the sense of how tough it is to be a teen getting ready to enter the real world. This film feels very nostalgic to me, mainly because I was also in high school in the early 2000s.
Lady Bird offers laughter, tears, hatred, and compassion. There’s rarely an emotionless scene. You won’t get a lot of sugar-coating or TV sitcom scenarios. This film delivers a lot of truths and a lot of real family experiences.
Saoirse Ronan is fantastic in Lady Bird. She will be deserving of a Best Actress nominee for this role. Throughout the whole movie Ronan’s character is ever-changing and she plays those changes so very well. Normally she has a thick Irish accent, but I would have never guessed that from this role.
Laurie Metcalf, who I grew up watching play Rosann’s sister, is fantastic as Christine’s mother. She’s tough and loving, just like all the best moms. Her character’s actions at the end of the movie really pull on the heartstrings.
The rest of the cast was amazing as well. The director, Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the script, did a great job delivering the emotion to the screen. With great writing and even better acting Lady Bird will be a film to remember.
Who should see this movie? People who like realistic tales, viewers who want to see great screen acting, and “coming of age” fans.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? Young children and people who don’t have a heart. This is another movie I feel that almost everyone needs to see.
9 / 10 – I loved this movie. Everything about it makes me smile. Great movies impart lots of emotion and Lady Bird does just that.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark and twisted tale about a mother and the tragic loss of her daughter. Frances McDormand plays a foul-mouthed smooth talking country woman who seems to have reached the end of her wits. After almost a year since her daughter was brutally murdered and no news from the Police, Mildred (McDormand) calls out the police chief in a very public way, on three billboards.
This movie isn’t about catching the murderer of Mildred’s daughter. It’s not about how she was raped and burned alive. It’s also not about how small town police departments are often notoriously complacent. This movie is about exactly what the title says, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The billboards go up and the the small town around them comes crashing down. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises.”[/perfectpullquote]
Sam Rockwell is becoming one of my favorite lesser-known actors. After Three Billboards… he cements himself on that list. Rockwell’s performance should land him an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Officer Jason Dixon. Throughout the film you can see his character evolve and by the end you start to feel sorry for him, even after almost two hours of hatred.
The rest of the cast is great and they all turn in amazing performances. Woody Harrelson somehow jerks the tears right from your face while still making you laugh. McDormand’s rough exterior eventually cracks and you can see the shining light that’s been trying to get out for the entire movie. John Hawkes has a great supporting role as Mildred’s estranged husband. There’s even a surprise role by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage’s portrayal of James is delightful and well-spoken as usual.
In summary, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri is fun, but deep down it’s tragic. We are carried through various instances of death and despair but writer Martin McDonagh peppered in enough comedy to keep us sane.
Who should see this movie?
Fans of dark comedies, viewers looking for an original movie, and people who like great screen performances.
Who shouldn’t see this movie?
People who don’t like natural (vulgar) language – It is rated R. That’s it. Everyone should see this film.
9 / 10 – An emotional ride with plenty of laughs, tears, and surprises. One of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a long time.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.
First, I’d like to preface this review by stating that I have not kept up with all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve seen a few, but I’m by no means qualified to discuss how Thor: Ragnarok ties into the other films.
Now if you’re like me, this movie is a fun trip through the unknown. Characters come into the light that may have been in previous films as well as other lesser-known characters only the hardcore fans will appreciate. Die-hard MCU fans may see Thor: Ragnarok as breaking away from the winning formula. It’s light-hearted and possibly inaccurate script make it easy to criticize.
The music, story, and overall feel gave me an 80s/90s vibe which turns out to be a good thing in Thor: Ragnarok. Furthermore there’s not a single slow period or mind-numbing action overload like in many MCU movies of late. Great pace, interesting characters, and villain animosity keep you involved start to finish. Thor: Ragnarok got me interested it Super Hero movies again.
Not sure if this will be the end of the Thor films, but Ragnarok in Norse Mythology roughly means the final battle of the gods.
Who should see this movie? Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans of the Marvel character Thor, viewers who enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.
Who shouldn’t see this movie? Fans of Norse mythology looking for a true to myth Thor movie, people who hate fantasy/magic/unbeliveable movies, and viewers who dislike somewhat cheesy comedy in action films.
7.5 / 10 – Much better than I expected. I hope Marvel continues this trend.
Caution! Spoilers ahead.