Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Film: This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films, Part 1: “To Leslie,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Living” and Deserving Non-Nominee “Bad Axe”

For the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at movies nominated for Oscars that I saw but didn’t review on this site, either because I didn’t have time or I any great takes. I don’t think I will get to all the films – there are some shorts I won’t be able to see and I think I’ll skip the one with the Diane Warren song in it. But I will try to get to most. I will also try (like I will in this column) to point out a film that was shortlisted for a category but didn’t make the final five that I feel are worth your time. Enjoy. 

Friday, February 3, 2023

Theater Review: “Memorial” Tells the Compelling Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Anthony Rapp Gets Deeply Personal in “Without You” and Irish Rep Delivers a First Class “Endgame”

Memorial (c) Russ Rowland

Theater: Memorial 
At Pan Asian Rep 

Maya Lin was only 21 years old when her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was accepted in 1981. According to Livian Yeh’s new play, “Memorial,” that was one of the few times Lin (Angel Lin) was truly happy and proud about the project. Once the memorial was underway, she kept getting pushback from veterans and the government, embodied in the play by Colonel James Becker (James Patrick Nelson) regarding the design, which goes underground instead of above like many of the other memorials dotting the Washington Mall. When things got really heated, and the memorial was debated in the press, it didn’t take much for the fact that Lin was Chinese (the decision process was a blind one, with no names attached) to become part of the discourse. Yeh’s play is well researched and ramps up the suspense of the future of the memorial, even though we all know the outcome. That there are so many parallels to the issues facing Asian Americans today is also not surprising. Where the play could have invested more time was on Lin herself. There’s not much biographical info given, although the presence of her mother (Rachel Lu) does humanize Lin with their knowing, nonverbal interactions. That said, Yeh’s play does hold many surprises, including a lovely discussion about DC and the cherry blossoms as well as an extended tea ceremony that is quite effective. Rounding out the talented cast are Glenn Kubota as architect Hideo Sasaki and Robert Meksin as journalist Wolf von Eckardt who are Lin’s trusted allies. Director Jeff Liu provides many memorable stage images with the help of Karen Boyer’s appealing period costumes and Victor En Yu Tan’s powerful lighting, although Liu could have tightened the transitions between scenes by being more flowing and not quite so literal. Sheryl Liu’s inventive set design and Gregory Casparian’s dynamic projections do a lot of the heavy lifting, reminding the audience that there might be a lot of arguing and drama before its birth, but it’s the memorial that will ultimately be the lasting historical touchstone for us all. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Oscar Predictions - January 2023

Top Gun: Maverick (c) Paramount Pictures

The Interested Bystander's Oscar Predictions (Ranked) 

Welcome to the first Oscar prediction column of the year. Now the nominations have been released, Oscar voters will be catching up on movies they missed, which is probably why “CODA” turned out to be a consensus alternative pick to “The Power of the Dog” last year. So, even though it feels like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the frontrunner with its 11 nominations, anything can happen. So, here is how I see the race shaping up to be at this moment, a week after the nominations announcement.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Film: Oscar Nominations 2022-23

Everything Everywhere All at Once (c) A24

And the Nominees Are 

Surprises in Green

Best Picture 

All Quiet on the Western Front 
Avatar: The Way of Water 
The Banshees of Inisherin 
Everything Everywhere All at Once 
The Fabelmans 
Top Gun: Maverick 
Triangle of Sadness 
Women Talking 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Film: The Interested Bystander’s Final Oscar Nomination Predictions: January 2023

Elvis (c) Warner Bros Picture

It’s finally here. The Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Jan 24th at 8:30am ET. And ever since September, I have been putting out my guesses as to who will get nominated. I have dropped some people who I thought were front runners like Anthony Hopkins in “Armageddon Time” and Vicky Krepes from “Corsage” as well as switcheroo categories as I thought possibly Brendan Gleason might get nominated for Actor alongside Colin Farrell for “The Banshees of Inisherin” but that does seem unlikely now. I do think there’s a chance Michelle Williams might get nominated for “The Fabelmans” in Supporting Actress since her shot at Best Actress is the most tenuous. But I've predicted “RRR” to get a Best Picture nomination since September, and I will stick to that.