The Academy is always a fan of the historical epic. They love movies about perseverance to hard times during a bygone era, from “Lincoln” and “Glory” to “Amadeus” and “Saving Private Ryan.” One of the movies that they didn’t touch in 2020, despite being a relatively mesmerizing picture, was Jennifer Kent’s 2019 “The Nightingale.” Despite it being a virtually gritty and gruesome journey in to darkness a la “The Revenant,” the Academy never offered the film its due, even in the realm of cinematography and or acting. There’s not even a best original screenplay nod handed to the thriller, and it’s a shame. Jennifer Kent’s revenge period piece is the antithesis of the glossy Oscar fodder that they stumble over themselves to honor every year.
Satoshi Kon’s “Millennium Actress” has become one of the most celebrated animation masterpieces of all time, and for good reason. It’s managed to transcend everything about its medium to convey a tale that everyone can relate to. A big departure from “Perfect Blue,” his grim polemic about fandom, Kon gifts us “Millennium Actress,” a film that is a great and often riveting celebration about life.
With director JJ Abrams returning to the “Star Wars” universe once again (taking the reins for Rian Johnson), he’s able to repeat history of generations’ past. He offers fans the final film of a three movie saga that never quite hits the high bar set by the previous films. “The Rise of Skywalker” is a great movie in its own right, but like “Return of the Jedi” it is held back due to many unfortunate screenplay inconsistencies, characters that don’t do much of anything, and blatant retconning that Abrams commits to at the expense of the story. “The Rise of Skywalker” is a very good movie and great closer to the Skywalker saga, warts and all.
Taika Waititi has always been a filmmaker that’s managed to challenge conventions and deliver tales that are always completely out of the ordinary. With “Jojo Rabbit,” it’s another in a long line of tales about the male ego and the weird world that they belong to. In Waititi’s case, it’s the briefly controversial “Jojo Rabbit,” a movie that received a lot of buzz for its depiction of Adolf Hitler. Once you got down to the meat and potatoes of the narrative though, you learn that it’s the destruction of Hitler and how he’s so uncomplicated that he’s reduced to an imaginary friend of a young child.
In a year that nearly everyone across the board has admitted to being a weak one for films in general 2009’s “Survival of the Dead” continues to stand out among the mediocrity and abysmal for its sheer down to Earth storytelling in the saga of the Dead where Romero is completing a second chapter in his Dead franchise. We had “Night,” “Dawn,” “Day,” and “Land,” and now to fit in with modern society, Romero has restarted the whole premise and entire sensibility with “Diary,” and “Survival” showing the downfall of a world, now very dependent on technology and the world wide web. “Diary” is a movie that continues to be misunderstood.
Thirteen years later, Guillermo Del Toro’s period dark fantasy is a masterpiece of the genre telling a tale of loss of innocence and good versus evil that’s touching, gripping and a bit spooky in its way. Del Toro’s film is one that warrants repeated viewing and continued analyses as it’s a fairy tale that masterfully mixes “Alice in Wonderland,” the Brothers Grimm, “Wizard of Oz,” along with classic folklore.
“In boot camp, we used to every night we had to say–before we went to bed, we’d have to sing the Marine Corps Hymn, and laying at attention in bed,we’d sing the Marine Corps Hymn, and then we’d say,”Another day in the Corps, sir, for every day’s a holiday and every meal’s a feast. Pray for war. Pray for war. God bless the Marine Corps. God bless my drill instructors. Pray for war.” And every night we had to say that, and when we’d run and we’d sing songs, we’d sing, like, they’d say, “Kill, kill, kill.” And when we–at our–at judo practice and knife fighting practice and bayonet fighting practice it was always, that was the yell: “Kill, kill, kill.”’
Satoshi Kon’s contribution to the animation medium was nothing short of absolutely breathtaking, as the director created films that blurred the lines of fantasy and reality and placed great emphases on the feminine energy. After the mind blowing “Perfect Blue,” Kon delivered what is arguably one of the best animated films ever conceived. Now bring granted a limited run in theaters nationwide, “Millennium Actress” is a wonderful experience you have to see for yourself, as it’s stunning, and absolutely surprising in the way Kon celebrates the adventure that is life.