A new documentary in theaters this weekend, "God & Country," gives a hearty and honest attempt at explaining the mindset of Christian Nationalists in America.
Those that know or follow my work know that I am a major proponent of Short Films. The three oft-overlooked Academy Award categories - Best Animated Short, Best Live-Action Short and Best Documentary Short - often yield some of the very best stories, direction, imagination and yes, even performances, of the entire nominated field of film...long or short. This year is no different.
The Oscar-nominated Shorts come to theaters once again this weekend, and will play all the way up until Academy Award weekend on March 9th and 10th. Now is your chance to find out what you've been missing all those years...these three categories often signal a good time for a bathroom-break during the show, but once you get hooked by the Short film fever, you may never turn back.
As a guide, here are my takes on this years batch of nominees...let me preface this by saying there is not a "bad" or "dull" film in the bunch. ALL of these are worthy of having been nominated.
I then had the great honor to chat with CEO of ShortsTV, Carter Pilcher, whose company is responsible for the theatrical releases of these Oscar films each year.
Watch my interview with Carter Pincher at the very end of this article or click here.
Here then, are reactions in each category.
(This year's Animated Program is just under one hour, so two "highly recommended" Shorts are added to fill it out...the Live-Action and Documentary categories each run about 2-hours and 15 minutes).
(To find showtimes in your area for the Oscar Shorts, click here).
Review: 'The Teacher's Lounge,' Germany's entry for Best International Feature Film at this year's Oscars
There are rarely "misses" when it comes to movies that get nominated for Best International Feature Film by the Academy Awards. With thousands of movies being produced globally each year, every country submits what they consider their "best" film, and then only five countries have their films selected.
Germany's submission is "The Teacher's Lounge," a riveting drama about a seemingly small situation at an elementary school that unravels out of control. It's a worthy selection, and one that most viewers should find easily relatable.
If there was one overlying theme in "The Teacher's Lounge," it would be that even the best of intentions can sometimes end in dire consequence. Some teachers are looking to investigate a recent string of thefts (stealing money right out of wallets) and are convinced that it's some rule-breaking rapscallion student. Even after witnessing some other faculty members use some questionable methods to try to determine the culprit(s), the meek and caring school teacher, Carla Nowak (a fantastic Leonie Benesch), takes matters into her own hands. She unwillingly kicks over the hornet's nest.
But that's not all that the film is trying to tackle. The pressures of the teacher's "every matter is treated like a big deal" may sound like a good, hard-nosed policy, but the pressures it creates for those existing underneath it becomes untenable. The movie falters a bit down the stretch, but it's never uninteresting. Sometimes an extra conversation here or there might have alleviated some of the stresses experienced by characters in the movie, but the tension is always palpable. Not bad for a movie that rarely leaves the school, and relies on the performances of so many children.
Ms. Nowak seems to think that she finds the criminal - a fellow faculty member - which is complicated because this other teacher's son is a student in Ms. Nowak's class. Oh, and this other teacher vehemently denies the wrong-doing, despite what seems like pretty solid evidence against her.
Any one teacher can only do so much. "The Teacher's Lounge" hammers home the idea that so much of what happens in our lives are out of our control. Sometimes, sadly, the best way forward might be to try to keep yourself out of the drama in the first place.
Genre: Drama, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes.
Starring: Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch, Eva Lobau, Michael Klammer.
Directed by Ilker Catak.
"The Teacher's Lounge" is now playing in theaters and was nominated for one Academy Award.
The nominations for the best films of 2023 have been announced!
Zazie Beetz and Jack Quaid were live from the Academy in Beverly Hills to announce this year's batch of Academy Award nominated films, across 24 categories. "Oppenheimer" led all movies with 13 total noms, including for Best Picture and Best Director for Christopher Nolan. While Margot Robbie's performance in "Barbie" was snubbed, the highest-grossing film of 2023 still managed to land a whopping eight nominations, including Best Picture.
The Oscar telecast will take place on ABC on Sunday, March 10th, starting one-hour earlier than usual, at 7pm EST. It will once again be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, his fourth time in that role.
We'll have much more on the Oscars in the weeks to come, so stay tuned! Here is the FULL LIST of Oscar Nominations:
It's been a wild and crazy year, not just in the real world but here at Movie Show Plus. You can read all about that here.
But as the year ends, I'd like to share with you my Top Films of 2023. Though I've seen fewer films overall than in recent years, I still have seen more than most, even if there were a few that slipped through the cracks (for example, I have not yet seen "Anatomy of a Fall" or "The Boy and the Heron," two films that are showing up on several other year-end lists).
That being said, here are my favorites from 2023:
For a film that promises to answer "the greatest mystery in sports history," "Bye Bye Barry" falls shockingly short.
But as a fond reminiscence of the greatest NFL running back of all-time, it's a wonderful, if bittersweet journey to take.
So...how YOU doin'?
If you're wondering what's been up with me...thank you. If you haven't noticed I've been gone...well, a pox on you. Read on if you're interested...but be warned that this is more like a personal journal entry than a formal review of any kind. It IS a kind of much-needed therapy for me, writing. And not to worry: There will be movie reviews included down page, albeit short ones, catching you up on all that I've seen in recent months (which sadly is not nearly as much as I - or you - am used to). But mainly, this is a "me" update.
You know. "Me." The thing I've neglected most over the course of the years. A pretty average middle-aged white dude that finally got to witness his "dream job" violently crash head-on into the oncoming traffic of reality.
Talk about a plot twist.
With an animation style inspired by the recent "Spider-Verse" films and a hip, kinetic energy influenced by movies like "The Mitchells vs. The Machines," "Mutant Mayhem" is not your father's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In fact, in many ways, it's better.
Imagine me - a male film critic - somehow posturing myself to think that anyone would care about my review of a "Barbie" movie. To think that my take matters sort of undercuts the spirit of the entire film...women - Barbie included - do not need my stamp approval or my "thumbs up," nor does it feel appropriate. That being said, it feels very "male" of me that I would continue on giving my opinions regardless.
Understand that "Barbie" is a movie that EVERYBODY should go see, but I would like to fully acknowledge upfront that this is a movie best appreciated by women, or those that grew up with the uber-popular, iconic Mattel Barbie dolls. There are several call-backs, references and jokes aimed at the entire past line of Barbie dolls...from the pregnant Midge doll, to her younger sister Skipper whose breasts would grow if you rotated her arm, to Ken's "buddy" Allan (all of Ken's clothes fit him!). If you don't know much about Barbie, there is still fun to be had, but not nearly as much as for those in the know.
"Barbie" isn't perfect, but that's sort of the point and the modern approach to the character, isn't it?
Indiana Jones may not be as good as he once was, but he's as good once as he ever was.
His latest - and billed as his last - adventure takes place in "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny," a fitting if somewhat safe and straight-forward final chapter to one of the greatest film sagas of the past half-century.
Looking for a specific movie or review?