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Marsha on the Move: Academy Awards Edition

This month, Marsha is focusing her lens on this year’s Academy Award-nominated films in advance of the awards show on April 25.

Nomadland

Frances McDormand once again gives an incredible performance… this time as a woman who takes to the road as a nomad following the closure of the company plant and the loss of her husband. The movie really shows the life of its characters. You feel their loneliness. You share their relationships. You feel their pain. McDormand makes this all happen. But be warned: this is an extremely depressing, slow film. Watch at the potential expense of your mental health. Thumbs up for acting and being a well-done movie.

The Trial of Chicago 7

What a chilling movie: a reenactment of a trial that defined a time in American history – a 1969 trial during which a group of antiwar protest organizers were tried on the conspiracy to incite a riot. It was a reminder of the divided times in our country. It jogged memories of the history many of us lived through. An excellent film delivered by director Aaron Sorkin with outstanding performances throughout. Two thumbs up.

Mank

The story of the making of a great American movie, Citizen Kane. Great acting by Gary Oldman. The movie really gave a sense of 1930s Hollywood – the writers, stars, owners are all interestingly presented in black and white… However, I had a difficult time connecting with this one. My husband adds that this was an interesting character study showing the power of the Hollywood moguls, the control of actors and writers, and how speaking your mind then could cost you your career. It was more of a “thumbs up” for him than me.

Minari

Looks like we just might have another South Korean film as an Academy Award winner! This one could not be more American – the film truly signifies the American dream. A Korean family settling out west, sight unseen, with two young children. They work in a chicken hatchery checking for the sex of the chickens to support the family, but all to pursue the father’s dream of growing Korean vegetables to support the Korean community. That’s the story. But what we are really shown are the hardships, frustration, marital conflicts, the children’s struggle – the realities of their lives. The roughness of farming, physically, emotionally and practically at the mercy of the land and the weather. Then there is Grandma – spunky, cursing, loving and fun – who enters the family
life without everyone’s arms fully open. She is a delight. This film so beautifully showcases this Asian American family’s contributions and pursuit of the American dream.

Promising Young Woman
It’s that time of year again: Oscars preparation time…Even in this year of non-movies. Or should I just evolve to the “new way “of watching movies? Oh, how I have missed the “real” movies. Okay, onto the review. While, of course, as a woman: who could not “cheer” for retribution against men who rape and get away with it, and those who cover up for them and heinously defend them? The main character, played artfully by Carey Mulligan (who is nominated for Best Actress), is determined to get revenge. But this movie actually became predictable and methodical…until THE END. It was worth watching this thriller. I’ll give it a thumbs up, but not the Oscar.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Best Actress Nominee)
This is an impactful film of great relevance, history and culture. Astonishing on all levels – because even many who are acquainted with the music of Billie Holiday have never heard of the song “Strange Fruit.” Without giving too much away, the song is about a lynching. Billie Holiday was targeted by the FBI for singing it and seemingly sparking protest. The FBI targets Holiday, adding to her sad life – one that included a mother in prostitution, men who severely abused her, and drug abuse that left her dead at 44. But Billie Holiday is a hero who ultimately felt the pain of racial atrocities so much that she sang this song and stood up against those who were after her.

My Octopus Teacher (Best Director Nominee)
This breathtaking documentary shows the incredible discovery of life under the sea…and the remarkable relationship developed between a man and an octopus. He finds her, sees her colors, beauty, intelligence and playfulness. They develop a trusting, seemingly loving friendship. Through this, the man finds meaning, ability to relate to humans, and ultimately a new and meaningful relationship with his son, who also finds joy in nature. The octopus was his teacher in life, and from that, we can think about who or what may be the octopus in ours. Special recognition not only to the visual delights of this film; the original music provides delight as well.

Dr. Marsha Gordon is President/CEO of The Business Council of Westchester. When she is not advocating for business, building the economy or creating job opportunities, you can find her at the movie theatre enjoying many different film genres.  Most of the time, her husband Eli is with her… except if it is football season or if it is a very slow, sappy movie.

A version of this article first appeared in the April issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNewsis distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

 

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