Want to sound smart at your Oscars viewing party? Detroit film critics are here to help. | Michigan Radio
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Want to sound smart at your Oscars viewing party? Detroit film critics are here to help.

Feb 7, 2020

It's almost impossible to be ready for Oscars weekend without taking a major chunk out of your December to watch the barrage of last-minute releases. But we'll try to get you up to speed with help from a couple of Detroit film critics. Corey Hall is a writer and comedian whose work can be found in the Metro Times and on WDET. Michelle Kisner writes reviews for the Spoiler Free Movie Sleuth site. We dug into the films nominated for this year's Academy Awards, plus the ones they think should have made the cut.

Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

“From top to bottom, the whole cast is stellar and believable,” said Hall. 

“I do like that it is opening doors for more foriegn films to get distribution. I think this happened with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where it was a foreign film that appealed to a mass audience, and then there was sort of this big rush after that film came out for everybody to grab other foriegn films in that same vein,” added Kisner. 

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story

Nominations: Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Music Score, Best Original Screenplay

“If you remove their environment, I think every single person has been in a relationship that has been troubled like that. Where you love somebody, but it’s falling apart and you can’t stop it, and you're both like, you know, just trying to keep something together that maybe shouldn’t be together,” Kisner said. “Anyone can relate to a relationship going sour.”

“My favorite part of Marriage Story are the supporting performances,” Hall said. “Alan Alda, who is of course always wonderful. Alan Alda is just like butter on a warm scone. He’s delightful.”

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman

Nominations: Best Picture, (2) Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

The Martin Scorsese film got its fair share of nominations, but was Robert De Niro snubbed for best actor?

“I try to tell people that the Oscars are almost never about the year itself or about the specific movies. It is kind of an accumulative process,” Hall said, “With De Niro, they’ve also been there with him before. You sort of get your opportunities, and there’s a limit to how many times they’re going to reward you.”

Todd Phillips’s The Joker

Nominations: Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Music Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing.

“I actually didn’t dislike it. It’s serviceable. I thought Joaquin Phoenix did a fantastic performance. It’s a really good performance that’s surrounded by a mediocre film,” Kisner said.

There were lots of great films Hall and Kisner saw this year that weren't nominated this year. Here are a few that they said were worth seeking out. 

Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems

“It is just nonstop tension. You will not have nails left on your fingers by the end of it. For me, it was a little overwhelming in the one tone of it. It was oppressive a little bit. That’s why I didn’t love it,” Hall said. “They took all the things Sandler does in a regular dumb comedy and made that into a real person. And that’s terrifying. If you met a guy that wired up and angsty, you’d be terrified.”

Craig Brewer’s Dolemite is my Name

“It's a love letter to indie filmmaking which could use a little more attention,” Kisner said.

Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse

“You can’t escape these films. They’re in your face and they will make you feel something. Whether you like what you felt or not is your issue,” Hall said. 

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale

“The subject matter was so horrific I think that people skipped it, but I believe it is on Hulu, and if you have the stomach for it, it's just a fantastically made film,” Kisner said.

Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim

“It's a Bonnie and Clyde fugitive story,” Hall said.