Tag Archives: oscars

Movie Review – Nightmare Alley (2021)

Never be a geek, 3.5 readers. Believe me, the last thing you want to be, at least in this film’s definition of the word, is a geek.

BQB here with a review of Guillermo Del Toro’s Oscar buzzed noir flick.

It’s the early 1940s and drifter Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper in a fedora, see?) has just snatched up a paying gig, he’s a carnie and accordingly, all the freaks and geeks of a traveling show will educate him on the ways of flim flam, fakery, deception and of course, the con.

His professors in this master class include Zeena and Pete (Toni Collette and David Strathairn) – a couple who perform as a fortune teller and her assistant bilking the crowd of boku buckeroos with claims of communication with the great beyond. Meanwhile, “geek keeper”) Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe) educates the lad (Cooper is referred to throughout this movie as young buck but isn’t he pushing fifty? Oh well, if you’re handsome enough…) on how no one gets ahead without getting their hands dirty. (Sidenote: in this movie, “geek” does not mean “person who collects many Star Wars action figures” as it does in modern times and I’ll leave it at that.)

Rooney Mara rounds out the cast as Molly, she who claims an astounding ability to absorb electricity and Ron Perlman stars as strong man Bruno, Molly’s father-appointed protector who promised to beat up anyone who hurts Molly, thus putting Stan the Man in line for a knuckle sandwich with extra beatdown sauce if he misbehaves.

Long story short, the film is actually two films. The first half, Stan learns the art of the con and the second half, flash forward years later to a time when Stan has perfected the con, performing a mysterious mentalist act with the help of assistant Molly to large, sold out halls in the big city.

Enter Dr. Lillith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). Molly describes her as a stone-faced bitch and frankly, that’s the best description of Blanchett’s typical role I’ve ever heard. In addition to being a stone-faced bitch, Ritter is also a psychiatrist, who views her profession as a legalized con and recruits Stan to use his BS skills to bilk uber wealthy but hella gullible rubes out of their bucks in exchange for Stan tricking them into believing he can communicate with their deceased loved ones.

Then again, the uber rich aren’t people you want to piss off…and I’ll leave it there, another than to mention turns by Richard Jenkins, Holt McCallany and Mary Steenbergen.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I saw this offered on HBO Max and for a long time I assumed it was some sort of new series that I didn’t feel like investing time in. The movie was long and at times I actually wondered if it would have worked better as a series with Stan conning a new mark every week. I’m not sure it’s Oscar worthy and may not have been in the running had it not been for Del Toro’s direction.

DOUBLE SIDNOTE: In the first half of the film, it is always raining. In the second half, it is always snowing. At any rate, bad weather abounds.

TRIPLE SIDNOTE: Based on an old novel turned into a 1940s film that makes me want to go check out the old film. I doubt I will though because I am incredibly lazy.

SPOILER ALERT:

LOOK AWAY UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN IT!

There’s two endings. I can’t get too deep into them other than to say the first ending required me to suspend disbelief as it seemed unlikely someone so adept at conning would do what they did.

As for the second ending, that was great and fitting and it added some symmetry, bringing it back to the beginning of the film which I felt laid out something terrible and made me wonder if they had just forgotten this part only to go back to it at the end.

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Will Slaps Chris at the Oscars

Hey 3.5 readers, your old pal BQB here.

Wow. I didn’t bother to watch the Oscars last night, only to wake up and read about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on live TV.

So, without further ado, my thoughts:

1 – My first reaction was it must be a publicity stunt. Oscar ratings are dwindling. Hollywood rarely, if ever, puts out big blockbuster historical type epics like Titanic anymore that made big money while putting butts in theater seats and have Oscar appeal. On this fine blog, I used to opine about the Oscars all the time but eventually stopped because, well, literally every year I had never seen any of the movies nominated so it’s not like I have an incentive to tune in and root for flicks I’ve never seen before.

So I wondered if this was designed to boost ratings, like “you never know what could happen at the Oscars so better tune in next year.”

Also, if you watch the video, Chris Rock barely flinched. He doesn’t skip a beat. He just goes on with the show. I wonder if most people wouldn’t have been flustered and not sure what to do next. Then again, Chris Rock isn’t most people. He has performed live for many years and as a pro he is trained in keeping a show running even under bad circumstances.

2 – Thus, I hate to say it but I think it was genuine, which makes me sad. I always liked Will Smith. I liked him because I feel like he’s an underdog story, like kind of a comedy nerd who put himself out there and hit it bigger than ever. When I went to bed and read he won for King Richard I thought good for him. About time. Now it will be hard to not view him as anything but an a-hole.

3 – A lot of people saying Chris deserved it. First this assumes Chris knew about Jada having a condition that causes hair loss. He might have just thought he was making a silly joke to roast an actress about her hair cut. Who among us has never put our foot in our mouth, said something that, once we learn a new fact, we immediately regret saying it? This would have been handled better with Will talking to Chris backstage, letting him know the facts and maybe Chris could have apologized later.

But still, if he knew, the better approach would have been for Will to just respond verbally. Explain how the joke was low class.

4 – I don’t know. Hollywood has been trying to cultivate a real person image like they’re people like the rest of us and then when a guy slaps another guy on live tv and gets away with it with no charges pressed…this wouldn’t happen amongst regular Joes. Slap a guy in a bar and there’s a chance you’re going to end the night in handcuffs.

Anyway, Chris Rock and Will Smith. Two celebs I have always liked and it makes me sad.

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Movie Review – Nomadland (2020)

See you down the road, 3.5 readers. BQB here with a review of this year’s Oscar winner.

I’ll say from the outset that if you’re looking for a neat plot where everything falls together perfectly, or clear-cut happy ending (SPOILER ALERT – whether there is one here, is debatable, as are most aspects of this movie) then this isn’t for you.

I’ll also say that in many ways, it’s a yawnfest. Boring. Meandering. Drifting. Sometimes pointless…although I think this is the point – that this is, for most, the way life is. You do some stuff. Stuff happens. Sometimes because of the stuff that happened, you have to change and do new stuff. Sometimes you’ll look back and wonder if you should have done other stuff. Then again, you would have done different stuff if you knew the changing stuff was coming and OMG how exhausting.

Frances McDormand plays Fern, a woman who lost everything due to the great recession of 2008 – her job, her town, her friends and her husband. When the gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada closed, the town literally closed with it, causing residents to flee in mass numbers to the point where the post office cancelled the area code. Alas, when it rains it pours, for while dealing with unemployment and financial woes, Fern’s husband dies and she’s on her own.

She becomes a nomad, and apparently there are many senior citizen nomads roaming America. They live in vans and campers, take seasonal work, then enjoy some semblance of a retirement for the rest of the year – driving around, visiting natural wonders, attractions, and so on. Ultimately, in today’s economy, the joys of a dignified retirement, one where Grandma and Grandpa living out their golden years in the house they bought and paid for long ago, going on fancy vacays and so on are no longer to be hoped for.

The film is more of a fake documentary. We see the way Fern lives and it doesn’t look great. She considers herself houseless, not homeless, but around the point when you see her (SPOILER ALERT) poop in a bucket, or wonder if she’s going to lose it all when a fist raps on her door, said fist belonging to a cop (will he tell her to move along? will he arrest her for vagrancy? Oh, the tension!) you begin to realize you’ve taken your home (and your toilet) for granted.

They say the best writers show and don’t tell but usually, in most mainstream Hollywood packaged films, there’s a bit of spoonfeeding here and there. Some character or some plot twist will happen that wraps it all up in a neat little bow where we all nod and say “ah” but that doesn’t happen here.

For example, as the story progresses, we see that Fern has options. Her sister and brother in law, well-off homeowners, disapprove of her lifestyle and offer to let her live with them. Not a bad option for someone who poops in a bucket but …and it’s never quite said and here’s where the film is a Rohrshach test – you can believe what you want. Maybe Fern is an idiot for not taking sis up on the offer of a roof over her head. Or, maybe Fern is smarter than everyone else. After all, nothing good in life is free. To live with sis means to live by someone else’s rules. You’ll never be fully in control of your life while you live under a roof someone else pays for. Maybe pooping in a bucket gives her more independence than we can ever hope for.

You might think Fern is a loser, only working part-time and then spending her little savings on road trips instead of, oh, I don’t know, spending it on rent or saving up for a down payment on a house. But then again, Fern thinks you’re a dummy for wanting all those things. She’s been through it. She lived life by society’s rules once. All those things you here as a kid. Work hard. Do good and do good things will happen. She built a home and a life that was taken away from her and at her age, she’s not about to do it all over again.

STATUS: Not really a happy fun time flick and not exactly rollicking good entertainment. I’m not sure it’s even up to Best Picture snuff though it did win and I can see why as it shines a light on how seniors are thrown away, how homeless people are thrown away, how not every homeless person is a “bum” and how behind every poop that ends up in a bucket, there’s a story about how that person lost their toilet. Sad.

DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT – though there were points where I wanted to fall asleep, I do think the ending was another one of those “it’s whatever you want it to be” things but I can see it being interpreted as Fern, given her situation, was right and everyone else was wrong all along. We never get that Hollywood spoonful of sugar to tell us what to think though so we don’t know for sure, or maybe we do. We never get to know for sure if what we did was right in life either so, yeah, fun times.

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Oscars 2021

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal BQB here.

Every year, I usually would have talked about the Oscars long before now. In fact, it feels weird they did them in April. But COVID has caused a lot of changes to everything.

Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good, real movie. Studios will occasionally release a semi-decent one here and there but they are mostly holding onto their blockbusters until people are going back to theaters in large numbers again. Good news is I’ve caught up on a lot of old movies I probably never would have seen but bad news is I’m not that minded on new movies lately. Minded? Does that word work there?

Also, I usually complain about how the Oscars are so darn pretty. #OscarsSoPretty Rarely do we ever see the ugly win an award. We visually displeasing Americans demand equal representation on film.

Anyway, my thoughts:

#1 – I have seen none of these though it does seem like the streaming services are taking over. Nomadland = Hulu. Trial of the Chicago 7 = Netflix. Judas and the Black Messiah was made by Warner Brothers but released on HBO Max so more people could see it due to theater attendance being down. At any rate, I know the Oscars love to use the ceremony as a way to build up obscure think pieces that otherwise would go unseen, but I believe this is the first year where I haven’t seen a one before the show.

#2 – See above where I said I haven’t seen any of these movies, ergo it is hard for me to comment on performances. On the surface, I think they should have given Chadwick Boseman a posthumous Oscar for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Often, the Oscars are awarded based on a mix of a) whose turn is it and b) is there still time for them to get another turn? with c) who gave the best performance coming in last. Again, I saw none of them so I don’t know who gave the best performance and arguably, it is hard to say which is “best” because different roles call for actors to do different things so perhaps performances can’t even be compared.

Long story short, I love Anthony Hopkins but he’s been awarded up the wazoo throughout his long career. He plays an elderly father in “The Father” about a man suffering from dementia and memory loss and the toll it takes on his adult children who serve as his caretakers. I do have to say, this is a plight that goes unnoticed by society – how oftentimes, young people will go into life thinking they will do great things and then bam, an elderly parent gets a health problem and then that young person will spend a large chunk of their youth sitting in hospital waiting rooms, helping the parent around the house and so on. It’s what families do but perhaps we need a national conversation on how to make elder care more accessible and affordable, how to have professionals who know how to assist the elderly with patience and dignity, rather than have the adult kids try their best. Of course, another layer is that many old folks would prefer their kids help them as opposed to a stranger. Then there’s another wrinkle in that sometimes adult children will take advantage of the elder parent i.e. swipe their moolah or something and there’s even another wrinkle in that sometimes some elderly will boss the adult kids around, be unkind and miserable to them, treat them like crap, etc.

Note I said “some.” Not all do this. At any rate, I don’t need to bloviate on. I just think a) I’m not looking forward to watching the Father. I might skip it because it sounds sad but also I do think more light needs to be shined on the need for elder care (though I’m not sure how many solutions are realistically available) and b) Chadwick Boseman got robbed. So sad he passed at 43 after making history as the Black Panther and it just feels like since he’ll never get another chance to deliver an Oscar performance, he should have been given the award posthumously.

Oh and sidenote it was nice to see Steve Yeun of Walking Dead fame get a nod. He was one of the main characters that kept that show together in its early years and its nice to see him go on to bigger things.

I guess that’s it. Those are more two big Oscar observations, 3.5 readers.

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Movie Review – Parasite (2019)

Get lots of references for your new hires, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this Oscar Winner for Best Picture.

I know a lot of people won’t watch movies with subtitles, not out of an aversion to foreign films but because if they want to watch a movie, they don’t want to read.

I get it and I admit, the subject matter really has to intrigue me to watch a subtitled movie.  Ultimately, to read the subtitles requires a lot of concentration.  You can’t do other things during the movie, and you definitely can’t get up to take a wizz or microwave a chimichanga.

Thus, I waited for an evening where I could give my TV my full, undivided attention and I’m glad I did.

This movie starts out strong as a fun, lighthearted comedy.  The Kim family are poor in cash but rich in spirit, taking their impoverished lives as basement dwelling pizza box folders in stride, making jokes as they search for free wi-fi, all the while dodging the various bug and homeless bum urine streams that threaten to wreak havoc on their cramped home.

When Son uses forged credentials to defraud his way into a position as a tutor to the daughter of the wealthy Park family, inspiration strikes.  One by one, the Kims paint a humorous masterpiece of deceit, setting up the Park family’s servants to be fired so that they can, whilst posing with fake identities, take on those jobs themselves.  Sister, Dad, Mom all get in on the act and before you know it, they are all on the Park family payroll and able to pay for luxuries like wifi and pest extermination.  Alas, the peeing bum never stops peeing.

It’s hard to not root for the Kims.  They are poor through no fault of their own.  We learn that Dad has suffered through one lousy job after the next, being laid off or having companies he worked for go out of business.  The world economy has suffered greatly over the past several years, and when there is a mention of a security guard position that gets 500 applicants with college degrees, one can’t help but think that poor folk like the Kims can’t pull themselves out of the gutter without a bit of subterfuge.

Meanwhile, the Parks are lovable but hopelessly naive and trusting.  Having not suffered much in life, they never developed that inner bullshit detector that causes them to question certain situations so as to avoid being duped.  Mother Park is all about fancy parties and doting on the children while servants do all the heavy lifting.  Father Park is all about business.  You eventually come to love both families.  You want the Kims to succeed, but you don’t want the Parks to be hurt.

Unfortunately, at the midpoint, the film takes a dark turn and goes from witty comedy to blood soaked horror fest.  The laughs are lost and the mayhem ensues.  While I get the film had to go somewhere, I don’t agree with the direction it went at all and feel there were plenty of other options.

I won’t give it away, though I’m not sure it jived with the film’s overall message, or at least my interpretation of it.  I thought the film was trying to say a) sometimes a family can do everything right and still be poor and when the economy tanks, it’s hard to blame them for trying to fib their way to the top.  B)  When you juxtapose the plenty of the Parks with the little of the Kims, it can be easy to hate on the rich and demand they turn over all of their shit to the poor.  But then again, keep in mind that there are nice rich people and kneecapping the people who are winning the race of life doesn’t really do much to help those who are losing win.

A happy ending would have been great but….for some reason, there was just a lot of murder.  Maybe there are no happy endings when it comes to class warfare.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I’d like to see a re-cut with a happy ending.  There was actually one point in the film where I thought it was going to ramp up the silliness and lead to a silly ending but…nope.  That point was abandoned for murder.  So much murder.

Maybe after you 3.5 readers have a chance to see it I’ll say how I thought it should have ended.

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My Lamentations About the Academy Awards

This was a year where I had seen many of the movies nominated for best picture and to my surprise, I liked most of them.  They were hits that really drew the viewer in and overall were supremely watchable.  Movies like Ford vs. Ferrari, Knives Out, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Naturally, the award went to Korean foreign language film Parasite and my first reaction was “Oh, yeah, the Academy always has to award the movie no one has seen” but I’m going to reserve judgment till I see it.  It was made by the same director who made Snowpiercer so it may very well be a great movie.  I will check it out and let you 3.5 readers know what I think.

I have to say, the guild is off the lily for the Oscars, at least it is for me anyway.  These shows got so “woke” that they can’t even have a host anymore.  No, literally no one wants the job.  Can you imagine that?  In an entertainment industry where performers are vying to be seen, no one wants to get that much airtime…because maybe you made some off the cuff remark ten years ago and it will all come back to haunt you thanks to social media.

I tuned in for a moment and Steve Martin and Chris Rock were joking about a lack of diversity about the Oscars.  There was a joke about how the actress who played Harriet Tubman hid black people so well that the Academy hired her to hide black people from the nominations.

Funny but also uh…why not just nominate her?  They made a joke about Eddie Murphy being hidden but again, why not nominate him?  I didn’t see Harriet so I can’t tell you if it’s a good movie or not.  I did see Dolemite and I thought that was a good movie with a lot of heart, basically a big underdog story about a man with an impossible dream, a washed up entertainer in his fifties, everyone telling him to give up on ever being in the movies but he puts all his money on the line and to make a movie and succeeds.

When I saw it I thought if Eddie was ever going to get an Oscar, it would be for this, but of course, Dolemite was also a comedy so we can’t have that.  Not at the Oscars ever.

I tuned out and tuned back in one more time to see Brad Pitt win for best supporting actor.  Maybe it’s just me but it bugged me that here’s this guy who has been acting for so many years, has been in some of the biggest movies ever in some of the greatest roles every yet he has never won an Oscar for acting.  And sadly, he felt the need to share part of his brief speech time to complain about John Bolton.  If he feels that Bolton should have testified, I suppose it’s his right to say it, but Bolton just comes across as a charlatan and huckster out there promoting himself, trying to promote his book.  To me, it felt like Brad crapped on his own long awaited acting award speech but if that’s what he wanted to do then that’s what he wanted to do.’

Ultimately, these awards are less about the movies and more about promoting Hollywood’s pet projects, though admittedly, they did have some decent movies in the running this year.

I also wondered if Avengers: Endgame shouldn’t have gotten a little recognition – the culmination of a decade long experiment where a studio was able to make all these movies that weaved together, where none of the actors had hissy fits and were all willing to share the spotlight.

End of rant.

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Oscar Predictions

BEST MOVIE:

Critics seem to be united in thinking it will be 1917, largely because of its style that makes it look as though it were done all in one take, which is a pretty amazing feat.  Birdman did it in 2014, but its much more impressive to do it when there’s gun fighting and plane crashes afoot.

But I have a hunch it will be Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  Tarantino inspired a generation of writers in the 90s to start at the end and work back to the beginning, yet he’s only won for screenwriting.  This is a rare movie where, for the most part, more or less, he plays it straight, with a minimum of blood and guts and wacky dialogue and overall silliness…though he does put that all in at the end.  It’s also a love letter to Hollywood and the Oscars like that….though it does basically say that 1969 was a turning point where Hollywood abandoned good movies to make crap instead so…

I’ll guess Once Upon a Time, but won’t be surprised if it is 1917.

I’m going to be lazy and that will be my only prediction this year.  Who do you think will win, 3.5 readers?

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#OscarsSoPretty – The Oscars Are Still Too Pretty

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

The 3.5 of you who continue to read this fine blog are aware that among many things, I am one of, if not the, world’s foremost ugly rights advocate.  If an ugly person is being discriminated against due to their wretched, horrifying ugliness, then I will be there to champion their cause…at some point, but probably never, because I am very busy and also I just baked a pie.

But I do speak out from time to time about the injustices perpetrated against the uggo community (I can say that, it’s our word) on this fine blog and nowhere is anti-uggo discrimination more prevalent than at the Oscars.

Seriously.  Do ugly people ever win these things?  How can Hollywood, year after year, only give awards to good looking people, all the while ugly kids are crying themselves to sleep every night because they never see anyone on TV that looks like them unless they turn on the National Geographic channel.

Thank you for listening, 3.5 readers.  All I can do is spread the word about the cause of the ugly, and if all I can do is write this post so that it will be visible to your 7 eyes then so be it.

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Movie Review – Green Book (Oscars 2019 Best Picture Winner!)

Hey 3.5 readers.

Funny.  I actually went out tonight.  I usually stay in on Oscar night and watch the show but I went out and saw Green Book instead.  To my surprise, it won.  It wasn’t surprising, as it was a good movie.  It’s just that I thought BlackKklansman had it locked up

So, that’s a first for me, seeing an Oscar movie in the theater the night it wins.  Someone give me an award for good timing.

Anyway, BQB here with a review.

 

You know, 3.5, as it turns out, there’s more that unites us than what divides us.  We’re all different.  Different races, sexes, classes and yet we’re all just looking for one thing – dignity.

Dr. Don Shirley (Mashershala Ali) is an educated man with multiple doctorates, but in the 1960s, he is most famous for being a talented classical pianist.  So great are his skills that he fills concert halls and moves everyone in attendance with his ivory tickling skills.

He prides himself on dignity and self-respect.  He’s well read and doesn’t care for rudeness, bad manners, bad grammar and so on.

An odd couple road trip is set into motion when nightclub bouncer Tony Lip is recruited to be Doc’s driver and protector on a concert tour through the deep south.

Hard to say it out loud, but Tony hates black people.  In an early scene, a pair of black repairman come to his house to work on an appliance.  When his wife gives them lemonade, he throws the glasses into the trash can, not wanting to drink out of the same glass as a black man.

When his club shuts down, Tony’s out of money and options, so he takes the job driving the Doc and watching his back.

At first, the duo can’t stand each other.  Tony is an uncouth bore, telling inappropriate jokes and constantly shoving fast food in his face.  Tony isn’t a fan of the Doc either, thinking his client is a holier than thou book worm.

Together, they learn and grow.  Doc teaches Tony some much needed gentlemanly skills – how to improve his speaking skills, how to write better, etc.  Tony teaches Doc how to grease the wheels and get out of jams.  In other words, Tony comes across as a dumb brute until his cop bribing skills and willingness to knock punks out comes in handy in the Jim Crow south.

Eventually, Tony drops his racist ways and he and the Doc become the best of friends.

I understand there’s some controversy brewing in that the movie isn’t all that woke in comparison to the other nominees.  Today, we definitely hold people to a higher standard.  You should never be racist and it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since a racist incident.  If you did something racist, then you’re gone.  Tony doesn’t fit that bill because he begins the film as a racist then by the end of the film he has an awakening that makes him a better man.

I don’t know.  On one hand, I get the need for people to be not racist from the start.  On the other hand, we should be encouraging people to be better and improve themselves so…I don’t know.  Somehow those two standpoints need to be reconciled.

There are a few powerful scenes in the film.  Spoiler Alert – the most moving is when Doc and Tony stop along the road to change a tire.  The black workers in the field, one assumes descendants of slaves who worked in the field look on in amazement as it becomes clear to them that Doc is the boss in the back of the car and Tony is his employee.

It’s a good film that tugs at the heart strings.  On top of racial clashes, all types of conflicts are discussed.  Class struggles.  Education struggles.  At times, Tony and Doc class less about race and more about their different education and class levels.  Ironically, Tony is less accomplished than Doc, yet Tony can walk into any establishment while Doc has to wait outside.  Sad to think that this was once the way the country was.

Admittedly, Viggo basically plays a cartoon character version of a mob connected Italian, but to his credit, he does transform into an entirely different person.  He’s lively and humorous, whereas Viggo is usually known for playing quiet, brooding characters.

I enjoy Ali’s performance as well.  At times, I could feel the crushing loneliness Doc felt.  He held multiple doctorates, was rich and talented, but the same rich people who would hire him to play would then turn around and tell him not to use their bathroom after the performance, and generally, had no interest in befriending him or treating him as an equal.  Sadly, at the time, black people didn’t have much access to higher education at the time, so they don’t know what to make of this fancy man in his fancy suits with his fancy way of speaking.  He is utterly alone and no one understands him.

Not sure it was the best film out of those nominated but still a lot of good messages just the same.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Melissa McCarthy Snubbed! #OscarsSoPretty

Melissa McCarthy isn’t ugly but she is chubby and unfortunately, the Oscars will never allow a person who isn’t skinny to win.  It’s sad such discrimination against people of size.

How long must my people suffer before we are finally recognized by the Academy?

For shame, Academy.  For shame.

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