Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner. This month we’re focusing on Oscar nominated flicks.
Oh, the return of Oscar month, where we use February to highlight some of the films on DVD that were nominated this year. We start with the return of director Robert Zemeckis to live action films. The last time Zemeckis directed real people not in green suits was “Cast Away,” which oddly enough also dealt with an airplane crash. Turns out there are other parallels – both films earned two nominations and Tom Hanks was nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading Role, just as Denzel Washington is nominated for his role here. Washington deserves it. This role could only be done well by a handful of actors. It can’t be easy to play a conceited, drug-abusing asshole while at the same time being a fast-thinking, hero pilot. His portrayal is nuanced, yet over-the-top when he needs to kick in the thrusters. John Goodman and Don Cheadle, both doing their second film with Washington, set scenes up for Washington to knock down. Too bad he’s up against Daniel Day Lewis for best actor but don’t cry for Denzel, he’s already won two. Not a winner, but definitely worth a watch.
In this film, Tim Burton goes back to his roots. Based on Burton’s 1984 short film by the same title, he dives back before Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter were in all his movies, back to the entertainment of his childhood. The main character even looks like a young Burton. The gothic themes of Burton’s films remain, though – it’s a mash-up of monster movies. There’s Frankenstein of course, but also odes to Dracula and mummies and Godzilla, among a half-dozen others. He brings back actors to voice characters that he hasn’t worked with in decades – Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Landau. It would be an upset if Burton pulls down an Oscar, he’s up against Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” and Pixar’s “Brave,” but don’t count this movie out because it’s alive...alive and worth a watch.
“How to Survive a Plague”
This film is nominated for Best Documentary – two hours chronicling two decades of two groups fighting for fairness with AIDS research and medical treatment. The two groups, ACT-UP and TAG, campaigned, protested, got arrested and represented millions of people dying of AIDS. When the film starts, it’s the ‘80s and there are 41 reported cases of AIDS, as the film goes on, the groups in-fight and self-destruct, people pass away, argue with politicians, harangue other politicians like Jesse Helms and demand affordable medication that they feel has been withheld because of their lifestyle. The filmmakers allow the bulk of the story to be told through video footage with interviews scattered throughout. It works in educating or reminding the audience what it was like for the gay population back in 1985 and beyond. It shows how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. Making a film this powerful might be how to win an Oscar – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge