Slick Dungeon’s Quick and Dirty Guide to the Oscars

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. The Oscars are about to start soon and I have watched each and every best picture nominee. I’m going to give you my take on them all and tell you what I think will win best picture and what should win best picture. Definitely don’t make any bets based on my picks because I am notoriously bad at guessing what the heck the Oscars will actually do. Also, I am only going to touch on the best picture nominees here and not go into best actor etc. because I have not watched every performance nominated so I would just be guessing in the dark on some of it.

Ready? Here we go.

Nightmare alley

Out of all the nominees for this year, I think this film is the most deserving. It’s an unforgettable story with superb acting and the closest to a perfect film in the whole list. I don’t think it will actually win but it would be my choice.

Don’t Look Up

If Nightmare Alley does not win this would be my next pick for best picture. It has major star power as you can see from the picture above. It’s about a relevant topic and feels almost too close to home. It’s entertaining while still being kind of depressing. Just the kind of thing the Academy Awards loves. I think there are solid odds this will get picked.

Dune

Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem and Timothee Chalamet.

Okay, this is great film. I loved it and it’s a decent adaptation of the first part of the book. But it’s not exactly a full story and it’s science fiction so that’s working against it. I don’t believe this will win for best picture and I’m not sure it should. But, in my mind there will be a good chance that Part 2 does when that comes out. They didn’t give Peter Jackson best picture on Lord of the Rings until the third and final film came out so no way Dune wins for part one.

Drive My Car

I would actually like to see this win best picture if Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up are not chosen. This is a hugely ambitious story with superb acting and it tells the story of human connection on a deeper level than any of the rest of these nominees. I expect it will not win best picture but I can’t imagine it not being awarded something. My guess is for screenplay but we’ll see. If you haven’t watched this, block off three solid hours of your time and watch it. It’s really good.

Belfast

This could win out of left field. If the Academy wants to go a little more “artsy” with their pick it might make sense to choose this one. While it’s a good film and worth watching, it’s not the best one on this list. Again though I think it is going to win something. I would not be surprised at all if it got Best Director.

Licorice Pizza

Look, I hated this movie but for some unexplained reason it is a critical darling. I think it’s just a disjointed mess of a movie and I can’t really get behind it in any way. And since I’m pretty bad at picking Oscar winners they will probably go with this one. If they do, I think it’s a shame. I liked the acting here but the story barely counts as a film.

The Power of the Dog

Can you buy Benedict Cumberbatch as a cowboy? Can you buy the backdrop of New Zealand as Montana? Neither can I. This western doesn’t feel very western to me but I will admit the end is shockingly good. You have to pay pretty darn close attention to the film for it to make sense though. I don’t think this is actually going to win.

West Side Story

This movie is fine. It’s not good, it’s not great, it’s just kind of there. I don’t think this would have been nominated if anyone other than Steven Spielberg had been involved. You’re probably better off watching the original here but if you love musicals you could do worse than this one.

King Richard

Watch this one for Will Smith and Jon Bernthal’s performances. It really should have been more about Venus and especially more about Serena Williams but Will Smith does do a great job here. Other than that, this is virtually every sports movie you have seen before.

Coda

This is clearly the most heartwarming of all the Oscar nominees. If you watch this you will only go away feeling good. There should be more movies like this and it’s great to see realistic representations of the deaf community here. It’s not going to win, not because it’s a bad movie at all, there is simply just too much star power behind the other films on the list. I highly recommend watching this but no way this gets chosen for Best Picture.

Well, that’s it. Now, I will say, if I could have my pick of all the movies that came out to get the Best Picture award I would choose Spider-man: No Way Home. It was hands down the most fun I had at the movies in all of 2021 and in my mind it was totally deserving of being at least nominated. Ah well, being a huge comic book nerd is tough sometimes.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens tonight. What are your picks? Do you know of any movies you wish were nominated? Let me know in the comments!

Predictably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dune – Movie Review

Dune (2021)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello film fanatics, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m here to review the last of the Oscar nominees. This time it’s the sci-fi space epic Dune. Be warned there will be spoilers below so if you care about that sort of thing, button up your stillsuit and watch out for sand worms as you head back to the theater to watch the film. Then ride your ornithopter back here to read the review.

For this review I am going to start with the obvious. Nothing, not any media translation ever, will be better than reading the work of brilliance that is Frank Herbert’s Dune. If you have not read that book and you like science fiction at all, you are doing yourself a disservice. So be sure to read that.

Still, for years and years people have attempted to do a decent translation of the text to film. It had an older version that was… well… it’s a little dated and odd if you watch it now but it was a thing. This new version starring Timothee Chalamet tells the first half of the book. Well, not quite the first half actually but it tells the beginning of the book.

The film looks fantastic. And the acting here is extremely good. While there are definitely parts of the book left out of the film entirely, it covers enough of the story that you can get a basic picture of it.

The pacing is a bit slow but so is the novel at times. The book was never about the action but more about politics and deeper meaning.

It’s fairly hard to summarize a plot for the book but if you want to know the basics, Paul is a young man who is set to inherit a lot of wealth and privilege from his father the Baron Leto. Leto has been given a planet to rule over by the Emperor of basically everything. This planet is a desert planet which has an extremely valuable resource called spice. The spice powers interstellar travel and is a bit of a hallucinogenic when ingested. Paul knows his fate is wrapped up in this planet because he sees visions of his future. Paul’s family has a bitter rivalry with a rival house called the Harkonnens who have had to give up the Dune planet to Baron Leto. Everyone expects Leto to fail, the emperor included.

There’s a whole lot more to summarize but if I get too much more into it I am giving away important plot points.

One thing I found somewhat frustrating with this film was the sound quality. There were times when the music in the background literally overwhelms what the actors were saying, making it hard to understand certain parts.

But I will say as far as Dune adaptations go, this is the best one so far. I don’t think this is going to win best picture because they never give that to a sci-fi movie but it’s worth watching, especially if you do like the books.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Licorice Pizza – Movie Review

Licorice Pizza

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hey film lovers, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another Oscar nominee. This time I watched the 1970’s era comedy/drama/romance Licorice Pizza. There will be spoilers for this movie below so if you care about that run on back to the theater and watch the film before reading the review.

Ever since Boogie Nights Paul Thomas Anderson has been making films about people on the fringes of society doing odd and eccentric things. A lot of times those films work and make for good viewing although they do tend to have an excessive runtime. Usually in those films, by the end, things add up to a story that makes some kind of sense.

Licorice Pizza on the other hand is a confusing, jumbled mess of a movie which does not add up to a decent story. The basic plot is about Gary, a fifteen year old actor and entrepreneur who is in love with Alana Kane, a 25 year old woman. The movie is supposed to be about an innocent and heartwarming love affair. I’m sorry but a 25 year old woman dating a 15 year old is… child abuse. That’s just a fact and it’s emphasized over and over and over in this film that there is this age gap. If the genders were swapped this would be a film about a man stalking a child.

Gary is no prize in the movie either as he pesters and badgers Alana relentlessly. There is a back and forth of the two of them getting jealous over who they are hanging out with which just seems unhealthy.

And to be honest with you I can’t even understand why half of the scenes are in this movie. There are scenes where Gary is selling waterbeds in a really strange side plot, only to call it a side plot is to give it too much credit. Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper both show up out of nowhere, do insane things with their characters and then just kind of disappear from the movie.

It feels more like a series of random vignettes that don’t make much sense than it does a cohesive film. The acting is fine but the story is just bad.

And nowhere in the film do they explain why it is called Licorice Pizza. If you feel the need to watch a Paul Thomas Anderson film, go watch Boogey Nights or Magnolia. Those are not perfect films but at least you can understand what is happening by the end.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Belfast – Movie Review

Belfast

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello out there film fanatics, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m nearly through all the Oscar films but not quite done yet. I watched Belfast for this review. Be warned there will be some spoilers below so if you care about that go watch the movie first and then come back here.

Belfast tells the story of Buddy, a young boy growing up on the street of Belfast, Ireland in 1969. For the most part his life is fairly idyllic. He has friends and neighbors who all know him and care about him. His father works in London but comes home on weekends to be with his family. And Buddy’s grandparents are kind and caring and help to raise him along with his mother. Buddy also has an older brother.

While life is good and most people seem to get along, this changes rapidly once conflict starts between Catholics and Protestants in the country. The streets of Belfast succumb to civil unrest and violence breaks out. Buddy’s family is left with the dilemma of whether or not they should leave Belfast and everything they have known to flee to safety. Their whole lives are in Belfast so it’s not an easy decision.

Buddy has a couple of things that help him to forget some of the horrible things going on around him. He loves going to the movies and watching television to escape. It’s only when Buddy is watching these things that we see color in the movie, everything else is shot in black and white.

I won’t go into too much detail over what the family decides but there is tension between Buddy’s mother and father as his mother realizes they will be treated like outsiders if they move away from Belfast.

While the movie is fairly engrossing and tells a very personal story, it doesn’t do a great job of telling the backstory of why trouble breaks out in the first place. Also, while Buddy is Protestant, we see some of what happens to the Protestants, but there is not much time spent going into the violence done to the Catholics at the time. This makes it feel a little lopsided.

It’s a great character film and Jude Hill has an exceptionally good performance as Buddy that is totally worth watching. The film is also star filled with Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan rounding out the cast.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey all, this is a re-post of an Oscar movie review. When I posted it this was before it was nominated but I still stand by what I said here. Enjoy the review!

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Hello out there internet people, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another movie for you. I watched Don’t Look UP on Netflix. Fair warning that there will be spoilers below so if you haven’t seen it and want to, have a look first and then come back here.

Stop me if this sounds familiar. There is an impending global crisis, almost certain to wipe out all life on the planet. There is solid, irrefutable scientific proof of this event. However, due to political considerations, a distracted public, and enormous financial interests on the part of the wealthy, the clear reversal of this problem is completely ignored. The wealthy get to come up with alternative solutions more friendly to them at the cost of everyone else. Don’t Look Up is a disaster comedy that hits way, way, too close to reality.

The whole film is an obvious allegory for climate change but really it could apply to any number of impending global crises we have going on now. The film is chock full of big name stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill.

While the subject matter of the film would make anyone who believes in science uncomfortable, there are laugh out loud moments that are impossible to ignore. As usual Leonardo DiCaprio puts in a fantastic performance but the lines that keep sticking in my mind in this movie come from Jonah Hill and Jennifer Lawrence. There’s also a really funny sequence involving a four star general and some snacks that cracked me up.

It’s also a very American film. The basic premise is straight forward. There is an impending comet heading toward Earth, large enough to be an extinction level event that will wipe out not only humans but a good chunk of the planet itself. The science is solid and the group of scientists who discover the comet have to go convince the president to do something about it. But, political times being what they are, the president is more focused on her poll numbers than committing to a real solution. Because of this inaction there is a wide swath of the population that simply doesn’t believe a comet exists at all. Soon people are on both sides of the issue, the media doesn’t want to cover it because there are stories that get better ratings, and the scientists are trying to get people to understand doom is actually impending.

All in all it is a brilliant film, if a bit on the nose. If you watch it, I promise there are laughs to be had but don’t go in expecting this to be a feel good movie. It’s just so close to the surface of reality it’s genuinely frightening.

Disastrously yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Power of the Dog – Movie Review

The Power of the Dog

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello out there fellow film lovers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review yet another Oscar nominated film. This time it’s The Power of the Dog. Be warned there will be some mild spoilers below so if you care about that, turn your horse around, trot on over to the movies theater and see the film then ride your way back here for the review.

The Power of the Dog is a western set in the 1920’s starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. Cumberbatch plays Phil a tough and mean cowboy who learned ranching from his fabled mentor Bronco Henry. Plemons plays Phil’s brother George. George marries Rose played by Kirsten Dunst.

Phil is very menacing and let’s just say his presence does not bode well for Rose or her son Peter. Peter is considered to be somewhat of a “sissy boy” according to Phil and he relentlessly antagonizes the boy at the start of the movie. Peter is almost grown but he still seems to fear and loathe Phil.

I won’t go into a lot more detail here so I don’t give away the whole film but the ending is worth sticking around for as it’s the best part of the whole movie.

While this is a decent film and fairly enjoyable, I really don’t think it’s Oscar worthy. Perhaps it is just me but I couldn’t quite buy Cumberbatch as a cowboy. I love him as an actor and I think he makes a great Dr. Strange and an absolutely brilliant Sherlock Holmes. But with this film, his western accent really seems forced and just doesn’t work.

Dunst and Plemons both play their parts very well and I found all of the other characters believable. I just never found myself really seeing Cumberbatch as the cowboy he was portraying.

If you love westerns this is a good one and even if you don’t the ending is worth sticking around for but I can’t rate this above average for a movie.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Drive My Car – Movie Review

Drive My Car

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey film fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another Oscar nominated film. The big awards ceremony is tomorrow so I’m doing my best to get through all the movies before then. Buckle up for this one because I’m reviewing the Japanese film Drive My Car. Be warned that there will be spoilers ahead so if you care about those things make a u-turn, go back and watch the movie and then come back here.

If you do watch this movie, buy the extra large popcorn because it’s got a very long runtime of three solid hours. The movie is about Yūsuke Kafuku an acclaimed theater director and actor who is married to a screenwriter named Oto. Early in the film it’s established that Oto loves Kafuku but she has affairs with other men. Kafuku doesn’t confront her about it but Oto seems like she might confess one evening. Only, Kafuku comes back home to find Oto dead of a brain hemorrhage.

The story skips to two years later when Kafuku agrees to doing a residency in Hiroshima where he will put on the play Uncle Vanya with a multilingual cast from several different countries. One of the cast members is a young man named Takatsuki who in all likelihood had an affair with Oto.

While at this residency, a driver named Misaki Watari is assigned to drive Kafuku to and from his rehearsals due to some policies of the theater. Watari is about the age Kafuku’s daughter would have been if she had lived.

The film is about all the connections these people have to one another, most of them through tragedy of one kind or other. As the film progresses Watari and Kafuku have a deeper and deeper connection.

I can’t say much more without giving a lot of the film away. What I will say is that the movie has a quiet brilliance to it. It’s not paced like most western films are and there is definitely a lot of dead space in its three hour run. However, that’s clearly an intentional choice and overall works for the film.

I’m not sure if it is deserving of the best picture but it certainly deserved to be nominated and there are impressive performances here from the cast.

If you like long, somewhat slow dramas this is a great film to watch. Just realize you’ll be dedicating a good chunk of time to it.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

King Richard – Movie Review

King Richard

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello film fanatics, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another Oscar nominated film. This time I watched the Will Smith movie about the world’s two most famous tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard. Fair warning there are some spoilers below.

The main reason to watch King Richard is for the Oscar worthy performance put in by Will Smith. The film tells the story of the struggles Richard Williams faced and overcame in order to get his two girls on the professional tennis circuit before they became two of the best known athletes in the world.

The film tells a story of a family and a man who go from the streets of Compton, CA to stardom and riches in the pro tennis world. In a lot of ways this film mirrors any other inspiring sports story movie. We cheer for the Williams sisters to grow into their potential and hope for the best for them. What’s unusual in this story is that the focus is not on the athletes themselves but rather on their father and first coach.

The choice to have Richard Williams as the focus makes some sense because he mapped out the lives of his kids before they were ever born. While it might be considered borderline abuse to have a comprehensive career plan for a kid before they have even touched foot on the planet there is no denying that most of Richard Williams’ plan worked. Whether that made for great lives for his daughters or not is up for interpretation in my opinion.

The story is inspiring, however, it truly glosses over some of the worst aspects of Richard Williams, in some cases leaving just a line or two in the movie to make any inferences about some of his more negative qualities.

The third act of the film really reminded me of Rocky. Just a quick warning but I am going to drop a Rocky spoiler here. In the film Rocky the whole point of the movie is not for Rocky Balboa to beat Apollo Creed. Rather, it’s to see if he can last a whole fifteen rounds with his opponent. In the last act of King Richard we see Venus Williams first pro match. No one thinks she can actually win but it remains to be seen if she can hold her own against the number one ranked player in the world. Spoiler alert if you didn’t know, she is able to hold her own but does lose the match. Even so, what she did was unexpected in tennis at the time.

Another criticism of the movie here is that while it is about both Venus and Serena the main focus other than Richard really is Venus here. This is despite the fact that the way they were raised it was almost inevitable they would be pitted against one another constantly.

Sometime I would like to see the actual story of the Williams sisters from their perspective rather than from their father’s. It does a bit of a disservice to all they have accomplished.

Another positive in this film though is the performance of Jon Bernthal as Rick Macci. He puts in an Oscar worthy performance with plenty of subtle nuance to his character.

While I don’t think this should be the favorite for best picture there are stellar performances here worth watching. Just remember as you watch that this story is not a complete story and it’s told from the somewhat biased perspective of Richard rather than the actual athletes who have done so much.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

West Side Story (2021) – Movie Review

West Side Story (2021)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hey film fans, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review the next pick on the Oscar list, West Side Story from 2021. There will be some mild spoilers in this review so if you feel strongly about that go watch the movie first and come back here for the review.

West Side Story (2021) is the film that dares to ask what if Romeo and Juliet was set in New York amidst a couple of gangs of street thugs who not only look tough but are also really good at choreography and harmonizing with one another. It answers this bold question with a resounding… meh.

The plot is basically Romeo and Juliet through and through. The songs might have been innovative at the time they came out but now they don’t really land. The film looks good but it doesn’t have any real substance.

I don’t have anything against musicals, in fact I like a lot of them, and I don’t have anything against West Side Story the musical. But watching this updated version felt wholly and completely unnecessary. While the acting and singing and dancing are all fine here and the cinematography is fantastic this still felt seriously outdated. Not to mention the fact that there is an old version of this musical which everyone is always going to think of as the best version of this musical.

If you’ve never seen West Side Story or never read Romeo and Juliet maybe the events in the film will come as a surprise to you but I guarantee you, you have seen this story before. The songs are passable but still feel like they come from a bygone era of both theater and cinema and don’t exactly resonate in today’s era.

If we are going to nominate a musical with something to say that might resonate with a current audience, I think In the Heights would have been a far better choice.

If you are a huge fan of musicals and have been just hoping for a decent remake of West Side Story this will serve you well. Anyone outside of that audience can really skip this one and be none the worse for it. Maybe go watch Tick, Tick… Boom! or even Encanto instead. Those are far more innovative films and in my opinion more worthy of Oscar nominations than this one.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon

CODA – Movie Review

CODA

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello film fans, it’s Slick Dungeon. This week is Oscar week and since I am a total and complete unabashed cinephile I am going to do my best to review as many of the best Oscar nominees as I can. These reviews are in no particular order they just happen to be the ones I’ve seen most recently. The first one up is CODA. Be warned for these reviews will contain some mild spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie go watch it first and come back here if you care about spoilers.

CODA is about Ruby Rossi, a child of deaf adults. She lives in a fishing community in Gloucester, Maine with her parents and her brother who is also deaf. Because the rest of her family are deaf, Ruby is often called upon to interpret for her family, even when it may not be convenient for her. She also loves to sing. This is hard for her family to understand since they can’t hear her voice.

The plot of the film revolves around Ruby struggling to have her own life, outside of her family. She connects with her choir teacher Mr. Villalobos who wants to mentor her. Ruby has to contend with life, friends, and her family struggling to make a living in a very difficult industry mostly populated by those who can hear.

I don’t want to give too much away but the film is reminiscent of a number of sports films. Still, the movie has a lot of heart. And the soundtrack here is top notch. On top of that, Emilia Jones who plays Ruby has quite the set of pipes and has a great turn here playing the character.

I would say this film is an Oscar worthy nominee. And it’s really nice to see a film portray the deaf community in a real way without oversimplifying or ignoring the unique issues in that community.

If you like films that will lift you up by the end but might make you cry a little (I’m not crying, you’re crying) this is a great choice. We’ll see how it holds up compared to the other nominees but either way this one is a film worthy of watching.

Awarding-ly yours,

Slick Dungeon