The end of the year brings joy with holidays and other celebrations, and for film lovers, a plethora of "Oscar bait." It really is the most wonderful time of year!
If you're unfamiliar with the term "Oscar bait," it simply means a film created for the sole purpose of earning Academy Award nominations. Sometimes it's very obvious, especially when a movie is just bad, but other times art and creativity prevail. Either way, I'm just happy I get to watch new movies.
This past weekend, streaming platforms got a huge dump of Oscar contenders, and I have been living for it. I've been really impressed with the range of stories being told in these movies, which gives viewers a little bit of everything to enjoy.
I heard great things about "Sound of Metal," but I didn't know just how much this film would affect me. Starring Riz Ahmed as drummer Ruben, his life and career are completely turned upside down when he begins to lose his hearing. One day everything is fine, the next the ringing, buzzing and totally unnatural sounds won't get out of his head.
At first, understandably, he thinks it'll go away and things will go back to normal. But after he is encouraged to spend time with other deaf and hard of hearing individuals, he begins to understand what it's like to be in this community and its belief that deafness is not a handicap. However, once he learns that an operation might be able to help him hear again, he goes off course.
This film definitely hit close to home for me. Growing up, I watched my father, at a young age, begin to lose his hearing. One day he was fine, but then the next everything changed. The ringing and buzzing was constant and so amplified that he felt like he was going to lose his mind. A few years later, my father was diagnosed with Ménière's disease, which is an inner ear disorder that causes vertigo. On top of watching him lose his hearing, I had to see him constantly in pain and often sick from this awful disease.
He had an operation that was meant to restore a lot of his hearing, but as this movie explains, once you lose your hearing, it can never come back. The hearing aids that have come since haven’t helped much either, pretty much just filling his ears with even more strange and unnatural sounds. He can still hear something with the help of those aids, but it's not like what it once was.
Ahmed's performance in "Sound of Metal" shows exactly what it's like to go through the pain. The frustrations, anger, sadness and disappointment that I saw with my father were perfectly captured by Ahmed. Even that little bit of hope — having an operation to get hearing implants — was real. He definitely deserves to be a best actor nominee throughout awards season.
I also really enjoyed the other side of the coin: what it's like to see someone go through this. Ruben's girlfriend and bandmate, Lou (Olivia Cooke), truly doesn't know what to do to make it better and how to help him through this. I felt a bit of myself in her.
I think this film will also be a contender for sound categories. Editors did a wonderful job blending what those of us without hearing problems hear versus what Ruben heard pre- and post-surgery.
"Sound of Metal" is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
While most of us have heard of the cinema classic "Citizen Kane," less is known about the life of its screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz. David Fincher's "Mank" is all about the ups and downs before, during and after the writing of what's been called the greatest film of all time.
There are several different years covered in "Mank" so you definitely have to pay attention. We are first introduced to Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), Mank for short, in 1940 when he has been called on by Orson Welles to write his next screenplay. Mank, with the help of his secretary, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins), hunkers down in Victorville to get the project done.
In a series of flashbacks spanning the 1930s, we see Mank meet a slew of big names, such as actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), David O. Selznick, Josef Von Sternberg, Irving Thalberg and William Randolph Hearst. These individuals, one way or another, have some influence on his script's making. We also see the way a smear campaign affected the 1934 California gubernatorial election, which we know is a relevant subject today.
Not everything is as it seems in this film, so don't go into it thinking you're about to see a biopic. However, it does a great job of bringing old Hollywood back on our screens and showcasing powerhouse performances. Oldman does a great job of commanding every room, even when he's a little drunk, but Seyfried stands out to me. She brings a lightness to this movie that's needed, and her chemistry with Oldman really shines. I think we'll definitely see these two up for acting awards, and "Mank" seems to be a top best picture contender at the moment.
"Mank" is available to stream on Netflix.
Other likely Oscar contenders that came out this past weekend include "Ammonite" with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan and "Black Bear" with Aubrey Plaza. As December continues, we'll see even more contenders so be on the look out for "Oscar bait" — the good, the bad and the plain ugly.