I’m writing this a day after the Oscars, and I don’t have much to say.
As expected, none of the nominees I wanted to win in the top six categories – “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Colin Farrell, Ana de Armas, Brian Tyree Henry, Kerry Condon and Martin McDonagh – took home a trophy. Instead, all of the apparent front-runners won: “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Brendan Fraser, Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and “the Daniels,” Kwan and Sheinert. I went 5-for-6 in predictions because I foolishly thought there would be a surprise and that Steven Spielberg would take best director as a sentimental pick instead of Kwan and Sheinert, not that I cared either way.
For the most part, the evening was a bore – but at least a harmless one.
Here are my four takeaways:
1. It was great to see “All Quiet on the Western Front” win four Oscars, including best international feature film. (Wouldn’t “international feature film” include all feature films, including American? So wouldn’t this make “All Quiet” the best film of all? Apparently not.)
2. It was disappointing to see “The Banshees of Inisherin” go 0-for-9 with its nominations. I would have given it four – for best actor, best director, best supporting actress and best original screenplay.
3. It was great to see Sarah Polley get the recognition she deserves for best adapted screenplay. Since making her mark as an actress in such films as “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Go,” she has emerged as one of the top writer-directors around, with such ambitious films as “Away From Here,” “Stories We Tell” and, now, “Women Talking.” She also made my all-time favorite short film: “I Shout Love.”
4. I won’t name the person in the audience who was wearing the huge get-up on her head (Is it a hat? Part of the gown? I don’t care!) because that would give her what she obviously wants: attention. Her attire would have worked well on the red carpet, but I felt so sorry for the people sitting behind her in the auditorium. Maybe it was their first time at the Oscar. Maybe it was the only time they will get to attend. And they got to spend the whole evening looking at the back of her fashion statement. It reminded me of the drunken person – there’s always one – who gets up at a concert, cluelessly dances in front of seated customers and blocks their vision, and refuses to sit down. Obnoxious.
Let’s move on.
You don’t need a great script to make an entertaining film.
“Creed III” (PG-13, 116 minutes, in theaters) is the ninth boxing movie in the “Rocky” franchise and the third of the “Creed” series, and its screenplay follows a checklist of cliches established by its predecessors. There’s the death of a loved one/series regular. There’s the incentive for the hero to hop into the ring, followed by a montage of intensive-training scenes. And, as always, there’s the message behind it all: “This time it’s personal.”
Despite this, “Creed III” transcends its cliches with first-rate acting, sweet father-and-daughter scenes, the complicated relationship of the protagonist and antagonist, and a strong female love interest with a career of her own.
Michael B. Jordan not only returns as the hero, Adonis Creed, he makes his directorial debut with the film. In it, Creed – son of the late Apollo Creed, foe-turned-friend of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, missing from this film) – has retired from fighting and now devotes his time to the business side of boxing, and his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and young daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent).
Along comes a figure from the past, Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Damian, a former childhood friend of Adonis, has just finished a long prison stay and now pushes his old buddy for a title shot against another boxer. Adonis arranges it, but things turn increasingly ugly, and eventually Adonis must re-enter the ring to battle his intimidating ex-pal.
No great surprises there. But Majors – also excellent in the new “Ant-Man” movie – takes what could have been a stock villain and, with help from the script and Jordan’s direction, gives him depth and complexity. Thompson, instead of playing a boxing-movie wife whose sole purpose is to boost up hubby when the chips are down, successfully tackles Bianca’s own story as a popular singer struggling with personal and professional challenges. And instead of Davis-Kent seeming like some faceless child character used to fill in a piece of the hero’s personal bio, she reveals Amara as an important part of Adonis’ life who brings out the best in his humanity. And then there’s Jordan, who has the acting chops to pull all of these elements together as the central character.
So while “Creed III” isn’t a contender for the heavyweight crown of boxing movies, it’s no cinematic palooka, either. *** (out of four)
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.
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