(Mirror) The first three months of the year make up the part of the winter movie season where bad movies go to die. Films deemed unworthy of release at other times of the year are unleashed on unsuspecting moviegoers, resulting in tragic box office returns and scathing reviews.
Cases in point include the big budget bomb “The Kid Who Would Be King,” as well as “Glass,” yet another reputation shattering movie from M. Night Shyamalan.
There are still other cinematic glimmers of hope for the season. By the time you read this, the Academy Awards will have come and gone. Two of my favorites were Best Actress nominee Glenn Close and Best Supporting Actress winnerRegina King. Both should have taken home well-deserved Oscar statuettes for their career-high performances in “The Wife” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” respectively. Both movies feature some of the strongest female characters you will see on screen; women who have been put through the proverbial ringer, yet manage to maintain their last shred of dignity.
For the first time in a long while, the Best Foreign Film category had nominees that were all worth seeing, including Hirokazu Koreeda’s “Shoplifters,” about a makeshift family of misfit kleptomaniacs and their almost unbreakable bond, and “Roma,” Oscar-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s personal black and white feature about growing up in Mexico City in the early 1970s. But it’s the devastating “Cold War,” also in black and white and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (director of 2015’s Best Foreign Film winner “Ida”), that tells the story of a tempestuous relationship between a young singer and her music director, set in 1950’s Poland, that will likely stay with you long after the credits roll.
"Cold War" Trailer
Also in black and white, and deserving of far more attention than it has yet to receive, is Yen Tan’s “1985.” Out lead actor Cory Michael Smith plays Adrian, a Texas-bred gay man who moved to New York in his early 20s. We understand why when he returns to his religiously conservative parents’ home for what he thinks is going to be his last Christmas. With friends and lovers dying in New York, and his own health status an issue, he showers his parents and younger brother Andrew (who is obviously also gay, although he hasn’t come to terms with it yet), with extravagant gifts.
Adrian reconnects with Carly, an old girlfriend, making amends and revealing the truth about his situation. But it’s his interactions with his parents, played by Michael Chiklis and Virginia Madsen (in an award-worthy performance) whom he has written off as clueless bumpkins, that are the most revelatory. He has underestimated them, but they know more about him than he ever realized. What’s especially remarkable about “1985” is the way that it joins Rebecca Makkai’s breathtaking novel “The Great Believers” and Ryan Murphy’s FX series “Pose,” bringing the subject of AIDS in the mid-1980s into the cultural zeitgeist.
By now the films mentioned above have either returned to your local cineplex to cash in on their Oscar glory or are available for viewing via DVD, Blu-ray, VOD or streaming. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities to catch up on movies that you may have missed the first time around.
Gregg Shapiro is The Mirror’s film critic. Visitfor more of his weekly reviews.
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