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It’s Time for the #Oscars: Ron’s Rankings plus a Thomas Fire Doc by teen siblings

February 24, 2019

While I love good movies maybe a bit more than the next person, and while I have eclectic tastes (being the Art Predator and all), for years I have left the serious reviews to my friend Ron Wells, who then shares them with me to publish here as well as a list of ranked and recommended films.

This year, we’ve both been busy and so haven’t posted as many film reviews as I have in the past years, but I’d be seriously remiss if, here on the night of the Oscars, I neglected to post Ron’s Rankings for 2018. See the list of the 91st Academy Awards nominees here.

“If 2017 was a poor year in films for me, then 2018 was a little bit better, but still not great,” notes Ron. “The documentaries and the foreign films were the ones that I really enjoyed.” Below are Ron’s rankings with his notes; mine are in italics. 

1. Roma (Foreign/Subtitled/Black and White)

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think many people will find Roma boring or uninteresting. I did not. Director/Writer Cuaron tells the story of his growing up in Mexico, but does it through the eyes of his family’s nanny/housekeeper whom he ultimately sees as nothing less than heroic. This, in itself, is a fascinating concept. Yalitz Aparicio, who plays “Cleo,” has never acted previously and yet one is easily drawn into her life. The subtext of this film is very feminist in nature, for it is Cleo, the boys’ mother, and other women in the story who show resilience, strength and resourcefulness, while the men fight, lie, cheat, and are irresponsible. I loved this film, though others may not be so thrilled. In glorious black and white.

This trailer is a work of art in and of itself. 


2. The Rider

The Rider was by far my favorite film through most of year until Roma came along. The Rider,  written and directed by Chloe Zhao on a small budget and with a cast of people who had little or no acting experience, was an amazing accomplishment. It deals with what happens when a young person is faced with the difficult fact that his dreams may never come true. Life is hard, and this film shows you some of the ways it can really stand in the way of a person from achieving all that he or she wanted to achieve. Highly recommended.
Not to nominate Won’t You Be My Neighbor for an Academy Award was unimaginable. It is a film that everyone should see. Wonderful, heartfelt and a reminder that kindness never goes out of fashion.

4. Free Solo (Documentary)
We’re a family of rock climbers, backpackers, and mountain lovers; we regularly attend the Banff and other mountain film festivals so this film was one we were very excited to see — and on a big screen. Alex Honnold– named adventurer of the year by Outside Magazine — is awesome as a climber and a very quirky individual yet we found it hard to imagine him pulling off a film like this yet he does so with style. Congratulations to the film makers as well as to Alex for the accomplishment featured in this film. And honestly? The main reason I want to watch the Oscars is to see Alex on the red carpet — and to win!
5. Leave No Trace
6. Green Book
7. The Shoplifters (Foreign/Subtitled)

8. BlacKkKlansman
I’ve long admired and taught Spike Lee’s films, and this one may be his finest work. Super important, super timely. 
9. RBG (Documentary)
10. Watergate (Documentary)
11. Ilse of Dogs (Animated)
We loved this film! 
12. Vice
13. If Beale Street Could Talk
14. The Favourite
15. The Wife
16. First Reformed
17. Colette
18. Hostiles

19. Black Panther

Instead of writing this post last night, we rewatched this film at home after watching it after it came out at the theaters. Love the story, love the characters, love the actors, and I love the music featuring the wonderful Senegalese singer Baaba Maal.

20. Bohemian Rhapsody
After trying to see it for months, we FINALLY caught this at the $3 theater. I wish we’d seen it in a better theater. Rami Malek is brilliant as Freddie Mercury. I read about some of the controversies surrounding this film but overall I think it is worthwhile. My family really enjoyed watching videos that compared Queen performances with ones from the film.
21. Can You Ever Forgive Me
22. Cold War (Foreign/Subtitled/Black and White)

23. Crazy Rich Asians
We found this a fun frolic — but it also has a serious side. Well worthwhile. 
24. Wildlife

25. First Man
We saw this and enjoyed it too. It was quietly moving, more so than we expected, but some of that was movie manipulation of the real story.

26. A Quiet Place (Horror)
27. The Death of Stalin

28. Eighth Grade
This film came to us highly recommended and I watched it with my spouse and 10th grade boys. It made them so uncomfortable they all bailed. I wish I’d made them watch the whole thing and have a conversation about it. I could relate to her as an awkward teen and now as a parent, I was really moved by the relationship she had with her dad. 
29. Juliet, Naked
30. Red Sparrow
More notes from Ron:
  1. Still need to see: Sorry to Bother You; On the Basis of Sex; At Eternity’s Gate; Incredibles 2; Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse; The Grinch.
  2.  I liked Hostiles much more than I thought I would. The same goes for Black Panther and Isle of Dogs.
  3. I heard the acting in the new A Star Is Born was extremely good, but I had seen earlier versions of this and decided to wait until 2037 when someone will try for a new 100th Anniversary edition of this story because there’s always room for yet another remake (sarcasm intended). Likewise, I didn’t see 2018’s Papillon because, come on, did they really think they could improve on the 1973 Steve McQueen—Dustin Hoffman version. Really?
  4. The Wife and Colette: A fictional wife and a real wife do most of the writing of books in each story, and their husbands get the credit and accolades. Yet, this doesn’t bode well for the husbands in the end. Interesting that these two films came out in the same year.
  5. Very much appreciated the work of Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me, and Carey Mulligan in Wildlife, both in roles of characters who were not always likable. Especially nice to see Mulligan back on the screen again.
  6. Noteworthy: Charles Ferguson’s 4 1/2 Hour documentary on Watergate shows how many things had to fall into place before Nixon’s impeachment became possible. Without the oval office tapes and John Dean’s testimony, things could have turned out very differently.
  7. I hope to see the first four films on this list again. For me, they made the year.


And now, I’m off to the movies! 

Today, Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3 P.M The Museum of Ventura County hosts a FREE screening of “From the Ashes Up”, a documentary on the Thomas Fire created by Sierra, 17, and Canyon, 13, a brother and sister duo team,  who directed, wrote and produced.

“On December 4th, 2017, with 15 minutes to evacuate,” writes Sierra and Canyon, “we lost our home and everything in it, to one of Southern California’s largest wildfires in history — the Thomas Fire, which consumed over 1,000 homes and structures in just a few days. This tragic event has inspired us to make a motivational documentary about those deeply affected by the fire and how they transitioned from fire victim to VICTORY, in a short amount of time.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2019 3:46 pm

    I’m with you: I thought Roma was a beautiful film! My husband and I also enjoyed Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. Should be a fun awards show. Cheers!

  2. February 24, 2019 4:51 pm

    Lots of good movies still to see! Cheers!

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