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Tag Archive: 2019 Academy Awards ceremony


Review by C.J. Bunce

After the 2019 Academy Awards recognized genre films Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and gave top awards to Green Book and Roma, ABC aired the pilot for a new series.  Whiskey Cavalier begins with a solid pilot episode, and you can find it in its weekly timeslot beginning Wednesday evening on ABC.  It borrows from two familiar sources for network TV: the spy genre, like Mission: Impossible, iSpy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Avengers, and Chuck, and the “will they or won’t they” investigation shows like Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and Private Eyes.  Whiskey Cavalier–the military/NATO spy call sign for FBI agent Will Chase (yes, that’s his name), stars Scott Foley opposite CIA Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan.  It’s more action and fun than drama–a good thing that works for this offbeat new series.

The first episode finds Agent Chase as a sad sack agent, recently dumped by his French girlfriend, crying as he listens to songs from his break-up mix tape, assembled from recommendations from other FBI agents.  Those familiar with Michael Dorman’s lead character in Amazon Studio’s series Patriot will see much in common between the leads.  Chase doesn’t have his heart in his job until he’s in action, and then he becomes full-on Jack Ryan (actor Scott Foley has a vibe crossing Jack Ryan series star John Krasinski and White Collar co-star Tim DeKay, and the pilot includes a humorous reference to his Chris Evans’ Captain America appearance).

As Chase tries to intercept an alleged hacker/thief/traitor, CIA Agent Trowbridge steps in, and that’s when the chemistry begins.  You can almost hear the 1970s movie trailer voice-over: “What can happen when we combine this sensitive FBI agent and this tough-as-nails CIA spy?  Can they work together to save the world without killing each other?”  And yet, the pilot was edited into a fast-paced drama, not at all bogged down in origin story, and it supplies a supporting cast of characters that seem to gel from the start, played by Ana Ortiz, Vir Das, and Tyler James Williams.  In brief, it’s fun and it works.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I am happy to have watched my first screening of Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuarón‘s Roma following a mini-marathon of Francis Ford Coppola’s seemingly incomparable The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2.  Otherwise I might buy into the rather pervasive critical sentiment that the film suffers from “lack of story.”  Although Coppola’s films have an exciting action-heavy plot, they, like Roma, are about family, and not every family is part of the Mob.  If audiences look harder at Roma they may find a lot more.  Cuarón, this year with five Oscar nominations for his own puppetmastery: director, writer, producer (best film/foreign film), and cinematographer (the film leads all nominees with ten nominations in all), has created that rare piece of artistry that is a historical snapshot like Oscar nominees of decades past.  And it’s an incredible piece of black and white cinematography, artfully filmed as admirably as the Godfather movies.

The film follows Cleo, played by newcomer Oaxacan actress Yalitza Aparicio, a live-in housekeeper for a well-to-do, “middle class” family in the Colonia Roma area of Mexico City of the early 1970s.  She’s an employee of the family, yet both in the home and in town she encounters reactions from her community that tell us she has second class status–she may live in the neighborhood, but she’s not a member of the family.  The synopsis of the film is brief: Cleo is single, gets a boyfriend, gets pregnant, he rejects her, and the result is tragic.  This is all presented as realistically as possible, and viewers can’t help but empathize with her at every turn.  At the same time the family has its own crisis–the father/husband leaves the wife and kids to fend for themselves, and they need to move on.  Her plight constantly is upstaged by the family matters.

The drama comes from the subtlety, the gestures, the care she gives for the family’s children, the dismissal she gets from professionals even when they are attempting to treat her with respect (as with doctors in a number of hospital visits).  How many people have encountered Cleos in their lives?  How do you treat them and see them treated?  Cuarón based Cleo on his own housekeeper from his youth, recreating his home, his neighborhood, and the Mexico City of his youth.  It’s no doubt that the pacing of the film could hardly be slower, thanks to Cuarón’s trademark long, single takes, and this will be a turn-off for some, especially in an era of sound bytes and action movies.  Yet Cuarón is forcing the audience to slow down and give the film their full attention.  The truth, the soul of the film, can be found in the nuance.  Even the slow pass at giant barrister shelves takes on its own meaning, the jet planes overhead, the father’s too-large-for-the-garage Ford Galaxie.  Statements are everywhere from production designer Eugenio Caballero, using furniture from Cuarón’s home to replicate the director’s memories of the era.

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