Awards season is fast approaching for a year which felt like hardly any movies came out in the first place. This is made clear when looking at the nominees for the 78th Golden Globe Awards, where some categories are packed with movies and performances that no one has heard of. Despite their many shortcomings in nominating deserving individuals and films this year, there are quite a few great films that were recognized this awards season.
“Minari” has come very close to being my favorite film of the year. It tells the story of a Korean family who moves to Arkansas to start a new life on a farm. The mother (Yeri Han) and father (Steven Yeun) have very different ideas of where they want the family to end up, while their daughter (Noel Cho) and son (Alan Kim) struggle with relating to their grandmother (Yuh-jung Youn).
The film doesn’t have a real direction, which I think is its biggest strength. It’s wrought with raw human interactions that reveal so much about the characters that inhabit this film. I felt like a fly on the wall watching this family navigate through their new life and the conflicts that arose along the way. It’s such a great film in the regard that it’s very simple and gets the most out of its script, location and characters. It’s one of those films, for me, that has been hyped up to an absurd degree, and while it didn’t completely knock my socks off, there was nothing about the movie that I didn’t like. “Minari” is currently nominated for best foreign-language film at the Golden Globes and is absolutely worth checking out.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” is the latest Warner Brothers film to release in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, and it tells the story of the Black Panther Party chairman, Fred Hampton, played perfectly by Daniel Kaluuya. The star of this show is Kaluuya, who delivers his greatest performance to date despite not having that much screen time. His speeches are booming and powerful, replicating those of the real Fred Hampton. There was a clip played at the end of the film with Hampton speaking, and I was shocked at how accurately Kaluuya embodied this man. Action in the film is portrayed as brutal and violent, with nothing ever stylized. The film is gorgeous through its honesty, and the film’s messages remain relevant today.
The narrative is framed through the eyes of Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), an FBI informant who infiltrates Hampton’s group of Black Panthers, which I think is the film’s biggest missed opportunity. I didn’t feel that the Panthers ever liked O’Neal very much, making his two-sided nature feel like an inconvenience most of the time. There is a scene where Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), O’Neal’s advisor, talks about how he saw O’Neal at one of Hampton’s speeches and that O’Neal truly believed what Hampton was saying. While I understand what Mitchell meant, O’Neal’s actions in this particular scene don’t feel earned. A walk through history and a showcase for Daniel Kalyuua, “Judas” is stellar, despite its one major shortcoming.
“One Night in Miami…” is Regina King’s adaptation of a stage play envisioning a night of conversation between Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Muhammed Ali and Jim Brown. This film is already at a disadvantage for me because I think it is very hard to adapt a play to film well. I was not a fan of Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” due to its lack of using the medium of film to its fullest form and seemingly all taking place in one backyard.
“One Night in Miami…” suffers in the same way with the majority of the film taking place in a single hotel room and a lot of its powerful dialogue being lost in a sea of familiarity. It doesn’t quite earn its stripes as a film and plays more like a filmed stage show. That being said, I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. The introduction to each character and the film’s ending were highlights for me, as they immediately set the tone for how African Americans were treated during this time period and how those of incredible talent looked to overcome it.
The main conflict comes from a debate between Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) about what is best for their people, which is engaging for the most part. Every actor gives an exceptional performance and all have great chemistry together, really selling the fact that these legends were actual friends. I really wish “One Night in Miami…” had swung for the fences and pushed the medium further, but a solid base hit will do.