2022 Oscar Docs: A Look at the Nominees

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony is right around the corner and five movies from across the planet are up for top prize Sunday night.

As award season is wrapping up, I caught all of this year’s nominees for Best Documentary Feature and had some thoughts about each one. Of all the nominees, I enjoyed “Summer of Soul” the most, but there are certainly others I’d recommend, too.

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REVIEW: ‘Cyrano’ is a sensational musical

Peter Dinklage should’ve been an Oscar contender.

Based on a 2018 stage musical, which itself was based on the 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the film “Cyrano” tells the story of the titular character portrayed by Dinklage. Cyrano is a writer, poet, performer and even a cunning swordsman. Despite his talents, though, he can’t bring himself to confess his love for his friend from childhood, Roxanne (Haley Bennett). This is because of his own self doubt related to his appearance.

His complicated romantic situation is only compounded when Roxanne, who’s expected to marry the duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), announces her love for a soldier named Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Wanting to make his love happy, Cyrano decides to help Christian write letters to Roxanne, as the solider is also in love with her.

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Top 10 Movies of 2021

After playing some catch-up in the month of January, I now, finally, feel comfortable to rank the best that 2021 had to offer.

It was definitely good to get back to the theaters more often in the last year, and I’m happy to say that six of my top 10 were seen the big screen.  The variety in 2021 was enjoyable, too, with a great mix of dramas, period pieces and more.

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REVIEW: Cruz is superb in well-made drama ‘Parallel Mothers’

A new generation is welcomed to the world as a previous one is remembered in “Parallel Mothers,” a 2021 drama from Spain.

Directed and written by Pedro Almodovar, “Parallel Mothers” centers on Janis (Penelope Cruz), a photographer who also holds an interest in her family’s history. Specifically, she wants to excavate a mass grave in her home village in rural Spain, where her great-grandfather was killed during the Spanish Civil War.

She eventually meets Arturo (Israel Elejalde), an archaeologist who agrees to help with the project. The two also begin a relationship and Janis soon becomes pregnant. During her time in the hospital, Janis meets a young woman, Ana (Milena Smit), who’s also set to be a new mother. In the time after they give birth, something happens that continues to link the two women going forward.

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REVIEW: Moving human connections make ‘Drive My Car’ a must see

One of 2021’s longest films is also one of the year’s best.

“Drive My Car,” a Japanese film, centers on Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a former TV actor who now works in stage productions. In the film, Yusuke has been hired as the stage director for a show in another city.

There, the company he works for has arranged for a driver, Misaki (Toko Mirua), to shuttle him across town. Over the course of the film, Yusuke and Misaki begin to form a friendship and discuss their pasts that still weigh on them.

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REVIEW: Meta-filled ‘Matrix’ sequel stumbles despite good ideas

Birth, life and death was the course of the original “Matrix” trilogy, so a “Resurrection” nearly 20 years later is a logical step.

Familiar faces return in the latest “Matrix” feature, including the series hero Neo (Keanu Reeves), although now he appears to be living a normal life as Thomas Anderson in a regular office job. The audience soon learns, through a few new characters, that Neo is actually back in a version of the Matrix.

It turns out some events happened in the real world since the end of the third film, “Matrix Revolutions,” which resulted in the Matrix system continuing on in a new capacity. The film follows how the new characters interact with Neo and begin showing him his past, which results in him wanting a different future.

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REVIEW: Technically sound ‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ too inaccessible at times

I felt like I was drinking a 40 oz in the auditorium, because this film has a whole lot of Olde English.

Based on William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth,” “Tragedy” was written and directed by Joel Coen, with Denzel Washington playing the titular character. The film is a fairly straightforward retelling of the story, with Washington’s Lord Macbeth having a vision of ascending to the throne of Scotland.

That prophecy becomes fulfilled, and as the story goes, Macbeth’s reign turns out to be a difficult one. Soon after he takes the crown, he becomes paranoid and begins taking actions that only lead to more trouble.

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REVIEW: ‘Mass’ is an emotionally charged film with a great ensemble

While “Mass” is simply a film with four people in a room having a conversation, it has more tension than most of the other movies released in 2021.

“Mass” is about a meeting between two sets of parents whose children were involved in a school shooting. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are parents who lost their son in the incident.

Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney), meanwhile, are the parents of the shooter, who also died during the event. Over the course of the film, the two discuss what led to the school shooting and how it has impacted them.

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REVIEW: Cage shines in truffle trouble drama ‘Pig’

Nicholas Cage has had ups and downs in his career over the last decade, with some real lows in there (“Season of the Witch”), but he shows in this movie that he still has the acting prowess that won him an Oscar in the 90s.

Cage stars as Rob in “Pig,” a man who lives a secluded life in the Pacific northwest. He spends his days hunting for truffles with his foraging pig, and sells his finds to a single buyer, Amir (Alex Wolff), for simple supplies.

His day-to-day routine is shattered, though, when his pig is stolen in the middle of the night. With a reluctant Amir providing assistance, Rob sets out to get his pig back by any means necessary. However, his journey takes him back to a world he left behind, digging up his past in the process.

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REVIEW: ‘C’mon C’mon’ is moving, heartfelt cinema

Can we pretend Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar was for this movie instead of “Joker?”

Phoenix stars in “C’mon, C’mon,” the new film from writer/director Mike Mills. In the film, Phoenix plays Johnny, a podcaster whose show centers on opinions of the youth. Johnny is often traveling across the country because of his job to interview students about their outlook on the world.

His career is interrupted, though, when his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) asks for help. Viv is needing to take care of her husband, who’s going through a difficult time with mental health. As a result, she needs Johnny to help look after her son, Jesse (Woody Norman).

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