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Movie Review: The Father and Oscar Nominated Shorts 2021

This week for “Close-Up with Camenker”,  Zach reviews . . . THE FATHER and the OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS 2021! (April 9, 2021)

Click here for the blurb and viewing link of THE FATHER!

Click here for the blurb and viewing link of the OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS 2021!

“The experience of this year’s awards season certainly differs for film lovers who view the slate of shows as the Super Bowl of film, but the amount available to viewers at home remains extensive, including the titles in Red River’s own Virtual Cinema.

The recently released 2020 film THE FATHER was the final of the eight films nominated for Best Picture that I had to see and I can certainly say that it did not disappoint. The story of an aging man’s progressing battle with dementia alongside his daughter’s struggle to keep him at home, THE FATHER is perhaps the most insightful depiction of a character with Alzheimer’s disease that I have ever seen.

Starring the indomitable Sir Anthony Hopkins as the title character, the film focuses intently on his memory loss through a fascinating tapestry of events that unfold over the course of the short 97 minute movie. Told from his own scattered point of view, the uniqueness of this characterization remains in the fact that we as the audience do not know what to believe. The fact that the film is able to pivot toward how he as a character is handling his dementia is quite remarkable and what makes the film so insightful. Those of us who have watched a loved one go through memory loss can relate to how heartbreaking it is. The ways in which the filmmakers realistically portray this through Hopkins remain both accurate and deep.

Hopkins himself delivers a career-defining performance, one that is woven with a magnitude of emotion that eats away at the scenery. You almost forget that he has just turned 83 while watching him deliver a deeply layered portrayal of the title character, which includes a lot of time on his feet and reactionary emotion.

While the small ensemble features an array of strong supporting performances, Hopkins is in superb company with his co-star Olivia Colman, who has done an incredible job showcasing her own versatility over the last few years. Here, Colman offers a performance that is both calm and emotional, at times quiet and at others loud. The balance she achieves in trying to keep her father intact while also going on her own rollercoaster of challenges is equally remarkable to Hopkins’ work and their chemistry is excellent.

The performances and dialogue are what make this picture so great. While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I am surprised to see it included among this year’s Best Picture nominees, especially in place of titles like ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, DA 5 BLOODS, and NEWS OF THE WORLD. It is indeed a strong film, deservingly nominated for Oscars for Hopkins, Colman, the script, the editing, and the production design, but I just don’t think it quite fits, even if there were 10 Best Picture nominees this year. Even still, it is well worth your time and attention. 

Also worth your time is the collection of OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS that Red River is offering in its library. Showcasing the best in live action, documentary, and animated shorts, Red River continues to bring these seldom seen pieces to Granite State audiences. This year’s titles contain a variety of subjects spanning continents and backgrounds. 

The live action shorts feature FEELING THROUGH, THE LETTER ROOM, THE PRESENT, TWO DISTANT STRANGERS, and WHITE EYE. Of the five, my favorite was FEELING THROUGH, which tells the story of two very different men whose lives intersect late one night in the city. One doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep for the night while the other is blind and deaf, trying to find his way home. The bond they develop in the short 20 minutes is deeply touching and beautiful. I enjoyed each film, with the exception of THE LETTER ROOM which I found tedious, for different reasons, but this one was my favorite. There is also a great backstory video about FEELING THROUGH on YouTube that features co-star Robert Tarango, who is deaf and legally blind, and how he was chosen for the film.

COLETTE, A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION, DO NOT SPLIT, HUNGER WARD, and A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA are the documentary shorts nominated this year. While they are not as impressive as past line-ups or the other two categories of shorts this year, all the titles tell fascinating stories and remain timely. The American experience, the Holocaust, systemic racism, civil unrest, and childhood hunger are among the core themes. The best one of the bunch, in my opinion, is A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION, a lovely feature that traces composer and pianist Kris Bowers alongside his octogenarian grandfather, who came from very little and opened a family dry cleaning business that still operates today. Bowers’ achievements for someone who is only in his early 30s are quite remarkable, as are those of his grandfather.

Lastly, the animated shorts are BURROW, GENIUS LOCI, IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU, OPERA, and YES PEOPLE. One strength of this category is that the animation style often varies significantly. This year is no exception, ranging from hand drawn to Pixar. Each piece offers something special, but IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU is my top pick. A deeply insightful depiction of two parents grieving the loss of their child in a school shooting, the film reminds us of the all too familiar feeling of despair we have felt one too many times in the last quarter century with the school shooting epidemic. Gorgeously animated and clocking in at just 12 minutes, this film will stay with you all for a very long time despite its brevity, which is the beauty of what inspirational and provocative short films do for audiences.


Stay tuned for Volume X, which will appear on Friday, April 23, two days before the Oscars. Title(s) to be determined, but my thoughts on who will win the Oscars will certainly be included!”

Click here to learn more about Zach Camenker!


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