Sunday, April 14, 2024

Oscars 2020: Last Big Movie to Screen, Sam Mendes’ Extraordinary “1917,” Best War Movie Since “Private Ryan,” “Iwo Jima”


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We have seen the last big big Oscar buzzed movie for the 2020 Academy Awards. Yesterday¬† I told you about the penultimate entry, Clint Eastwood’s four star “Richard Jewell.”

Now we’ve been privy to a showing of Sam Mendes’ extraordinary “1917.” That’s right, extraordinary.

“1917” comes from an original idea Mendes had based on his grandfather’s experiences in World War I. He conscripted a co-writer. Krysty Wilson-Cairns wrote the screenplay from Mendes’ ideas.

Roger Deakins, who finally won an Oscar for his cinematography in “Blade Runner 2049,” will win– not just be nominated– no matter what else happens for his work here. Can you dig it? What he’s done here is so above and beyond that people are going to be gaga. Other noms will go to editor Lee Smith, who helped Mendes make what we think of as a continuous shot look seamless. (The whole movie is continuous and mind blowing in that regard.)

Thomas Newman’s score is one, like Howard Shore’s for “The Song of Names,” you would want to play at home on your stereo.

Actors: the main actors are young guys. George McKay we know a little, mostly from “Captain Fantastic.” Dean-Charles Chapman of “Game of Thrones” fame makes quite an impression. They are so strong, and the screenplay is so well delineated, that they hold the movie, McKay especially. There are cameos from Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, and even Colin Firth that are all very nice. But the main guys — on a mission to stop 1600 men from being killed — who rock this film.

Isn’t Mendes the star? I do believe so. He has art movies with “American Beauty” (Oscar winner). “Perdition,” and “Revolutionary Road.” He has his James Bond movies, “Skyfall” and “Spectre.” In “Jarhead,” he drilled down into the military, excellent prep for this one. Mendes’s theater work is so extensive and award winning, and you can see it in “1917.” I would say this is theater to some extent, but there’s plenty of action, drama, heart-racing excitement to make it an eminent movie.

I can’t say more about the plot yet. And the poster kind of makes it seem like “Midway,” which it ain’t. This is the best war movie since “Saving Private Ryan.” That includes Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima”, Spielberg’s “War Horse,” and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” all of which are top notch. Scorsese and Spielberg will praise it lavishly. They should be happy. Someone in the younger generation has learned from them.¬† This is some of the best filmmaking ever. I mean, ever.

And– it’s only one hour, 58 minutes. Very clean, economical, just like “Richard Jewell.” We got two literally great movies for the Oscars at the end of our main viewing season. Hope springs eternal!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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