Tuesday, February 13, 2024

2024 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominee - The Holdovers


Chris's review: The Holdovers was good but not great. It was easy to empathize with all three of the main characters. It's neat seeing the '70s portrayed as a historical era. Paul Giamatti, especially, was excellent. And I'm glad to have watched it. But it leaves me feeling a little hollow. I'm not dying to see it again.

Cathy's Review:
 This movie had shades of Dead Poets Society, but without the charisma (but that's not a bad thing), and set in a very hairy time: 1971.  I would have been a toddler that year, but I remember enough of the middle 70s to recognize the cars, hairstyles, decor, and tech, and it nudges (but doesn't grab) a nostalgic spot deep inside. 

Unlike Dead Poets, it lacks the inspiring teacher and the likable students. Instead, it focuses on one bitter, hardass teacher, a bitter kid with a smart mouth and a surprisingly good heart, and the school's bitter cook who is mourning the loss of her son in Vietnam. The main character even says, "I find the world a bitter and complicated place, and it seems to feel the same way about me. I think you and I have this in common."

There were of course, the douchy parents, the decent parents, the asshat headmaster, the school jerk, and the nice and horrible townies. Lots of common tropes.  But the movie managed to surprise me many times, when people believably acted well when you didn't expect them to, or you expected poor behavior, but it turned out to be someone other than the expected person who did the "wrong" thing (though it was arguably not wrong).

I think most people would call this a comedy, but it's really not. It's a drama with a fair amount of comic relief.  Is it good?  Yeah, it is. Very good, even, but not excellent. The writing and acting were good, and I loved the real sets (no sound stages were used), but it had some pacing issues (that mostly disappeared by the second half of the movie). While I liked this movie more than Anatomy of a Fall, I thought AoaF was the slightly better film. Chris thought Holdovers was enough better than AoaF, that when it all shakes out, this movie is (currently) ranked slightly above AoaF.

(Pithy Reviews; and Rankings of 4 out of 10 nominees):

  • American Fiction (Brilliantly ironic smart comedy; Cathy: 1, Chris 1)
  • The Holdovers (Very good teacher/student relationship story; Cathy 3, Chris 2)
  • Anatomy of a Fall (Beautiful courtroom drama; Cathy: 2, Chris: 3)
  • Maestro (Gorgeous, well-acted boring slog; Cathy: 4, Chris: 4)
Currently unranked:

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