All Quiet on the Western Front
Since Germany’s Oscar entry “All Quiet on the Western Front” was also nominated as Best Picture, it’s an obvious indicator that this powerful World War I picture — with a total of nine nominations — will win the International category.
Adapted by writer/director Edward Berger from Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, it follows idealistic young Germans, caught in patriotic fervor, as they proudly enlist to serve for “the Kaiser, God and the Fatherland,” marching off to war in France, only to find themselves mired in muck, facing almost certain death.
Foremost among them is Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer), who notes: “The stench will remain on us forever.” In a particularly memorable scene, Paul repeatedly stabs a gun-toting French soldier in brutal hand-to-hand combat. But when the Frenchman doesn’t immediately die, tortured Paul is ashamed and begins to try to clean his victim’s face.
There’s no heroics or valor here. The hungry men scrounge for food and barely survive bloody battle after battle. It’s just realistic conflict, resulting in senseless carnage.
Meanwhile cease-fire negotiations are underway between the German armistice chairman, Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Bruhl), and his French counterpart — and the cruel defiance by fascistic German General Friedrich (David Strieshow) who sacrifices his remaining troops.
FYI: Louis Milestone’s Hollywood version won Best Picture in 1930 — and its message is as relevant today as it was then, evoking thoughts of what young Russians may feel as they’re shipped off to fight in Ukraine.
In German with English subtitles, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is an immersive, authentic, anti-war 8, streaming on Netflix.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
It’s not exactly accurate that writer/director Rian Johnson’s follow-up is called “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” because the so-called ‘onion’ is actually a spectacular glass dome — with no layers and, essentially, hollow. After all, it did get an Oscar nod as Best Adapted Screenplay.
Having relinquished his James Bond persona, Daniel Craig reprises the dapper Southern detective, Benoit Blanc, in this overly intricate Agatha Christie-like murder mystery set on a luxurious private island that’s populated by a motley assortment of colorful guests.
“I need a great case,” Blanc muses.
That cues eccentric new-tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to summon him, along with Bron’s disgruntled former business partner Cassandra ‘Andi’ Brand (Janelle Monae), Claire DeBella (Kathryn Hahn), a former soccer mom-now Governor of Connecticut, Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a gun-toting, right-wing, YouTube men’s-rights celebrity, and his bikini-clad girl-friend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), ditsy former fashionista-turned-entrepreneur Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), an idealistic scientist.
They’re all known as ‘disruptors’ and they’ve all been bankrolled by manipulative Bron. Each receives a mysterious hardwood box stuffed with a series of puzzles indicating there’s a lavish weekend 'game' afoot.
The three-day getaway is theoretically a make-believe murder mystery with smug Bron as the supposed victim, but his original plan gets complicated when there’s a potentially devastating energy disaster and some real-life homicides occur. Obviously, they’re all suspects. Whodunit?
Problem is: despite some intriguing cameos, none of the cast of characters is remotely likable, so why should we care who murdered whom?
The film was shot in Budapest, Belgrade and on the Greek island of Spetses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Production designer Rick Heinriches makes Bron’s villa resemble a museum, filled with Banksys, Kandinskys and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. As an inside joke, one of Bron’s paintings is of Edward Norton’s head on Brad Pitt’s body from “Fight Club” (1999).
The title refers to The Beatles’ song from The White Album; the first “Knives Out” was titled after the Radiohead song from their Amnesiac album. And Rian Johnson hints that Benoit Blanc is gay in a flashback scene by showing his partner Phillip (Hugh Grant).
On the Granger Gauge, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a silly, showy, sybaritic 7, streaming on Netflix.
Aimed at teenagers and those who consider Artificial Intelligence (AI) a treacherous threat, this is a campy, cautionary tale about a creepy killer doll called “M3gan,” an acronym for Model 3 Generative Android.
Her story begins with a horrific car crash as Cady (Violet McGraw) and her parents embark on a ski vacation, only to be hit head-on by a snow plow during an ice storm. Newly orphaned Cady is taken in by her workaholic aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), a software engineer for Funki robotic toys.
Unsure how to relate to grief-stricken Cady, Gemma consoles her with an experimental doll, dubbed M3gan, who soon becomes her best friend/confidante. Played physically by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis, the four-foot-tall M3gan android imprints on Cady, watchfully determined to keep her from being sad or endangered.
Problem is: Gemma’s company’s most popular product, furry PurrPetual Pets, has been ripped off by a rival. So her boss, David (Ronny Chieng), demands that Gemma immediately schedule a ‘live-launch’ of the expensive prototype doll with M3gan as traumatized Cady’s test-subject companion.
The company’s advertising campaign will cater to an upscale market of busy parents who would be willing to spend $10,000 to have technology provide a surrogate to assume much of their often-time-consuming parental guidance, like endlessly repeating “Flush the toilet &hellip wash your hands &hellip”
So there are the perennial questions: How much should we embrace technology? And what happens when it runs amok?
Satirically scripted by Akela Cooper and directed by Gerard Johnstone, it’s utterly predictable, low-budget ($12 million), Blumhouse/James Wan-type horror, trimmed from its intended R to PG-13.
Since it fits into the same genre, comparisons with “Annabelle,” “Child’s Play” and “Ex Machina” are inevitable &hellip with kudos to New Zealand-based digital effects studio Weta FX.
On the Granger Gauge, “M3gan” is a silly, subversive, slashy 6, streaming on Peacock.
Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.
As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.
During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books.
Her website is www.susangranger.com. Follow her on Twitter @susangranger.