Friday, February 18, 2022

Finally now playing: Two Oscar nominees and another that should be one

"Drive My Car," nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and International Feature Film), headlines a crowded weekend of movie openings. And, if filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi can fashion what some are calling a three-hour masterpiece out of a "short story" (by Haruki Murakami), then why can't we do some downsizing and try to review it in just a few paragraphs?

After a 40-minute, pre-credits introduction of our main man, the stage actor truly and stoically captured by popular Japanese model and star Hidetoshi Nishima, we find him two years later on the way to Hiroshima. Though still mourning the sudden death of his imaginative screenwriter wife, he has accepted an in-residence job to direct Chekhov's daunting "Uncle Vanya," of all things, but some surprises do await.

Scene after somehow captivating scene slowly show off those revelations, such as in one memorably moving dinner segment. It's where Hamaguchi deliciously mixes spicy food and product placement with assorted emotional dishes like loss and love, all as told in four different dialects (including sign-language) and with a dog popping in for good measure.  

By the way, the title comes from the engagingly solid relationship resulting from his initial reluctance to allow a young female chauffeur (the terrific Toko Miura) to drive him around in his beloved old red Saab. In short, apparently that makes "Drive" a road picture with heart, soul and, as its various themes might suggest, a tribute to the swerves and straightaways of life on the thoroughfare ahead. Just please be patient and in no real hurry to get wherever it is you're going.

("Drive My Car" finally expands today into theaters everywhere.)

Not rated by MPAA, but with sexual content, motivations and situations; 2:59; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Another Best International Film nominee (as well as an Original Screenplay hopeful), "The Worst Person in the World" also features a crowded prologue, this time to introduce us to a compelling and often irresistible late-twentysomething named Julie (Cannes Best Actres winner Renate Reinsve).

The gal flits all over the place -- intellectually, emotionally, professionally and with various men -- but always remains a joy to watch trying to grow up in the final part of Norwegian director and co-writer Joachim Trier's so-called "Oslo Trilogy." 

This "Worst" chapter itself comes wrapped with a dozen different titled peeks into Julie's crowded life -- from 1. "Drowning in Digital" to 12. "Everything Comes to an End." You certainly might not love all that happens to her in between, but you'll likely recognize at least some of it.

(Find "The Worst Person in the World" now at select theaters, such as the Cedar Lee in Cleveland Heights and Nightlife Cinema in Akron.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and some language; 2:08; $ $ $ $ out of $5

And down the stretch to complete a satisfying trio of movies which, ironically, all played at last September's 46th annual Toronto International Film Festival, comes "Jockey," a little longshot with some big Oscar dreams.

Alas, there's no such chances for win, place or even show in that realm since director/co-writer Clint Bentley's sparkling story about -- guess what? -- a hard-working horseman, marvelously portayed by Clifton Collins Jr., has been totally and unjustifiably blanked during awards season.

Still, the nicely brief and stirring ride with the ever-underrated character actor, most recently featured in "Nightmare Alley" and on HBO's "Westworld," offers the role of Collins' three-decade career. As mentioned above, he shoulda been a contender this year, with maybe a supporting nod, too, for Molly Parker, so good in "Deadwood" and so many other roles, here riding along as a world-weary trainer. Giddy up!

Rated "R" by MPAA: for language; 1:34; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

("Jockey" rides into some theaters today, including the Cedar Lee, exclusively in notheast Ohio.)  

Also opening Friday, "Dog," "Uncharted," and "The Cursed" (all only in theaters) and "Ted K" (in theaters and VOD).

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