Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Friday, July 30, 2021

Ridley Scott, Lady GaGa, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, and Al Pacino are Bringing You into the House of Gucci!

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:42

The trailer for Ridley Scott’s new film House of Gucci, starring Academy Award Winners Lady GaGa, Al Pacino, and Jared Leto was released today. If the final product lives up to the quality of its trailer, the movie looks to be a favorite to sweep the 2021 Oscars. Take a look at the trailer below. And by the way—is there anything the insanely and ultra-talented Lady GaGa CAN’T do!?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Oscar Nominees

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:44

With the 2019 Academy Awards less than 48 hours around the corner (and the Annual Blackwell San Jose Oscar Party with it), it’s time to rank the nominees for the coveted award for Best Picture. There’s been some really good ones this year, making the ranking difficult. But nonethtlesss, here’s my ranking of the 8 films nominated in the category

#8: BlackkKlansman: Spike Lee (the favorite for Adapted Screnplay) directs this fantastic film about the true story of a Black FBI agent (played by Denzel Washington’s son, John) that helped infiltrate the KKK through the telephone and a white “avatar” (played by Adam Driver). Although the events in the film take place in the 1970’s, it’s relevance today is palpable. That’s unfortunately a little bit of the reason why it also ranks lowest on my list. While the film’s poignancy speaks for itself, Lee felt it necessary to emphasize the point with footage from Charlottesville and other racially-tense events planted at the end of the movie. While those current events are hideous and highlight continued unacceptable discrimination in American society, including it felt forced and out of place here. It also wasn’t necessary as the impact made by the story the movie is based on stands on its own. Nonetheless, it’s a great movie worthy of the nomination.

#7: Roma: Alfonso Cuaron directs an intensely moving film that follows a year in the life of Cleo, a Mexican nanny and housekeeper who manages the household of an lower upper middle class family on the brink in Mexico City during a series of politically-motivated protests that are becoming increasingly violent. Cleo’s life takes a series of twists and turns that are both heartbreaking and revealing, as various stressors in her life play out. Shot in black and white, the film is gritty and moving. It is, however, slow at times, which results in some unevenness to its trajectory. It is still a remarkably good film that leaves the audience speechless, sad, and happy, all in one.

#6: A Star Is Born: Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa star in Cooper’s own film about the simultaneous rise of a female singer destined for stardom and the fall of her muse, a male singer who’s losing his battles with his own inner demons while the two fall in love. GaGa gives a downright phenomenal performance and lends her voice to the movie’s fantastic original music. If Gaga’s “Shallow” fails to win her the Oscar for Best Song, it’ll be just as much a travesty as Greatest Showman’s loss for “This Is Me” last year. While the performances are remarkable, the movie itself suffers from predictable cliches and incomplete storylines that make it a non-contender for the top prize.

#5 Black Panther: The Marvel Universe gets an exceptional addition with Ryan Coogler’s take on the story of the famed comic book hero Black Panther. With dazzling special effects and a solid story, Black Panther infuses the traditional comic book genre with elements of African art, culture, and superheroes and expands the cinematic experience of action movies in a way never done before. Michael B. Jordan plays a great villain in Erik Killmonger; and Chadwick Boseman slays it with his depiction of the iconic title character, making Black Panther and fun and energetic ride.

#4: Green Book: Very few people are familiar with the true story of the relationship between Black jazz pianist Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga, a rough and tough Italian-American fresh off the streets of Brooklyn, who is hired by Shirley to serve as his driver and bodyguard during his summer tour in the Deep South in 1962. The two spark off an unexpected friendship and bond that transcends Vallelonga’s preconceived notions of Black people and Shirley’s perceptions of what a stereotypical Italian-American would have of Black people. The story is heartwarming, and at times, completely unpredictable. Those who have criticized the film for veering far from the truth behind the inspiration of the relationship depicted in the movie miss the point of Green Book. It’s not a documentary. It’s a story of an unexpected relationship between two men that became blind to race, sexuality, and heritage, to forge a bond that lasted their entire lives.

#3 Bohemian Rhapsody: Rami Malek gives a downright powerhouse performance as Freddy Mercury, an oddball artist who defied the boundaries of human sexuality and catapulted the band Queen into rock history. While not necessarily a Mercury biopic, the film puts him front-and-center and focuses on how his talent and eccentricities were both a blessing and curse for Queen. Mercury’s homosexuality is framed through his relationship with his first wife Mary, who was his best friend even after their divorce and all the way to his death of AIDS in 1991. Eventually Mercury fell victim to those who took advantage of him and his ever-increasing reliance on drugs and sex. But he rose like a phoenix to give a knockout final performance at Live Aid in 1985, which serves as the film’s final sequence and one that Malek mirrors to Mercury with perfection.

#2: Vice: Christian Bale gives an absolute whopper of a performance as the heinous Vice President Dick Cheney, who manipulated every person in his life for his own self-gain and selfishness. The film begins in Cheney’s later youth and shows how he was able to learn the art of deception quickly as a means to get ahead. Soon, Cheney’s thirst for power and money turn him to politics, where he uses his successes and failures to continue to defy the limitations that should’ve kept a very mediocre and underachieving person to living a very sub-average existence. The film is geniously made, using comedy, drama, and uniquely executed scenes to tell the story of a horrible person that was eventually able to use the ignorance of a low-intelligent President to elbow his way into a position where he was able to exert immense power. While a long shot for Best Picture, don’t be surprised if Bale takes home the Oscar for his portrayal of Cheney.

#1: The Favourite: Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, and Rachel Weisz give the performances of their careers in this story of the ailing Anne, Queen of Great Britain, her snobbish and self-centered appearing lover Sarah Churchill, and Churchill’s lower-class cousin Abigail, who finds a way to manipulate the Queen and work her way up the social chain through increasingly back-stabbing and nefarious actions. The movie is at times funny, at times quite disturbing, and at times sad and shocking. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in its ability to stir a cacophony of emotions into one hell of a ride that left me in complete shock and awe. I’ve also never experienced such brilliant story-telling that introduced the audience to one character that is so easily hated and another who is so easily loved and completely swaps those roles by the story’s end. It makes the audience question its own notions and interpretation of characters based on traditional story-telling experience and suggests people who might be thought of as sweet, kind, and funny are actually monsters and that monsters may not actually be monsters at all. These qualities make The Favourite my pick for Best Picture of 2018.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Top 5 Films of 2017

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:35

With the 2018 Annual Academy Awards right around the corner (and the invites to the official 2018 Blackwell-San Oscar Party sent last week), it’s time to rank the top 5 films of 2017! The list is topped by two absolutely extraordinary musicals and includes a sci-fi meets romance creature film, a heartbreakingly beautiful coming-of age movie about discovering one’s sexuality, and a very moving and well done tear-jerker about the true story of heroic firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to others. So, here are the Best Films of 2017, at least according to Dr. Blackwell!

#5: The Shape of Water

With the most Oscar nominations of any 2017 film, The Shape of Water spins a tale of an unlikely romantic relationship that forms between a mysterious creature that is being “studied” within a military-contracted research facility and a deaf woman who works at the facility as a janitor. While the story seems a little “out there,” it’s this precise mesh of oddity that creates an incredibly well paralleled storyline in which the love the woman develops for the creature and the way in which the creature is treated mirrors the timeframe of the American 1960’s during which the story is set. Being different, the creature is of course seen as an object rather than living being; and his cruel mistreatment is eerily similar to American society’s same disposable sentiments towards women, Blacks, and gay men. Three of the actors from the movie give absolutely phenomenal performances and bring the realism of their plight as being African American (Octavia Spencer), closeted homosexual (Richard Jenkins), and differently abled (Sally Hawkins) to the film’s incredibly dark, yet moving setting. The Shape of Water is nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Guillermo del Toro), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sally Hawkins), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Richard Jenkins), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Original Screenplay (del Toro and Vanessa Taylor), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Dan Laustsen), Best Achievement in Costume Design (Luis Sequira), Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Nathan Robataille and Nelson Ferreira) and Mixing (Christian T. Coke, Glen Gauthier, and Brad Zoern), Best Achievement in Film Editing (Sidney Wolinski), and Best Achievement in Production Design (Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau, and Jeffrey A. Melvin).

#4 Call Me By Your Name


With 4 Oscar nominations, Call Me By Your Name is set in Northern Italy in 1983. Seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape. The two main leads, including Best Actor nominee Timothee Chalamet, who plays Elio, and Armie Hammer, who plays his eventual love interest (I emphasize eventual because the story takes its time developing), give incredibly inspiring performances and bring the nuances of their characters to life perfectly. The story is at times frustrating, at other times incredibly sweet, and ultimately, tragically sad, and brings the audience through a journey with the gorgeous landscape of Italy in the background. Director Luca Guadagnino expertly crafts a picture that conveys the almost tangible and emotional impact the two young men have on one another. But the story also accentuates the culture of the conservative 1980’s, during which homosexuality was anything but approved of and the toll that takes on a burgeoning love between the two main characters. Call Me By Your Name is nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Adapted Screenplay (James Ivory), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Timothee Chalamet), and Best Original Score (Sufjan Stevens).

#3 Only The Brave

While failing to garner a single Oscar nomination, Only The Brave tells the remarkable true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire. While the cast is chuck-full of eye candy, the top notch acting genius of Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly leads the movie well beyond anything titular. In addition to the grit of the setting and ferocious physical tests the fireman are put to on a daily basis, the bonds they develop and the unique brotherhood they form is also given a chance to flourish thanks to the wise direction of Joseph Kosinski, who understood that the truly moving aspect of the film is the real life people it’s based on rather than the often romanticized action they take. With this in mind, much of the screen time is devoted to their individual stories, including one’s main quest for redemption. In the end, Only The Brave serves as a reminder that heroes everyday surround us that may make an incredible sacrifice to us, but often want nothing to show for it.

#2 Hello Again

From the mind of a well-established Broadway talent (musical extraordinaire Michael John LaChuisa) comes one of the best stage-to-screen adaptations I have ever seen. Hello Again is an outstanding musical motion picture based on LaChuisa’s off-Broadway play by the same name that focuses on the significance and insignificance men and women place on love, sex, and emotional attachments that develop from the interconnectedness of those three elements. The story unfolds across time during some historic and non-historic events and depicts an evolving exploration of love’s bittersweet embrace among characters that meet again throughout time, but in varying ways. The music is beautiful with an oftentimes simple yet multidimensional score; and the performers, most of whom come right from the stages of Broadway (including Audra McDonald, TR Knight, Martha Pimpton, Sam Underwood, Rumer Willis, and Tyler Blackburn, to name a few) lend their angelic voices and expert acting to weave an intricate and gorgeous story that transcends love, sex, and time. Hello Again was given a very brief theatrical run and was deemed ineligible for consideration for the 2018 Academy Awards.

#1 The Greatest Showman

While the Golden Globes rightfully showered 2017’s best picture with praise, nominating it for Best Picture and its leading star Hugh Jackman for Best Actor, the Oscars weren’t as kind, recognizing the film solely for its incredibly uplifting and empowering song, “This is Me,” which is nominated in the Best Song category. Despite its unbelievably horrific snubbing by the Academy, the movie is so amazingly good, it is downright difficult to convey that in words on a Blog. In a nutshell, the movie celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary by the name of PT Barnum, who rose from crippling poverty to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. That, however, is only the superficial aspects of the film. Deeper down is a commanding message of acceptance, tolerance, and equality along with a poignant warning about the consequences of ego and the failure to recognize the importance and value of those who contribute to our lives and successes everyday, including those who are deemed “lesser thans” by a cruel and non-empathetic society. This alone would make for a great movie. But, place this story into a score and give it life through the lyrics of a soaring and gorgeous musical in the context of breath-taking visuals, costumes, makeup, cinematography, and expertly-mixed sound, and you’ve got the recipe for a film that will remain a classic long-past the time when whatever film wins Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards has been forgotten. The Greatest Showman is an absolutely phenomenal example of filmmaking. High Jackman, who worked tirelessly to bring the movie to life, director Michael Gracey who translates the material flawlessly to the screen, and composers and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul should all be lauded for their accomplishment. And the supporting cast of choreographers, sound mixers, and cinematographers deserve the highest praises as well. The Greatest Showman is nominated for one Academy Award for Best Original Song, “This is Me.”

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dr. Blackwell Selects MOONLIGHT for Best Picture

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:07

My official selection for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture, MOONLIGHT presents a timeless story of human self-discovery and connection by chronicling the life of a young gay black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in society while growing up in a world of addiction, poverty, and insurmountable obstacle. The film won a multitude of accolades from various film societies and critic circles, including the Golden Globe for BEST PICTURE. It is nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The trailer for the film is below:

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2017 Blackwell-San Jose Oscar Party

Filed under: Film and Entertainment,Performing Arts,Popular Culture — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 13:47

It’s that time of year again! The 2017 Annual Academy Awards are here, which can only mean one thing! TIME TO PARTY!! The Oscar event of the year has been announced–The 2017 Annual Blackwell-San Jose Oscar Party celebrating the Academy Awards will be held starting at 6:00pm on February 26th! Official invites to the event were sent via FaceBook Events Invite or through personal Email. So check your FaceBook or Email and see you there!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Will & Grace Encourage You to “Vote Honey.”

Filed under: Film and Entertainment,GLBT Social Issues and Civil Rights — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:06

WILL & GRACE -- NBC Series -- Pictured: (l-r) Megan Mullally as Karen Walker, Eric McCormack as Will Truman, Debra Messing as Grace Adler, Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland -- NBC Photo: George Lange

The cast of Will & Grace, perhaps the best sitcom series to ever air on television, reunited this week to encourage you to get out and VOTE! The adorable, hilarious, and nostalgic 10-minute skit takes swipes at both Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Take a look at the incredibly well-done scene below and relive some of the comedic magic of Will & Grace:


Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Review: Kevin Smith’s TUSK

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:23


Oh how I wish I could tell you the new horror (I say that lightly since technically, this could be comedy) film TUSK, directed by none other than Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy) himself, was good. I wish I could tell you that it lived-up to the incredibly high expectations I had for it since I kept hearing such positive buzz about it prior to the film’s release. I wish I could tell you that it left a positive impression on me and made me erase my memory of the time back in 1998 when Smith refused to sign a movie poster for me when he came to talk at UCF. But unfortunately, I can tell you none of these. What I can tell you is that TUSK is hands-down one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It is a failure of a motion picture of epic proportions. To be fair, there are a few bright spots here and there. Let’s get those out of the way first–Michael Parks, who plays the insane villain Howard Howe, is excellent. His acting is on-point and comes off effectively well. The scenes he is featured in are great. I absolutely adored his crazy character, all the way up until the final climactic scene put the final nail in the film’s stupidity (well maybe not the final nail, I’ll save that distinction for the actual final scene of the movie). Johnny Depp performs his role as an offbeat inspector quite well too; unfortunately, his character provides a great contribution to the reason why the movie fails. Justin Long is also good in the scenes where he’s “human.” But the movie’s ultimate schizophrenic “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” makes him a significant contributor to its demise. So, now that we’ve gotten the good out of the way, let’s talk about the bad. And there’s plenty of that to go around;  but the failure of the movie ultimately falls into the lap of director Smith who also takes the blame for the movie’s totally incompetent script.

The story in a nutshell centers around a guy who is taken hostage by a loon who wants to turn him into a walrus. Strange concept for a movie, right? But hold on–this has somewhat been done effectively in the past with recent body mutilation-creature films The Human Centipede and The Human Centipede II. The over-the top craziness of those films made them fun and enjoyable; but due to a constant need to inject the incessant scenes that I suppose are designed to remind us just how hipster and cool Smith and his characters are,  TUSK is unable to duplicate. A great case in point is a scene where the main character (Wallace) asks convenient store attendants for directions. His communication with them, their interactions with him, and his decision to use a complete stranger’s back to write said directions down add such an unbelievable tone that what is intended to be funny comes off as unbelievable and stupid. Depp’s over-the-top inspector is written to be essentially borderline mentally-retarded rather than eccentric; and his scenes, which are intended to be comedic, mostly come off as way too long, monotonous, and just plain silly. An unnecessary subplot regarding duplicitous relationships, completely inconsistent scoring (folksy rock music is immediately replaced by the familiar foreboding strings, for example) lack of any real gore, and poor special effect costuming help seal the deal on TUSK as really just plain bad. Smith can do horror. His Red State was disturbing and surreal.

But his attempts in TUSK fail. The film could’ve been greatly improved by focusing on the suspense and horrific aspects of the plot. Although the story of TUSK is not a plausible one, the terror we all fear of being kidnapped against our wills, having significant psychological and physical pain inflicted on us, and having our bodies mutilated by a psychopath hellbent on his insane convictions, is a palpable one. Any ichthyologist will tell you that the story line of Steven Speilberg’s masterpiece JAWS is implausible. But that didn’t stop millions (myself included) of developing a major phobia that caused them to spend the rest of their lives avoiding the ocean. Imagine if Speilberg ruined JAWS by injecting ridiculous “humor” that only a diehard fan of his work would appreciate and decided to dilute the terrifying elements of the story with quirky, inappropriate, and completely unrealistic (try writing directions down on my back and see what color your eye is after your attempt) scenes? No need to imagine. If you want to see a film ruined by its masters self-insertion and pandering, look no further than TUSK. TUSK released nationally on Friday from A24 and Demarest Films and is rated R for adult language, violence, gore, and an extended scene of sexuality. Watch the trailer for the film below:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Movie Review: Jersey Boys

Filed under: Film and Entertainment,Movie and Entertainment,Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:24


The film adaptation of the smash Broadway hit Jersey Boys, based on the rise of the 1950’s music group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, was released on Friday.  Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film gets the opportunity to explore areas that get overlooked in its stage version; but it loses some of the emotional pull the stage show provides so amazingly well. When the film works, it works really well. The acting is superb. John Lloyd Young, who won the Tony Award for his origination of the role of Frankie Valli on Broadway, delivers a commanding performance and seems to have been born to play the iconic singer. Vincent Piazza, who most recently played the recurring role of Lucky Luciano on HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire, plays the sleazy money embezzler TonyDeVito, who although proves he is a back-stabbing friend of low morals, also plays the lovability of the character well when it’s called for. The other members of The Four Seasons, Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) support their scenes well. The overall cast, punctuated by Christopher Walken as the group’s mafia-associated ally Gyp DeCarlo and Mike Doyle as their flamboyant and over-the-top producer Bob Crewe, is excellent. But for the wonderful performances the movie gives us, unfortunately, there are critical areas where the film falls short. One of my biggest complaints about the film is its cinematography. Simply put, it’s just not good. Eastwood should’ve paid a lot more attention to how some of the scenes were executed.

One scene towards the middle of the film shows The Four Seasons riding in two sets of automobiles as they transverse the country on tour. The scenes are so obviously shot on a green screen, it is embarrassing. The music also has some problems. While most of the songs sound great, obvious lip-synching during live performances threatens the authenticity of the scenes. And while the struggle between Crewe, Gaudio, and Valli’s record label tyrant to buy into his different sounding single “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is effectively depicted, when the song is finally performed, Eastwood allows the brass section to completely overpower their recurring interlude, making the tune shrill. This is done to emphasize a point in the plot about Valli’s dream to have a horn line in one of his songs. But Eastwood allowed the song to be ruined in the process. The tragedy that occurs in Valli’s life, his failed marriage, and inability to secure intimacy with a partner is expanded upon in the movie nicely. But the ending of the movie, which actually appears to have been inspired by the post-curtain performance given by the cast of the stage show, comes off as ridiculous, silly, and completely inappropriate.  If this review is starting to sound like a roller coaster going up and down, that’s because the quality of the movie mimics that very motion. There are scenes in Jersey Boys that are unbelievably effective and moving. But unfortunately, those moments are not sustained throughout; and too many bad directing errors coupled with horrific cinematography dooms the film to the doldrums of mediocrity that recent Broadway musical-turned motion picture productions (eg. Les Miserables) have been able to avoid quite successfully. Jersey Boys, released by Warner Brothers Pictures, is rated R for explicit language throughout.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jeremy Jordan Nails “Let It Go” From Disney’s Frozen

Filed under: Film and Entertainment,Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 22:14

Jeremy Jordan (SMASH, NEWSIES) nailed his performance of “Let It Go” from Disney’s hit movie Frozen this week at the MCC Theater Miscast Gala . Frozen also went on to be the highest grossing animated film of all time this week. Check out Jordan’s awesome performance of the song below:

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Comedy Date and Switch Looks to be Fun and Warm-Hearted

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:00


The upcoming movie Date and Switch looks to be a promising teen-comedy about two best friends who’s friendship goes through a major evolution when one comes out as a “gay dude” to the other. The film will be released limitedly on Valentine’s Day from Lionsgate Pictures and will be available on-demand that day as well. Take a look at the trailer for the film below:

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