Archive for the Sports Category

Big George Foreman

Posted in Biography, Drama, Sports with tags on May 1, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

One of the most extraordinary developments in boxing history is when George Foreman, age 45, became the oldest heavyweight champion when he defeated 26-year-old Michael Moorer in the 10th round in Las Vegas on November 5, 1994. That event would have been enough to warrant a biopic…but there’s so much more.

What makes this a compelling sports drama is the man at the heart of this true tale. Living in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Foreman came from absolute poverty. Underestimated, he had to control his anger throughout a difficult childhood. After dropping out of high school, he joined the Jobs Corps work program, which assisted young adults in need. Actor Khris Davis (Judas and the Black Messiah) portrays the titular subject as an adult through the various stages of his career. Davis turns in a solid performance. Foreman would meet Doc Broadus (Forest Whitaker) in the Jobs Corps. There he discovered and encouraged Foreman’s talent for boxing. Broadus would become both trainer and mentor. Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) is particularly engaging as the legendary trainer. Together the actors effectively evoke their close bond.

The ups and downs of George Foreman’s life are tailor-made for a biopic. You barely have to tinker with the details because the facts are inherently interesting. He achieved the gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. From there, he won his first 37 professional matches, 34 by knockout, then famously faced Joe Frazier and defeated him by KO. The boxer was crowned heavyweight champ. However, Foreman would lose in 1974 in Zaire to then-underdog Muhammad Ali in the storied “Rumble in the Jungle.” A few years later, he retired from boxing, became an ordained minister, and founded a youth center. I could go on. The accomplishments grow more incredible.

The saga moves from one episode to another with little drama or conflict. Director George Tillman, Jr. (The Hate U Give) reverently presents the various highlights of Foreman’s life in a celebratory manner. (The star athlete is an executive producer.) The movie is traditional and episodic. Yet his story is so uplifting and sweet (like the man himself) that it’s hard to dislike. His smiling demeanor has sold over 100 million units of the George Foreman Grill since 1994. There’s a reason for that. I recommend this inspiring portrait to fans of the champion.



Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on April 10, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The NBA’s official profile of the Chicago Bulls legend begins, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” So it’s a testament to his all-consuming legacy that the movie Air is about a Nike salesman and his desire to sign Michael Jordan so they could market a shoe that nears his name. Of course, I’m talking about the Air Jordan, a global phenomenon first released to the public on April 1, 1985. The sneaker would not only transform the company but also change the industry in the way advertising contracts with sports stars are written.

Air is not a Michael Jordan biopic — though the chronicle tangentially concerns the champion. His presence is deemphasized to focus on the various corporate creatives involved. Our story here is constructed around Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, who works for Nike and is willing to bet their entire budget and his career on the basketball player. The rookie had played for North Carolina in college and was now entering the NBA. In this case, the concept will be different. The man is not simply going to advertise an already existing sneaker. Nike will create a shoe that bears Michael Jordan’s name because he inspired it. Ben Affleck not only directs but also has a supporting role as Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. The ensemble of business executives also includes Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, and Chris Tucker.

Nike looms large over the athletic footwear world. It’s hard to believe now, but back in 1984, the company was struggling. It was a distant third to Adidas and Converse. Both had more cachet. In fact, Michael Jordan wore Converse while playing for the University of North Carolina. So the drama comes from Nike being so much smaller than its competitors at the time. Persuading him to sign with them over another athletic brand would take significant effort. This also involves talking to his parents. Actress Viola Davis has a memorable part playing his mom. At one point, Sonny says, “A shoe is just a shoe,” and Mrs. Jordan replies, “Until my son steps into it.”

Air is an entertaining record about the most successful athlete-endorsement deal in history. It also would have lasting repercussions on how these agreements were structured and written. The account benefits from an intelligent screenplay by Alex Convery. Ben Affleck’s fable relentlessly mines period detail to accentuate the spirit of the 1980s. The opening intro is an amusing montage of cliches. A soundtrack of catchy scene-specific needle drops plays nonstop throughout. Anyone who needs clarification on how this turns out hasn’t been a resident of planet Earth for the past four decades. Sure, it’s predictable, but that’s not the saga’s strength. It’s a feel-good tale about people who excel at what they do. A surprisingly old-fashioned approach in 2023, but in the best possible way. Do you still need convincing to see this movie? Just do it.



Posted in Comedy, Drama, Sports with tags on March 30, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sports movies are prone to a certain predictability. When a grumpy coach eventually appreciates a rag-tag team of misfits after he leads them to excel, we can hardly be surprised. The Bad News Bears or The Mighty Ducks are but two of many cinematic examples. However, the inevitable success rewards viewers with that emotionally satisfying arc we crave. Champions is a touching drama tinged with comedy. It won me over despite its lack of sophistication. Simplicity is part of its charm.

Woody Harrelson stars as Marcus, a minor-league basketball coach who gets arrested for drunk driving. His sentence is to manage a squad of players with intellectual disabilities as community service. “The Friends” will teach him a valuable lesson along the way. A disorganized group learns how to perform better while the instructor grows to understand these individuals are more than just their athletic skills. The situation is admittedly manipulative, but the results are uplifting nonetheless.

Champions is fortified by a spirited cast. The Friends are a ten-player team that includes an assemblage of captivating personalities. All the athletes contribute significantly with various stories. For example, Darius (Joshua Felder) refuses to play for Marcus. His reasons will be revealed. Actress Madison Tevlin is a scene stealer as Cosentino. Rounding out the ensemble are Ernie Hudson as the boss who fires Marcus, Kaitlin Olson as a sassy love interest, Matt Cook as Marcus’ assistant, and Cheech Marin as the manager of the rec center where the Friends practice. It’s all of these interactions that elevate the narrative into a compelling account.

The screenplay by Mark Rizzo is based on the 2018 Spanish film Campeones. That Goya winning production was inspired by a real-life Special Olympics team from Valencia, Spain, which won twelve championships. Directed by Bobby Farrelly in his solo directorial debut. The filmmaker is half of the Farrelly brothers, who — together with his brother Peter — directed classic comedies like Dumb and Dumber & There’s Something About Mary. Bobby’s movie Champions is more virtuous and less crude. Incidentally, his sibling Peter hit it big in 2018 with Best Picture winner Green Book.

A saga can be made up of cliched elements, but it’s how those details are presented that ultimately win you over. I was skeptical about the setup, but I found myself embracing the tenderness and warmth of this chronicle. Even though the developments are formulaic, the story is genial and compassionate. Champions is unabashedly sweet. A great pizza may be composed of tried and true ingredients, but it still consistently satisfies my cravings. Likewise, so too does a good sports comedy with a lot of heart.


Creed III

Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on March 4, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In this continuation, Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been retired for three years. He’s living a life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills. His singer-songwriter wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) is a hotshot music producer. Together they are raising their young daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), who was born deaf. Donnie runs his gym Delphi Boxing Academy and trains his protégé, world champion Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.). Out of the past emerges a childhood friend named Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors). Dame was an aspiring boxer. However, a shared indiscretion in their youth saw Dame locked up in prison for 18 years (he had a prior criminal record). Donnie managed to run away and escape punishment. Now released, Dame expresses his dream of a title shot against the world champion. Plus, he feels his friend owes him one. Donnie refuses at first. Then guilt weighs on him, so he gives in. Dame and Chavez go at it in the ring. Now, what are the odds that the former friends will eventually go toe to toe too?

Creed III is still part of the Rocky franchise. In that sense, this is Rocky 9 or Rocky IX if using the traditional nomenclature. However, actor Sylvester Stallone is nowhere to be found for the first time. His absence is never explained. Although he is alluded to when Dame says to Donnie, “If Apollo Creed can take a chance on some underdog, why can’t you?” Dame is a menacing presence, and as portrayed by Jonathan Majors, he is a suitable villain with experiences that serves this narrative well.

There’s tension between the two sides. You have this raw individual fresh out of jail hungry for glory vs. a wealthy and famous success thriving in contented prosperity. Clubber Lang, er uh, I mean Dame, taunts that his buddy has gone soft and is a coward. The setup bears more than a passing resemblance to Rocky III. The account even includes the death of a beloved figure and yet another training montage. The screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin won’t win any awards for innovation.

But I’ll defend the picture. You don’t come to these movies for originality. It’s about personalities. There’s enough dramatic weight to these interactions to hold our interest. A cloud of vengeance hangs over Creed III. The screenplay frames fighting as a double-edged sword that can infect your being or turn you into a celebrity. Dame believes Donnie was handed the life that was meant for him. That anger fuels a rage that has morphed into a boxer out for revenge. He’s clearly gone down a very dark path.

I was absorbed by their history together. Michael B. Jordan — making his directorial debut — and Jonathan Majors are compelling entertainers that sell these stock characters. That’s so key in a story like this. There are several subplots. Donnie and Bianca’s daughter Amara is developing a thirst for fighting. The child smacks a classmate right in the face for ripping her artwork. Amara’s parents argue over how to channel this desire. I spy a future reboot entitled Amara Creed on the horizon. More importantly, the brawls deliver. The climatic tournament at Dodger Stadium is a visual display of pugilistic prowess. At one point, the audience disappears, and it’s just two boxers alone, one-on-one, in the ring. The bout is exceptionally well choreographed. And ultimately, this is why you come to a boxing movie.



Posted in Comedy, Drama, Sports with tags on June 23, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Adam Sandler has two personas. There’s the comedian that does lightweight comedies like The Ridiculous 6, The Wrong Missy, and Hubie Halloween. Then there’s the thespian that does serious output like The Meyerowitz Stories and Uncut Gems. Hustle is from the latter category. Back in January of 2020, Netflix extended Sandler’s $275 million production deal to an additional four movies. The streaming service proclaimed that viewers spent 2 billion hours watching his films. There’s no question he’s still a popular star. His latest debuted on June 8. Over two weeks later, it’s still in the Top 5.

Hustle is a rather amiable sports drama about Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler), a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. He lives life on the road, trying to discover the next basketball star. Being away can negatively impact his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and daughter Alex (Jordan Hull). Yet they also pitch in to help when needed. Things change for the better when Stanley discovers a talented phenom in Spain named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez). The saga revolves around Stanley’s attempt to prepare him for the NBA draft.

Adam Sandler’s enthusiasm for professional basketball shows. He’s in dynamic mode. The actor gives a warm, human performance as the beleaguered scout. He engages our sympathies, and you genuinely want to root for the guy. Sandler has excellent chemistry with a newcomer to acting. Juancho Hernangómez is a relative unknown in the NBA. Juancho may lack acting confidence during the dramatic scenes, but that quality works for this character. He’s supposed to be naive and unsure of himself in this world. There is a sincerity about him and Juancho is convincing as someone who can play basketball really well.

Hustle is not going to win any awards for storytelling. It’s a formulaic offering in the world of traditional sports tales, but it does have a lot of heart. The movie has various predictable obstacles they must face. Stanley butts heads with the owner of the 76ers, portrayed by Ben Foster. Meanwhile, Bo Cruz is taunted by a fellow prospect — also realized by a professional athlete named Anthony Edwards. Bo needs to learn to keep his emotions in check to succeed in the game. The account feels authentic as it has plenty of basketball action and is filled with cameos of athletes and notables from the NBA. This is such a winning presentation. As a crowd-pleaser embraced by audiences and critics alike, Hustle is a slam dunk.


American Underdog

Posted in Biography, Drama, Sports with tags on February 3, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Pride of the Yankees, Hoosiers, Miracle…in the genre of sports movies, they don’t get more inspirational than American Underdog. The biographical sports film is about National Football League quarterback Kurt Warner who became a superstar with the St. Louis Rams. How a decent, hardworking guy went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to becoming NFL two-time MVP couldn’t be a more unbelievable fable if you created it out of whole cloth. That’s what makes this saga so captivating. Sometimes nice guys don’t finish last.

The account details an unlikely rise to the top. The future NFL Hall of Famer initially plays for the University of Northern Iowa. Kurt is a talented player, but he’s often sidelined on the bench because he defies his coach Terry Allen (Adam Baldwin). Kurt moves “outside the pocket” when the defense attacks. Following his fifth year of college, he goes undrafted in 1994. The Green Bay Packers cut him before the regular season. Then Jim Foster (Bruce McGill) offers him a position on the Iowa Barnstormers of the significantly smaller Arena Football League. Kurt would much rather play for the NFL, but he takes the job just to make ends meet. He would play for them for three seasons. Then he catches the attention of the St. Louis Rams in 1998. The rest is history.

At the heart of American Underdog is a portrait of the man himself. Actor Zachary Levi physically embodies the broad-shouldered, handsome athlete but with the genteel humility of a sweet good-natured fellow guided by an enduring faith in Jesus Christ. This is the sixth feature directed by the Erwin Brothers. Andrew and Jon have specialized in films influenced by their Christian beliefs (I Can Only Imagine). Yet this uplifting tale (based on Warner and Michael Silver’s book All Things Possible) is a universal one. It should appeal to anyone who simply enjoys a feel-good experience. I mean the title should clue you in. This is about someone who triumphs over the odds. The reliance on hope and optimism is de rigueur for sports biopics, but his path to the NFL is anything but predictable.

This tale is uniquely more about the man himself than what he accomplished on the football field. Oh, there’s plenty of gameplay action in the second half once he signs with the Rams. His interactions with head coach Dick Vermeil (Dennis Quaid) are particularly supportive. However, his courtship of future wife Brenda Meoni (Anna Paquin) is the foundation of this chronicle. Brenda is a single mother with two kids — including Zack, who is legally blind. In one memorable scene, he walks three miles to her house just to get her number. He instantly bonds with her son in an impulsive but touching moment. Through it all, Kurt has an unfailing devotion to football but also the woman he loves guided by his strong beliefs. His affable charm is hard to resist and so is the movie.


King Richard

Posted in Biography, Drama, Sports on December 9, 2021 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You’d think a sports biopic about tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams would frame them as the stars. That’s what makes King Richard so radical. The chronicle centers on their father and how he raised them to be champions. But the surprises don’t stop there. This is an engaging portrait of a difficult, even irascible man. He can be downright aggravating. Fiercely controlling, his choices occasionally hinder their advancement in the tennis world. However, the love and devotion he holds for his daughters are never in doubt. He’s a flawed hero.

As the title would suggest, Richard Williams is the centerpiece. He is a self-taught coach with a 78-page blueprint for his daughter’s success. He and his wife have raised their daughters since birth to excel. Venus’ (Saniyya Sidney) early rise takes the spotlight in the 2nd half. Serena’s (Demi Singleton) talent is somewhat less conspicuous by comparison. We know that would change. The drama features another career-defining performance from Will Smith. He’s been acting for three decades. We know he’s a good actor, but it’s nice to be reminded. I haven’t seen him disappear into a role so convincingly since The Pursuit of Happyness where he also portrayed a dedicated father. He received an Oscar nomination for that part, and it’s all but a foregone conclusion he will receive another.

As you can appreciate, he is a demanding authoritarian — an overly protective father if you will. There’s an inherent understanding of the racial dynamics. He must be this way, although the script rarely makes an explicit point of it. It’s 1995 and 14-year-old Venus Williams is being interviewed shortly after she turns professional. She emanates determination over her next opponent. Venus affirms, “I know I can beat her.” The reporter is incredulous, taken aback by her brazen courage. “You say it so easily,” he presses, “why?” Richard promptly interrupts the conference. He doesn’t want his daughter’s confidence diminished. His angry outburst tells us so much. The confrontation happened exactly the same in real life. I’ve seen the original video.

If anyone can stand up to his strong temperament, it’s his wife Oracene Price. Actress Aunjanue Ellis embodies the woman that radiates steely resolve. Oracene — who goes by Brandy — is a force of nature herself. At least one passionate outburst unleashed on her husband comes from years of frustration. “I stay here because of my girls,” she attests. “I stay here because I answer to something higher than Richard Williams. Because if I was staying here for you, I would have been gone a long time ago.” The declaration is so powerful I thought, “There’s your Oscar clip.” Brandy is a captivating individual. She has three daughters from a previous marriage and is a talented trainer in her own right. Also worthy of mention is Jon Bernthal as coach Rick Macci. His sweetly comic personality lightens the narrative. He is amusing and understandably exasperated by Richard’s somewhat bullying behavior.

The story of two black girls from Compton, California who became legendary tennis icons is an anomaly so compelling it demands a movie, more than one. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men) working from a screenplay by first-time screenwriter Zach Baylin, takes a specific section of their lives and details it brilliantly. The account is such a family-friendly flick, a wholesome audience-pleasing sentiment. King Richard entertains with fascinating characters and allows their mission to drive the feel-good narrative. It’s gratifying to see an uplifting — if simplified — idea promoted that hard work and perseverance pay off. Although I still contend that even if I practiced 24/7 during my teenaged life, I would have never achieved the level of athletic achievement that these girls did. Ah, but the story made me believe that I could.


Space Jam: A New Legacy

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Sports with tags on July 18, 2021 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Space Jam starred Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Now 25 years later, Space Jam: A New Legacy stars Bugs Bunny and LeBron James. LeBron was 11 years old back in 1996 when the original came out. He was the perfect age for that movie…and this one.

While the first film was pretty zany, it’s downright calm and composed compared to this sequel. The villain here is Don Cheadle as Al-G Rhythm — a play on the word “algorithm.” The pun is appropriate because he’s the artificial intelligence inside the Warner Brothers computer server. Al-G is angry that LeBron James doesn’t respond well to his movie deal idea. In retaliation, Al-G kidnaps LeBron and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) into his virtual reality. Then he has them each play on opposite sides of a computer simulation of a basketball game that includes the Looney Tunes on one side and the Goon Squad on the other. Confused? Welcome to the club.

The high point occurs about 30 minutes in when LeBron is sent to Tune World to round up a team. There he becomes a 2D cartoon version of himself. He meets Bugs Bunny and he’s flattered to find out the rabbit knows who he is. That’s amusing. So are their introductory moments that recall Bugs’ famous shorts. Ultimately they travel to different worlds based on Warner Bros properties to assemble a team of Looney Tunes (Lola Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig, Wile E Coyote, Road Runner, Speedy Gonzales, Daffy Duck, Taz, Elmer Fudd, Granny, Marvin the Martian, Tweety Bird, Gossamer, Sylvester, and Foghorn Leghorn). Yeah, there’s a lot of characters. Ah but we’re just getting started.

The 2D animation is indeed charming, but the feeling is short-lived. Just before the tournament begins, Al-G declares it’s time for an upgrade and turns everyone into 3D CGI versions of themselves. LeBron goes back to being himself. Then their opponents — the aforementioned Goon Squad — are introduced. They’re genetic mutations of players from the NBA and WNBA with special superpowers. There’s the Brow (Anthony Davis), Chronos (Damian Lillard), Wet-Fire (Klay Thompson), Arachnneka (Nneka Ogwumike), and White Mamba (Diana Taurasi). The spectacle grows even more incoherent.

The story is rather simple when you distill it down to its bare essence. The byzantine machinations are merely an excuse to have a big showdown on the basketball court. The thing is, this isn’t basketball. It’s a computerized imitation of the sport, so none of the rules apply. There is a court and occasionally someone dribbles an inflated rubber object, but that is where the similarities end. The battle is so chaotic and bizarre with the flying and the CGI and video game manipulations my eyes didn’t know where to look.

Also vying for your attention are the spectators watching the competition. Director Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School) is working from a screenplay credited to a whopping SIX writers. I’d be willing to wager there were even more given the complete disarray of ideas. They’ve decided to highlight a huge crowd made up of characters from the movies of Warner Brothers past. You’ll see Batman, The Mask, the Wicked Witch of the West & a flying monkey from The Wizard of Oz, Pennywise the clown from It, and hundreds of other properties that they own — but without context or emotion. It feels like a piece of corporate product designed to advertise their vast array of entertainment choices. Additionally, you’re constantly seeing these people in the background, so the bystanders take focus away from the central event. Even the violent gang from A Clockwork Orange in their bowler hats is enjoying the match. I’m so glad they were, because I wasn’t.

Last week, The Onion — the satirical online website — published an article: “6-Year-Old Debating Whether To See ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy Following Negative ‘New York Times’ Review.” Hilarious and I get it. This movie certainly wasn’t made for me. If you have kids under 12 they might enjoy all the silliness. It is colorful.


The Way Back

Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on May 22, 2020 by Mark Hobin

way_back_ver2STARS3In 2010 there was a release called The Way Back about a POW who walked 4,000 miles to freedom during WWII.  The Way Way Back was a 2013 coming-of-age comedy with Steve Carell.  Now comes this 2020 athletic drama starring Ben Affleck.  The oft used title is as generic as this feature.  I’ll concede this isn’t a bad flick.  The chronicle is fitfully entertaining.  As part of a long hallowed tradition of sports movies, many rely on a standard blueprint to tell a story.  This is no different.  It employs a familiar narrative with a corny redemption arc.  Only a newborn or an alien from another planet unaccustomed with the concept of cinema would find this plot inventive.  Yet, this is well-acted and emotionally compelling in parts so I wasn’t immune to its charms.

I’m not going to pretend that the saga isn’t a hackneyed setup for a sports tale.  It is.  Jack Cunningham is a construction worker and an alcoholic.  His glory days are long behind him.  Once the star player on his high school basketball team, he is being recruited as the head coach at that very same high school.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs since Jack attended.  A messy divorce and addictive behaviors are a major part of Jack Cunningham’s existence.  It’s to the film’s credit that the screenplay is careful not to elevate basketball as the be-all and end-all remedy of the ails from which the protagonist suffers.  Although coaching basketball gives him something to do, his issues run deeper.

Ben Affleck is the MVP of this production.  It’s hard to ignore that the troubles of the actor himself unfolded upon a public stage.  The fact that his real-world experience may have overlapped here and there with the character he plays is key.  He delivers a poignant performance.  Having an intimate understanding of those weaknesses first-hand needn’t be a prerequisite for an actor to play an individual with the same qualities.  Nevertheless, it probably doesn’t hurt.  The part gives Affleck a distinct advantage.  Luckily he is more than up to the task as he exemplifies Jack.  The role feels lived in and honest.  That lays the groundwork into propelling this conventional fable into something that I ultimately embraced.


2020 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 1 of 3)

Posted in Animation, Awards, Drama, Sports with tags on February 6, 2020 by Mark Hobin

ShortsTV continues to make all three of the Oscar-nominated short film programs (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences around the world. To find out where you can watch this year’s Oscar-Nominated Short Films, visit their Theatrical Release and On Demand pages.


Regardless of how expected the rest of the Oscar races are, the shorts programs have always been the most difficult category in which to predict a winner.  They make forecasting interesting.

With the exception of Kitbull, this year’s selections all have to do with familial relationships but even that short is essentially about the connection that forms a family. They have all been carefully constructed to make you tear up — with either joy or sadness — in some way.

As I do every year, I’ve reviewed and ranked them from my preferred champion to my least favorite.  The results will be announced at the Academy Awards on February 9th.


Hair Love
USA/7 MINS/2019
Directors: Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr., Bruce W. Smith
hair love
A young black girl is desperately trying to style her hair for a special occasion. She consults an online tutorial video for help but is unsuccessful. She then asks her father for help. This warm depiction highlights a loving bond between father and daughter. But where is the mother? That’s the poignant ending to this heartfelt account.


USA/9 MINS/2019
Director: Rosana Sullivan
Appealing feature about a cat and a pit bull and the unlikely attachment that develops between them. This was produced by Pixar Animation Studios under their SparkShorts umbrella which gives employees the autonomy to create their own independent films. The characters are quite simply drawn, almost abstract, but the movement is spot on. The way the kitten moves is surprisingly realistic. The story adds depressing elements but it’s quite engaging.


Director: Siqi Song
A man reflects back on his childhood memories of growing up with his little sister in China in the 1990s.  She is a constant annoyance to him.  This stop motion entry (there’s 3 this year) appears to be a rather simplistic tale at first.  A haunting reveal ends things on a very serious note.  It has a point and it effectively makes it.  This stayed with me.


Director: Bruno Collet
A painterly representation of one man’s descent into dementia.  The stop motion is an artistic manipulation of post-impressionism.  The characters look like living portraits by Van Gogh, Picasso, and other masters.  It holds an undeniably hypnotic quality that verges on calculated preciousness.  Alzheimer’s disease was the theme of last year’s Late Afternoon.  Do I sense the beginning of a trend?


Director: Daria Kashcheeva
This wordless recollection details the strained relationship between a young woman and her father.   The abundance of silence doesn’t help this obtuse chronicle.  The animation is stop-motion but then a handheld camera is used to heighten the movement so hey that’s different.  However, the pointless grudge this woman held her entire life could have been easily solved with a simple conversation.  Try talking to your father.  Narratively frustrating.