Clellie Lynch: Golden Owlets of 2020

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EAST CHATHAM, N.Y. — February! That time of year when the entire creative, film-watching birdworld turns to the Avian Academy (AA) to see who will win a coveted Golden Owlet. Any film, even the smallest peep of animation to the widest sweeping epic, comes to fruition only through the cooperation of many many birds, species that specialize in acting, directing, writing. Not only do great films rely on these arts, but also think of the visuals. Where would any film be without the costumes, the sets, the special effects, the background music? Every category deserves a winner.

No film reaches the golden screen without a flock of preening producers. Now the powers that be in Hollybush have stiff-winged competition from the streaming services who have so much money they can produce their own films with the best and the brightest. With the click of a button (well, often clicks of a number of buttons), the two major companies Nestflix and Primary (feathers) can fly films directly into your nest for your viewing pleasure.

Sometimes a film will be shown on Nestflix before being released to the movie theaters! Do big birds really need big screens? Will this have an affect on what kinds of films will be nominated in the future? Will this give greater airing to smaller and independent films? Will more female flyers wrap their talons around Owlets? Time will tell.

This week, brilliant and beautiful birds are packing bags with feathery fripperies, spangled fineries and already written speeches and winging their way to Hollybush, the center of the avian film industry with hopes of bringing home that sleek, shiny ornithological oscar, an Owlet.


Once again this year's crop of flighty and formidable films, some from major motion picture companies, some from Nestflix and other smaller companies, reflects the current cultural atmosphere of feathery nesters everywhere. There are films that address social issues such as "Freeloaders," "Dark Waterways;" those that involve the #birdtoo movement: "Brokenshell;" family dramas: "Little Fledglings," "The Breeding Story;" biopics, "Rocketrobin," "Jay-dy," "Harrier" (Tubman); imaginative alternative histories: "JoJo Pipit," "Once upon a Time in Hollybush." and alas all too many flicks that show how violence has pervaded the winged world: "The Irredeemable Irisher," "Uncut Gravel," "Harlequin."

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"Little Fledglings" is taken from the 19th-century classic of the same name by Louisa May Alcid. Though the book has been made into film a number of times, this one, directed by Greta Goldfinch, is beautifully filmed and focuses on the strictures on and ambitions of female fledglings in the day. The four Marsh birdies — Jo, Amy, Beth and Meg — learn from their Marmee and other female relatives. Will Jo Marsh become the writer she wants to be? Will Marmee Marsh stop being angry? Will this film be honored as Best Flick? And why wasn't Greta nominated for Best Director?

The "Irredeemable Irisher" is also taken from a book, one about an aging hit bird who, in telling his story to the author, admits to multiple murders over the years including that of the Union Boss, Jimmy Hoffa. Frank Shrike is a real mobster, but did he tell the truth? Does he, as he becomes more bird brained, even know what the truth is? This film is superbly directed by Martin Scorsese and stars the amazing trio Italian rooks, the always wry and effective Robin DiNiro, the formidable Al Parula and, in a comeback, Jay Pewee. A lengthly unraveling from Shrike's fierce fledgling through his addled old age.

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"Dark Waterways" is the tale of a corporate defense legaleagle, played by Mark Ruff, who, disgusted with the cover-up of a corporation burying highly toxic leavings in his Grandma's home town, takes the case — to defend the affected avians, not the money-hungry company. And avians are affected: Mama birds cannot produce viable eggs; cancers in the neighbirdhood are rife. Ruff spends more than 15 years to get the company to take responsibility for all the damage and loss they caused. A sorry tale that is often repeated. Corporations are not avians and will never be!

"Freeloaders" is a film direct from Korea about a poor, struggling family of parasitic cowbirds that insinuate themselves into the lives and into the large, streamlined birdhouse of a well-to-do middle class and classy family. From a small, filthy, twig-ridden apartment nest in the poorest of shrubby neighbirdhoods does this family, one by one and with unmitigated glee, move into and take over the lives of the wealthy. Be warned — this does not end well!


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We all know of the tragic life of Jay-dy Garland, but in "Jay-dy," a slice of her life, we see how difficult her chick days were and even with her wonderful warbling how difficult it was to stay ahead of the game. Here her comeback in England is intricately interwoven with another bad marriage. Amazingly the actress, Ms. Zell Winger, looks like her and even sings like her. No voice overs for Zell! Will Zell Winger win for best actress? The make-up and hairstyle should be a fly in, but then again the competition is stiff.

A surprising nominee for Best Flick, "Finch vs Falcone" is the competitive story of two companies, one American, the other Italian, in search of the fastest flying contraption. Lots of eager engineering and building and rebuilding, lots of scenes of the fearless driven flyers in search of speed.

A not-surprising nominee for Best Flick — and for many other categories — is "Harlequin," the story of very disturbed duck a failed clown, a failed stand-up comic, a failed just about everything. This is the backstory of Batman's nemesis and it's not a pretty one. Granted the acting by Jackdaw Phoenix and the flamboyant costuming of him as an unfunny harlequin are very well done, but ultimately this is yet another violent comic book film.

Come Sunday, Hollybush will be a'glitter with finches and flycatchers, herons and hawks, robins and razorbills all with feathers preened and puffed to obscure any anxiety and angst. May the best birds win!

Clellie Lynch is a regular Eagle contributor.


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