Lorena

The docu-series “Lorena” covers the story of Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt in a way that isn’t overly sensationalized.

A collection of reviews of things you should watch. Or not watch.

Catching up with some Oscar nominees

I don’t see everything. In part because I don’t want to see everything and also because I’m busy shoveling snow.

But I’ve been catching up with a few of the Oscar nominees that I’ve missed, in both major and minor categories.

I finally watched the best animated feature nominee “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (B), which lacks the novelty of its predecessor, but is still quite canny for a kids movie. It has a few interesting things to say about gaming, the Internet, what it means to be a Disney princess. Its depiction of our overstimulated hellworld is at times disturbingly spot-on. The plot hinges on Ralph creating content that gets enough likes to save the day.

Playing at Bluffs 17, Regal, Westwood. Now available to purchase digitally.

* * *

I finally watched the best-actress nominee “The Wife” (C-), a dull and borderline dreadful film starring Glenn Close, and for which the seven-times-nominated actress will finally (probably) win her first Oscar Sunday night.

Close plays the wife of an acclaimed novelist (Jonathan Pryce) who’s just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. When the couple heads to Stockholm for him to receive his award, old secrets are revealed. People talk at length. Sometimes the camera moves.

Characters are poorly motivated. The big confrontations are absurd. Close is good here in the way she’s always good, but her winning the Oscar for such a stale exercise is an absolute crock. “The Wife” feels like a “Masterpiece Theatre” drama from the ’00s, one that rolled under the fridge several years back and was recently rediscovered to be dusted off and repackaged for those who like their movies nice and middlebrow.

Available to rent or purchase digitally.

* * *

I finally rewatched best picture nominee Bohemian Rhapsody” (D+). Still bad.

Available to rent or purchase digitally.

(Side note: Perhaps I’m being too negative here. How about an actual recommendation? There are three great best picture nominees called “A Star Is Born,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther.” They’re all available to stream or purchase digitally.)

* * *

I finally watched the best documentary feature nominee “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” (C-), which reviews had assured me was a bold and impressionistic portrait of black lives. To me, it played more like a loose and random assembly of footage accompanied with experimental music and pretentious intertitles (“What is the orbit of our dreaming?”).

The doc follows various African-Americans in Alabama’s Hale County, but without adhering to any particular narrative. We get a few stray moments of warm humanity here and there. But even at 76 minutes, this film feels interminable — a tedious testament to the mundane.

Available to rent on iTunes and Vudu.

(Side note 2: The best doc nominees “Minding the Gap,” “RBG” and “Free Solo” are also available online; the first two are streaming on Hulu; “Free Solo” is available to purchase digitally.)

* * *

And I finally watched the best documentary short nominee “A Night in the Garden” (B-), a seven-minute film comprised entirely of archival footage of a 1939 Nazi rally that filled Madison Square Garden. The footage is disturbing and enlightening, but director Marshall Curry turns up the horror-movie music too loud. We don’t need to be told how to feel about this. Nor do we need the parallels between then and now to be underlined.

Flaws aside, it achieves what good historical docs do: It makes us bear witness to the horrors and absurdities of the past.

The short is streaming on Vimeo.

Lorena Bobbitt returns

Our nostalgic dissection of ’90s tabloid news stories continues with the excellent “Lorena” (A), a four-part docu-miniseries about a man, a woman and a severed penis.

Like the sagas of O.J. and Tonya Harding, Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt’s sordid story ushered in the era of sensationalistic, 24-hour cable news coverage. Here was the crazy, salacious story to rule them all: wife gets revenge against abusive husband with the cut heard ’round the world.

Executive produced by Jordan Peele, “Lorena” offers a thorough rundown of the case itself, but gradually pivots to a much larger discussion about domestic and sexual assault against women — at the time, this show suggests, that part of the Bobbitt story got lost in all the jokes and punny headlines.

Slick and convincing, “Lorena” is TV at its most compulsively watchable. The fourth episode is especially fascinating, as it fills in the last 20-something years of Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt’s lives. She’s lived a quiet, dignified existence. His life since then — which included a short-lived porn career and botched penis-enlargement surgery — has played out as an absurd and distinctly American nightmare.

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Sign up for the Go newsletter

This complete guide of local music, movies, dining and entertainment will have you weekend ready.

Some people shouldn’t be parents

The true-crime doc “Abducted in Plain Sight” (C+) has an even stranger and more disturbing story than “Lorena,” but lacks the production values and storytelling skill. Still ... good lord, this movie.

It’s about Jan Broberg, who as a 12-year-old girl in 1974 was abducted twice by Robert Berchtold, the pedophile next door. Jan’s maddeningly stupid parents were each engaged in a sexual relationship with Berchtold throughout the ordeal and allowed the continual rape of their daughter to take place right under their noses.

The doc is full of twists and turns, a few of them jaw-droppers. But the film is too short. It feels like it’s rushing through all the horrors. The reenactments are cheap-looking. The interviews don’t dig deep enough.

With an extended running time and a better filmmaker at the helm, this could have been something more than the sum of its lurid details.

Streaming on Netflix

Noir, Denzel-style

The best thing about “Devil in a Blue Dress” (B+), Carl Franklin’s 1995 neo-noir, is that Denzel Washington’s just a regular guy — not a hardboiled gumshoe spouting fatalisms, but an average Joe looking to get enough money to pay his mortgage.

Washington plays Easy Rawlins, a recently fired war vet in 1948 Los Angeles. Tom Sizemore hires him to find a white lady (Jennifer Beals) who likes to hang around black clubs, but everyone knows you don’t accept a job offer from Tom Sizemore. Because how could that end well?

Shot by the great cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and featuring a delightfully unhinged early performance by Don Cheadle, this is an overlooked ’90s gem worth revisiting.

Playing Sunday and Wednesday at the Ruth Sokolof Theater.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.