StreetWise vendors give their hot takes on the year’s Oscar-nominated films

According to Chicago street paper StreetWise, one of its goals is to be entertaining while highlighting issues affecting its vendors and giving them a voice. Reviewing Oscar-nominated films has become an annual opportunity to give them a chance to tell their own story in a unique way. This year, a cast of 17 vendors weigh in on some of the films up for honours at the 92nd Academy Awards, which goes ahead this Sunday.

The StreetWise vendor judging panel

Pictured: A. Allen, Amos, Donald, Doctor Battlefield, Jay, Jeffrey, Kimberly, Lawrence, Robert, Russell, V.W.

Not pictured: Charlotte, Chris, Eugene, Phil, Reggie, Tam

WARNING: Some of the StreetWise vendor reviews may contain spoilers.


(nominated in six categories, including Best Picture and Best Director)

Charlotte: Parasite is a very good movie. I actually read reviews before I watched it, so I knew there was going to be a big plot twist. However, halfway through the movie, I thought that we had gotten to it. Yet, as the movie went on, I found that there were many more secrets within the movie. The ending of this film was a shocker, and I absolutely loved it.

Amos: This movie was interesting because it had a lot of twists and turns. But I don’t think that it was better than the twist in Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood. The director of Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, did an excellent job and the actors’ performances were something else. This film definitely deserves to win awards. I can see myself watching it again and I would it recommend to others.

Jay: This movie was good from start to finish. It kept me entertained the whole time. If I was able to, I would have gone to see it at the movie theatre or bought the DVD. This film is very deserving of awards. My favorite part was the storyline. I also really liked how the family assisted each other throughout the film. That’s what you have to do in society. It’s what all families should do today. We will get farther if we stop fighting one another and work together.

Parasite cast (L-R): Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Chang Hyae-jin, Park So-dam. [Image courtesy of NEON.]Joker

(nominated in 11 categories – the most of any competing film – including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Lead Role)

V.W.: I give this movie five thumbs up. It has a strong message about real life. It shows how life can become a dangerous situation for those who may be mentally unstable and are unable to receive treatment. The film showed him shift from being fixated on becoming an entertainer to being fixated on him standing his ground against those who wronged him. In the end, the Joker was in a place where he belonged.

Donald: The Joker is nothing to play with. The real punch line of Joker is “I will pull the trigger” and that’s what the whole thing is about. You don’t have to be afraid of him when he is Arthur Fleck, but when he is the Joker he is something to be afraid of. If this film wins anything, it is because the Joker is not a joke.

Robert: At first, I found the movie to be a little boring, but after seeing it all, I really like it. The Joker is doing all of this killing, and then you can really see that he has some mental issues that were left untreated. This shows that society does not pay a lot of attention to the mentally ill. This gives me a different perspective on how we treat people that are different from us. I strongly recommend this movie to everyone.

Chris: The movie was decent. Joaquin Phoenix played the character of the Joker very well. He deserves an award for his acting.

A. Allen: What I liked about this film was that it portrayed reality. It showed what happens when social services are cut. Mental health issues can’t go unnoticed. Before the services were cut, Arthur was fine. Once the services got cut, he was worse off than he was at the beginning of the film. These things actually happen today. I am hoping that this film wins an award. Joaquin Phoenix did an amazing job and deserves recognition.

Jeffrey: The movie was good and made a lot of connections with the Batman films. It gave me an understanding of why the Joker behaved in the violent ways he did. I think it will probably win some awards at the Oscars. It definitely deserves it.

Russell: It was a great movie, I really enjoyed it! It was better than I thought it was going to be. Of all the Jokers, he is the best one yet. He was still a little funny, and there wasn’t any Batman around to hold him back. He did his own thing. The whole time I was watching I didn’t know what to expect. I would recommend it, but I worry it may be too violent to get an Oscar. But it deserves to.

Kimberly: I thought this movie was very interesting. However, it was a little frightening. Arthur Fleck was doing his best, and I felt sorry for him when he couldn’t ever catch a break. Society corrupted Arthur and turned him into the Joker. I think this film might win Best Picture and Best Actor.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.]

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

(nominated in ten categories, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role)

Amos: This movie is definitely Oscar material. Quentin Tarantino is always on his game. Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction came to mind while watching this one as the style and violence was similar. I enjoyed the twist on the Sharon Tate story, and I think it has a real chance to win some Oscars. Specifically, I think Brad Pitt has a shot at Best Supporting Actor. He has come such a long way as an actor since his earlier work.

Jay: This movie was good overall, but the word I would use instead is interesting. It started off a little boring, to be honest. It really picked up for me after some time and redeemed itself in a big way. The ending is very high energy and had me on the edge of my seat. That ending does so much for this movie that I think it has the potential to win some awards once the Oscars roll around.

Robert: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood was a very good movie. In the beginning of the film, it was a little hard to follow, but as it went on it got better and better. I really enjoyed the depiction of the Manson family. The film featured the story of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Personally, this was very interesting to me because I have studied all of those cases before. As the movie goes on, it shows more and more stuff about Hollywood. Quentin Tarantino shows us the good, the bad, and the ugly. The end also had a twist that I was not expecting. I thought that the ending was going to show the murders of the Manson family, but when I saw how Tarantino decided to end the movie, I was seriously shocked. It definitely deserves to win Oscars. From the actors to the storyline of the film, all parts of this film deserve to win awards.

Brad Pitt (L) and Leonardo DiCaprio (R) in Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood. [Photo by Andrew Cooper]The Irishman

(nominated in ten categories, including a double inclusion in Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Al Pacino and Joe Pesci)

Lawrence: You can tell by the cast that it’ll be good, and it was an excellent movie. It got overly dramatic every once in a while but that’s expected, especially when you’re dealing with the mafia. I would see it again even though none of it related to me. I would recommend this picture to anyone! It deserves an Oscar for acting, directing, best picture, all of it!

Jay: This movie is worth the money it would have cost to go see it in the theatre. What I liked about the film was that it had so much action. I also was able to learn the truth about what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. When I was growing up, I always wondered what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. Now, I know what happened to him – he wasn’t giving in. He stood on what he stood on. The jealousy is still going on today.

Kimberly: I feel like this movie deserves to win awards. It was really interesting and I learned a lot about family-oriented people and what a person will go through to protect their loved ones. For me, it had a little too much violence in it. I didn’t really like that. However, the actors did a pretty good job and kept the movie interesting.

Tam: The Irishman was a good movie. The actors did an amazing job. It definitely deserves to win some type of award. I think that it could even get an Oscar. I can see it getting the Best Picture award.

Reggie: I liked that the movie had a lot of twists. It will likely win an Oscar. Al Pacino will probably get an award, too. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were my favourite actors in this film and I really hope they win some awards.

Jojo Rabbit

(nominated in six categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay)

Jay: I would pay to go see this again, it’s a pretty good flick! At the end they got together and there was peace. [It is relatable because] in reality you’re 10 years old, but the stuff you’re going through makes you 20 years older. The stuff [Jojo] went through and the things he had to put up with made him act older than his years. I knew something was gonna happen with his family and he took it as a man. He went from 10 to 30 – she always tied his shoes up but now he ties his own shoes. Adolf Hitler being his imaginary friend was the highlight of the picture – especially when he kicked him and he went through the window! It wasn’t in his spirit to be violent; families can teach you to be loving, but we live in a community that encourages becoming violent to fit in. Momma said you’ve gotta go to school, you’ve gotta go to work, you’ve got a role to play, that mask you’ve got on you’ve gotta flip it. Kids still go through this today. It’s called survival. The movie made me think about how we have to adapt to our surroundings.

Eugene: Kids are very funny and smart. It’s a learning experience for him. He was told misinformation, but he learned things on his own. I would recommend this movie to others.

(L-R) Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit. [Photo by Larry Horricks]

The Two Popes

(nominated in three categories, including both the Popes – played by Jonthanan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins – in for acting gongs)

Amos: Talking about the crises going on in the world, it was very emotional in what [Pope Francis] was going through when he was a priest in Argentina. It was based on a true story. When they showed the border war it was like Trump so it came close to home. The political turmoil in this movie is similar to what we are going through now. People have to know what’s going on in other countries with globalisation and war (Hong Kong, China with Trump, etc.). It was a good movie. I didn’t have to be Catholic to enjoy it and to relate to what people are going through, it could relate to anybody. It didn’t have to be political but it speaks to the heart of what’s going on with the country and the economy. Both [the characters] had different views but they came together (over soccer of all things!). It’s Oscar-worthy, and the subtitles did not take away from the movie.

Phil: Pretty good movie, emotional, with good acting. He was good as the Pope, facing different countries that he had encounters with, exploring and knowing the difference of peace and war and understanding the global influence of everything he does. It would be an especially good movie for a school or academy. To understand what’s going on in America, it was excellent. The subtitles did not take away from the movie, it was a combination of many languages.

Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI (left) and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis (right) in The Two Popes. [Image courtesy of Netflix]

Marriage Story

(nominated for six awards, including the two leads, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson)

V.W.: In the end, I found out why she didn’t sleep with him in over a year and he ended up cheating with someone he worked with. They were a professional and entertaining couple in the theatre entertainment field, and the statements that he made let me know that they had been together since college or younger. Couples are going to enjoy it [the movie and their story]. It’s a perspective about life. If a couple is doing well, they can feel close knowing they don’t have those issues. It’s good for us to see something a little uncomfortable sometimes. It is also good to be able to hear someone’s story and have something to relate to and compare and feel a victory. I was enjoying the movie so much, I forgot I was in the room! Especially with the court proceedings I was enjoying seeing how the law works. The acting was superb, and I recognize [Adam Driver] from the BlacKkKlansman. I felt moments of emotion but didn’t cry. You can’t help but be moved emotionally when she is still so attracted to her husband.

Kimberly: I think that lady [Scarlett Johansson] was a nice lady. She was very helpful to her family and friends. Her husband cheated on her and they were getting into an argument and confrontation. I just hated when they got into the argument, it just took all the love out of the movie. I think that [Adam Driver] should win Best Actor. They were a very good couple and they had a very strong foundation as a couple, they just had some issues that needed to be resolved. I think they fell apart because she was dedicating a lot of her time outside the household to people that was taking her time away from the relationship and family that he needed. She needed to spend more time at home with her family and he needed some anger management. He was a good father; he was a good man. He did try to help in the kitchen. I wish they could’ve settled it, but everything doesn’t work like that sometimes. But they were still beautiful people, both of them.

Amos: Even though they were going through their divorce thing, they tried to keep the family thing together for the kid. He was falling apart, and it was pretty emotional. I would recommend it like The Two Popes and A Star is Born; it was emotional in the same way. It showed how people try to keep it together for the child and not looking embarrassing or foolish. We’ve gotta stick together regardless of the divorce proceedings, I think it was an excellent movie, and Scarlett Johansson is a good actress.

A. Allen: I came in today because Kimberly said it was so good, and it really was good! It involved the whole family and I really like family movies. I have kids so the part was touching when they were fighting over the kid, which I can understand, and feel their point of view. All through the movie you could see the love they had for each other, but it was all about the kid. It seemed like the lawyers were more fierce in fighting than they intended to be. All they wanted to do was chill out and enjoy family life but they wanted to do it separate and that was the hard part. I guess I would say it deserves an Oscar because the whole family can watch that and relate to it and look at it from either side. I’m glad I watched it. I have fought for the custody of a child so that was the touching part for me. I’m still missing my children so that was like a reminder of the things that people go through for children. I can relate to and sympathise with it because I do miss my children.

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. [Photo by Wilson Webb, courtesy of Netflix]

Knives Out

(up for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar)

A. Allen: That was really a great movie. It was really inspiring, and to me personally it felt like a love story. The twists and turns of the movie are really what got me. It was really like a Sherlock Holmes movie with the suspense of the investigation and the way the characters reacted to it. You can see where it’s going before the end. It gets my approval and recommendation. Like I said, it has a lot of twists, a lot of turns and it has a happy ending and it has a lot of mystery in it, nevertheless at the end the mystery unfolds and it unfolds very beautifully. I like the nurse [Ana de Armas], Chris Evans was an interesting character. I loved it and it is worthy of Oscars.

Doctor Battlefield: It was good. It had suspense. I would recommend it and watch it again. If you are someone who likes suspense and action, you should see this.

(L-R) Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan and Daniel Craig in Knives Out. [Courtesy of Lionsgate]


(Renée Zellweger has been recognised for her performance in the titular role)

A. Allen: I liked the camera angles and the cinematography as well as the acting. They framed the camera in such a way on her face that I could really feel what she was feeling. She didn’t have to say a word for you to feel that. I felt a lot of emotions coming to me just from watching the picture – less from the words being said but from the way the scenes were shot and Zellweger’s acting. I got the sense that I was right there. I felt her pain, and maybe that was in part because I went through the same pain with alcoholism.

Donald: I wish I had seen recovery in her story. The story covered her alcoholism well, but I think there was more to her, Judy Garland, as a person. Her life and her story were full of experiences, but her alcoholism filled up the whole movie. I wanted to see her go through the first, second, and third steps of recovery; I wanted to see her change her life. She didn’t try to fool anyone about her alcoholism; if people weren’t on the same page as she was in terms of her addiction and behaviours, then she didn’t want them in her life. But alcoholism is nothing to glorify, and I felt that the movie glorified her addiction by not showing enough other parts of her life.

Chris: Renée Zellweger played the character flawlessly to me. She played it through to the end. It was so convincing for me that I felt like I was watching the real Judy Garland live her life. I just wish that her kids had been written into the story more, especially toward the end. I’m thinking about how Judy would have felt when she talked to her kids on the phone and they said that they were happy and comfortable living with their dad. I don’t think she could really believe that. She just channelled that energy into one final show and then the screen goes back and says that she died six months later. I wanted to see more about her relationship with her kids after that final show.

Renée Zellweger in Judy. [Photo by David Hindley, courtesy of LD Entertainment & Roadside Attractions]

Read more coverage of #VendorWeek 2020 here