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It’s award season, and Oscar nominations were released two weeks ago; however, in the wake of these nominations, I would rather talk about a movie that I think was snubbed of awards this year: “The Death of Stalin”
Summary: Set during the aftermath of Joseph Stalin’s premature death in 1953, the movie begins with his cabinet of right-hand men—including Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale)—fighting in a bloody, scheming, and comical fight for power and absolute control of the Soviet Union.
Writing/Directing: I haven’t seen a movie this uniquely brilliant in a while, which is why I hold it at the very top of my “Oscar snubs” list. Armando Iannucci, creator and showrunner of the comedy series “Veep,” had little background in full-length films before directing “The Death of Stalin.” This makes his triumphal blend of realistic absurdity, slapstick, and slow burn comedy all the more impressive. To the real-life characters in the film, this story was not a comedy—in fact, it was far from it. However, Iannucci’s dialogue for the characters’ responses to Stalin’s death is sharp, quirky and quick, leaving viewers laughing out loud (if they caught the joke). The ingenuity and overall success of the film came from Iannucci’s ability to create humor from the dialogue of a bunch of power-hungry brutes instead of the off-the-cuff, slapstick humor that litters the comedy genre today.
Iannucci’s style of humor also bleeds into his direction of the film. His well-framed grandiose shots of the men acting in their façades of strength and power are juxtaposed with flowing tracking shots of the same men frantically running around Moscow. These striking contrasts speak to all of the characters’ differing personalities in front of the public versus behind closed doors.
Acting: Each actor was absolutely brilliant in creating a multi-character narrative of the fate of the Soviet Union, though Steve Buscemi’s take on Khrushchev was my favorite (his ability to create a multi-faceted character who was seemingly normal, bizarre, clever, and dumb-witted all at the same time was highly entertaining). “The Death of Stalin” is truly an ensemble piece with each actor doing their part in conveying the corruption of what was Soviet Russia.
Ria’s Rate: 9.5/10 an ingenious comedy that is downright impressive, despite its lack of mainstream praise.