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Sunday, March 27, 2022

Ranking the 10 Best Picture nominees

 It’s that time again!  For the 13th year, my family have joined me to take a look at the nominees for the Best Picture Oscars, as well as make some choices in the acting contests.  I’m happy to welcome back my mother-in-law Barb, brother Jason, sister Sarah, and brother-in-law Tyler for some write-ups. My wife Emily didn’t make it through all of the movies, but sent along her rankings of what she saw.


Without further ado, here is where we landed…. The Power of the Dog. It only led two lists, but everyone had it quite high.  There was also tons of love for Drive My Car.


BenBarbSarahTylerJasonEmilyRank
1The Power of the Dog1422122
2Drive My Car2211712.6
3Licorice PIzza4833344.2
4West Side Story3646434.6
5Dune59542didn't see5
6CODA6365855.6
7Belfast8178575.8
8King Richard77871067.8
9Don't Look Up105910988.6
10Nightmare Alley9101096didn't see8.8

In addition, here are the picks for acting, directing, and screenplay. Lots more love for The Power of the Dog!


Best Actress

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter: Ben, Sarah, Tyler, Emily

Kristen Stewart, Spencer: Barb

(Jason abstained since he had only seen one)












Best Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog: Barb, Emily, Sarah, Tyler

Andrew Garfield, tick, tick…BOOM!: Ben

Will Smith, King Richard: Jason












Best Supporting Actress (Tie!)

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story: Barb, Sarah, Jason

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog: Ben, Tyler, Emily









Best Supporting Actor

Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog: Sarah, Tyler, Emily

Troy Kotsur, CODA: Barb, Jason

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog: Ben











Best Director

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog: Ben, Tyler, Jason, Emily

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car: Barb, Sarah











Best Original Screenplay

Licorice Pizza: Sarah, Tyler, Jason

The Worst Person in the World: Ben, Emily

Belfast: Barb












Best Adapted Screenplay

Drive My Car: Ben, Sarah, Tyler, Emily

CODA: Barb

The Power of the Dog: Jason














Ben


In the year Oscars went back to a guaranteed 10 (rather than somewhere between 5 and 10), they gave us a mixed bag, with a very strong top 5 and a pretty weak bottom 5. That’s not to say this was a weak year for movies.  If you swapped out a few of these at the bottom of my list for other plausible contenders like The Lost Daughter, The Worst Person in the World, Passing, and tick, tick….BOOM!, this could have been a great lineup.  As always, no matter my feelings on the movies, I thoroughly enjoyed thinking about these very different movies and hearing others’ thoughts.



1. The Power of the Dog  

“For what kind of man would I be if I did not help my mother? If I did not save her?” Starting with the opening line, Jane Campion weaves a brilliant, psychologically complex tale of tangled relationships. The central quartet (Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Jesse Plemons) are the ensemble of the year, and the movie builds to the best denouement I've seen in quite some time. Crossing my fingers and toes this one can make it across the finish line. 


2. Drive My Car  

An intricate, multilayered, but entirely emotionally accessible drama about… well, everything in life? Relationships, death, loneliness, communication, art, and choosing to live even when things are tough.  While three hours may seem daunting, I was enthralled at every single moment of this slow burn movie.  The second-to-last scene (the performance of Uncle Vanya) in this movie is also my favorite scene of the year.


3. West Side Story 

Did we need a new version of a classic movie?  If it’s this beautifully done and reimagined, absolutely.  Writer Tony Kushner and director Steven Spielberg keep the very strong bones of this classic story and make some updates to keep it fresh.  The Spanish dialogue, the new character of Valentina (Rita Moreno!), and the artfully updated social commentary work perfectly. While Ansel Elgort is only an OK actor as Tony, the rest of the cast doesn’t miss, particularly Ariana DeBose as Anita and Mike Faist as Riff (where was his Oscar nomination?).


4. Licorice Pizza 

A movie all about the vibes of an extremely specific time and place (the early 70s in the San Fernando Valley) made by my favorite director.  Alana (Alana Haim) is a 25-year-old who doesn’t know how to be a grown-up, and Gary (Cooper Hoffman) is a teenager trying to be an adult.  Following their wanderings around LA interacting with a quirky cast of characters is a ton of fun to watch.  While it’s just a touch too slight to be one of my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movies, it’s delightful nonetheless and Alana Haim, in particular, is luminous in her screen debut.  As many have noted, the scenes with a racist minor character using an Asian accent are wholly unnecessary in an otherwise great movie.


5. Dune  

This was the first movie I watched in the theater after about two years, and it was a great choice! Director Dennis Villeneuve’s brought a complete vision to this futuristic sci-fi story.  The script and filmmaking also did a great job of making a complex story understandable to a fresh audience.  It drags just a bit in the last 45 minutes or so, but I still really enjoyed it and can’t wait for part two.


6. CODA  

A sweet and moving indie about a young woman navigating the dynamics of her deaf family and her recently discovered talent for music.  While it hits many familiar beats, the entire cast is quite good (especially Troy Kotsur and Emilia Jones) and I definitely shed a tear.  After this and last year’s (much better) Sound of Metal, it’s also great to see the Deaf community gaining representation. While I enjoyed it, I think the worst thing that could happen to its reputation is for it to win Best Picture (which it just might).


7. King Richard  

An entertaining movie telling the story of two of the greatest athletes ever, and their father who played such a crucial role in their development.  While long, this movie was well-paced and always held my attention.  Will Smith is good as Richard Williams, and I thought Aunjuane Ellis was even better as Oracene.  Like the movies I put at numbers 6 and 8, it was just a little too predictable and formulaic to feel truly special. 


8. Belfast  

A perfectly nice movie that I’ll probably never watch again.  As a black and white autobiographical movie, it’s hard not to compare it unfavorably to 2018’s Roma, which was truly remarkable.  The acting in this movie was very good, but the script felt a bit sanitized and glossed over for such a difficult subject.


9. Nightmare Alley 

 I watched this movie about a month ago, and have almost completely forgotten it.  An excellent cast and detailed production design combined to create….something that feels pretty lifeless, a pastiche of a classic film genre.  It just made me wish I was watching a more authentic film noir.


10. Don’t Look Up 

Truly one of my least favorite Best Picture nominees of all time.  It’s like a mediocre Facebook meme was turned into a movie.  It’s tedious, annoying, and is shot in an ugly and unimaginative way.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are perfectly fine, but much of the rest of the cast is full of people I usually love (Meryl Streep, Mark Rylance) in almost unwatchable over-the-top roles. 


Best Director: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Best Actor: Andrew Garfield, tick, tick…BOOM!

Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Best Supporting Actor: Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress: Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

Best Original Screenplay: The Worst Person in the World

Best Adapted Screenplay: Drive My Car


Sarah


PIcture:

1. Drive My Car

The most beautiful movie I’ve seen in a long time.  So many lines and scenes in this movie took my breath away for how human and relatable they felt.  The scene where Yusuke traveled with Misaki to Hakkaido continues to haunt me.  Drive My Car was a perfect portrayal of the complications of grief and how it connects to shame and art.  Drive My Car’s slow and gentle pace, subtle performances, and intimate conversations will stick with me for a long time.  


2. Power of the Dog

I can’t think of a movie that does such an amazing job of creating and maintaining such a sense of tension the whole time, with such subtlety.  It is slow while also keeping me on the edge of my seat- not an easy feat!  Amazing performances as well by all the lead and supporting cast.


3. Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza was a really fun watch with a kind of manic energy.  I often like movies based or partially based on true stories less after reading what really happened, but not the case here- finding out the history for these “couldn’t make this story up” bizarre experiences made me appreciate it even more.    Awesome lead performances by Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman- I hope we continue to see more from them!


4. West Side Story

I was worried when I heard Steven Spielberg was remaking West Side Story.  The original movie is one of my all-time favorites, and I felt like it just didn’t need to be redone.  Luckily, it kept enough of the things that are great about the original, edited some things that needed updating  (whew on getting rid of that brownface makeup) and added both extra grittiness and vividness throughout the movie.  I also loved the addition of naturalistic use of Spanish/English/Spanglish throughout the movie.

Real highlights were the new version of “Cool,” Ariana Dubose, and Mike Faist as Riff.

Rachel Zegler could hold her own in a faceoff against Natalie Wood, but Ansel Elgort just wasn’t quite up to par with Richard Beymer’s Tony.


5. Dune

I wasn’t that excited at first to watch Dune- I had heard from people who have seen the David Lynch version or read the book that it could be confusing and complicated.  Dune may have been the most pleasant surprise for me in how much I enjoyed it.  I do wish I had seen it in the theater, but even watching at home, the visuals were stunning, and although it was long, the pacing was perfect.  A fantastic cast (but would’ve loved to see more of Zendaya- hopefully in the sequel!)


6. Coda

There was a lot I liked about CODA.  Great performances, a realistic plot and conflict in a family that loves each other, and humor.  I wish that the plot would’ve taken just a bit more twisting and turning and stayed away from some of the predictability like the “big moment” with the song audition. 


7. Belfast

This year more than some others, there was a clear delineation between excellent movies and “meh” (or just bad…see bottom of the list) movies, and Belfast is the first of my “meh” movies.    I generally enjoy when a movie has a non-traditional narrative structure, and/or portrays history from the eyes of a child.  I liked how the big events in Belfast were interwoven with things that don’t make the history books, but are a big deal when you are a child, like going to a movie with your family or seeing how big events trickle down to the relationships and interactions in your family.   It kind of reminded me of a more serious Christmas Story. The main problem for me was that the narration wasn’t consistent and I don’t think that was intentional- it was hard to tell when things were imagined or embellished in the memory of a child vs. a true portrayal of what happened.  This made the movie a lot weaker than it otherwise could have been.



8. King Richard

I liked some things about King Richard.  I thought the performances were strong, and I liked the complexities of the relationship between Venus and Serena.  I’m not a big fan of traditional biopics, and it didn’t really stick with me.  I also thought some parts were really silly and unrealistic, like the scenes with the neighborhood “bad boys.”


9. Don’t Look Up

Oh dear…Adam McKay.  I liked The Big Short, did not like Vice, and really did not like Don’t Look Up other than finding it kinda entertaining to watch while quarantined due to Covid exposure!  What a shame to have such a great cast and such a flop.  It was way too on the nose, but my biggest criticism is what Adam McKay seems to keep leaning into harder and harder with each movie- a simplistic critique of anyone (especially women/teen girls) who enjoys pop culture.   It kind of reminded me of some smug dude you’d find in a political science 101 class or that you get stuck talking to at a party who creates what they think is a brilliant short story but we’re all probably just too beneath him to “really get” the humor or ya know things that are *actually* important in life.  


10. Nightmare Alley

This might actually be a “better” movie than Don’t Look Up, but I liked it even less because I think it had more potential.  The first part of the movie at the carnival was fairly entertaining and atmospheric, but as soon as it transitioned to the section with Cate Blanchett I was lost.  I could not decipher what anyone’s motivations were and if you asked me to summarize what happened, I couldn’t tell you-  it felt like kind of a weird incoherent dream.  I’m not against bizarre dream-like movies (love everything David Lynch!) but I don’t think this movie was trying to be that- it was just muddled and kind of a mess.  


Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Supporting Actor: Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

Actress: Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Adapted Screenplay: The Lost Daughter

Original Screenplay: Licorice Pizza

Director: Ryƻsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car


Barb


1. BELFAST  

I found this movie especially engaging because it came from Branagh’s own experience as a child in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. It was a unique look at the violence and unrest through the eyes of 9-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill). I’m not sure why this movie was shot in black and white with an occasional splash of color but it seemed to work. Also, I loved the soundtrack.

 

2. DRIVE MY CAR  

A powerful look at guilt, resentment, loss, grief, and finally closure. My kind of movie. I loved the way this was filmed. Most of the movie takes place in Yusuke Kafuku’s bright red Saab 900. His car is the only place he really feels free.  Yusuke is assigned a driver when he returns to Hiroshima to direct a production of Uncle Vanya. The driver is 23 year old Misaki Watari. Driving through the stark countryside seems to reflect the mood in the car. During these drives, Yusuke and Misaki form a relationship and discover they both have deep-seated guilt and grief that doesn’t allow them to move on. The ending of this movie is perfect. I loved it.

 

3. CODA 

As the only hearing person in her family, Ruby (Emilia Jones), is relied on to keep her family connected to the hearing world. She is torn between her family's needs and her own desire to study music. I thought this movie was so well done. Family interactions are often complicated and Ruby’s family must navigate with additional challenges. Some of the most tender moments are between Ruby and her dad (Troy Kotsur). I liked that the three members of Ruby’s family are, in fact, deaf.

 

4. THE POWER OF THE DOG 

Quite the all-star cast. Strong performances by all. Rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) terrorizes everyone around him, especially his brother George (Jesse  Plemons), George’s wife Rose( Kirsten Dunst), and her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPcPhee). Uncharacteristically, Phil takes Peter under his wing. Phil is gay, or at the very least conflicted about his sexuality. Phil and Peter’s relationship is complicated. The power seems to shift between Phil and Peter. I think Phil really underestimates Peter. The ending takes a surprising twist. It actually shouldn’t be that surprising. There are many hints along the way. I think this is one of those movies you have to see twice to really appreciate.

 

5. DON’T LOOK UP  

Two scientists, Dr. Randall (Leonardo Di Caprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) attempt to warn an indifferent world that a comet threatens to destroy the planet. It’s not that people don’t listen, but for a variety of reasons fail to take action. President Orlean (Meryl Streep) decides they should just “sit back and assess”. Sound familiar? This is meant to be a satire of real environmental issues. Despite extreme weather, air pollution, water pollution, polar ice melt, etc., we see a rollback of environmental policies, climate deniers, and those who refuse to listen to the scientists. The takeaway is either we act now or suffer the consequences. I loved the ending.

 

6. WEST SIDE STORY 

I was a little nervous that the remake of one of my favorite musicals might disappoint. It did not. Visually stunning, Spielberg adds a fresh look while staying true to the original story. The music, choreography, and cast were excellent. I loved that Rita Moreno had a role

.

7. KING RICHARD 

The interesting backstory of the Williams sisters' rise to tennis fame. Most of us only saw Richard at Venus and Serena’s tennis matches where he was often a pain in the ass. This was a different look at how the girls were raised. Richard worked them hard but also insisted they be exposed to areas outside the tennis world. Regardless, he was still a pain in the ass at their matches. Great cast. Will Smith certainly deserved an Oscar not.

 

8. LICORICE PIZZA

 It wasn’t that I disliked this movie, I just didn’t get it. It takes place in Southern California in the 1970s and follows the rather unusual relationship between Gary, age 15 (Cooper Hoffman), and Alana, age 25 (Alana Haim). There are certainly a share of tender and hilarious moments but I thought it was too long and too disjointed. There were cameos by a number of well-known actors but I really didn’t understand their purpose. I will be interested in what others thought.

 

9. DUNE 

I generally don’t like science fiction. That being said, I really liked Dune. I was a little lost in the beginning but eventually caught up. It was visually impressive. And, of course, there’s Timothee Chalamet. I’ll be interested to see what the next chapter brings.

 

10. NIGHTMARE ALLEY 

I know people liked this movie but I found it so disturbing. I just couldn’t get over that first scene. Two-plus hours of damaged people making poor decisions over and over again. It doesn’t take long to realize this will not end well. Just not my cup of tea. Cooper and Blanchett do turn in strong performances

 

BEST ACTRESS: Kristen Stewart, SPENCER

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Ariana DeBose, WEST SIDE STORY

BEST ACTOR: Benedict Cumberbatch: POWER OF THE DOG 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Kodi Smit-McPhee POWER Of THE DOG

DIRECTOR: Ryusuke Hamaguchi DRIVE MY CAR

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: BELFAST

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: CODA



Tyler


1. Drive My Car

I just finished watching this film the other day, and it’s hard to express how I feel about it, because it changes the more I think about it, and this is a film that forces viewers to keep thinking about it. This film is long, but instead of feeling bloated or stretched or in need of editing, it feels like something else; meditative. Drive My Car is about many things, but clearly one of the biggest is that it is a film about time: taking time to grieve significant loss, time to find yourself, time to stage a Chekhov play in 4 languages. It is such a powerful piece of storytelling that I haven’t really had the time to fully digest, but I think it is a beautiful film that balances realism, poetry, and meditative practice so well. 


2. The Power of the Dog

There’s been some well-publicized criticism (or maybe more accurately “old man yells at clouds” rant) about whether this film is a capital w “Western”. The big secret about the genre is that every great Western subverts and examines the tropes of the “classic Western”. The Western isn’t really about location, period, or profession; it centers human nature at the edge of civilization as a way to focus an exploration of morality, masculinity, violence, and freedom. Power of the Dog joins a long line of films like High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (snippets of both of those films used to poor effect in Belfast by the way), Shane, Unforgiven, No Country For Old Men, and many more by examining human nature, jealousy, violence, and masculinity in clear contrasts. The Power of the Dog brilliantly amps those contrasts to an extreme, placing fully-embodied characters against an empty wilderness, showing ugly actions against beautiful vistas, simple quiet lives suffocated by the threat of abuse and danger. The year’s best ensemble cast and great direction allow this sinister world to play out in a way that feels both realistic and extreme.  


3. Licorice Pizza

You could call Licorice Pizza a coming-of-age tale, but in standard coming-of-age stories (like CODA) the character is navigating the transition from childhood to adulthood. I think Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film doesn’t believe there’s a strong distinction to be made between those two. Gary is the only major character on the young side of legal adulthood, but he moves with rare self-assurance between the world of a teen and a serious adult entrepreneur. Alana is the age where society demands she at least has a plan for her life, but she desires to be both a difference-maker and an aimless passenger, neither of which she can form an acceptable plan for. While the film acknowledges the age difference, it doesn’t need to dwell on it, because in the world of Licorice Pizza age is just a number. The plot moves with frantic pacing and energy, and quickly makes very strange turns and tonal shifts throughout. The surrounding characters that make up these scenes certainly fit this idea that “adults” are not completely removed from their childhood - from the successful old actor who does motorcycle jumps to all the zaniness of Bradley Cooper’s tantrum-throwing Streisand-dating hairdresser who threatens people with makeshift blow-torches. These characters and their relationships to the main characters are larger-than-life in a way that immediately makes them feel as though they are local legends or old memories that have been exaggerated with time. This sense of nostalgia is also present in the pacing that lurches forward multiple times and in the way the story shifts. The way the film makes you feel that anything could happen next, and whatever it is will be exciting, really instills that feeling of youthful possibility, or maybe more precisely, what it is like to look back with flawed memory on those days of youthful possibility.


4. Dune

Fantasy/sci-fi films generally either explore a single conceit in a familiar world or, like Dune, transport you to a completely new world. While the planets, peoples, and energy sources in Dune are novel, the politics are all too familiar. The story utilizes many of the Joseph Campbell textbook tropes - a boy king with a prophesied destiny, a mysterious cult of sorcerers, monsters, and magical natives, but is really a story of imperialism and environmental destruction that keeps it grounded and relevant. I haven’t read the book but I assume this balance is part of what has made it a classic. The film does a great job at keeping the story both epic and intimate- a must for genre films like this. Finally, the visuals are quite spectacular; the blending of Star Wars, Paris Fashion Week, and The Tragedy of Macbeth (a film that should have been on this list) into a visual aesthetic that feels very real and very alien at the same time is quite a feat.  


5. CODA

I think CODA is a very well-made movie covering very well-trodden ground. This coming-of-age story of a person with different dreams and ambitions than her family, of trying to balance competing priorities and choose between different life paths is nothing new, and the story itself never strays far from the formula. I do think that centering on a deaf family does give new life to the genre- we sometimes see deaf characters, and maybe deaf communities (like Sound of Metal) portrayed on screen, but not a functional family like this. On top of the more standard story of a young person choosing an artistic career instead of continuing with the family business, we get extra layers. Being the only hearing member of her family means she has to take on many responsibilities that would normally not involve children, such as discussions about the parent’s sexual health at the doctors or speaking up at council/union meetings. It also means that she is an outsider in her own family who are part of the larger deaf community. That she is interested in the form of art that is hardest for her family to understand/appreciate adds another layer (even though I could see the Mr. Holland’s Opus climax coming from a mile away). The film falters I think when focusing on her musical instruction, but it is strongest when with the genuine love and conflict with her own family. 


6. West Side Story

I am a fan of the original film, and while I don’t consider it a perfect play or film, I have been wondering a simple question over the past few years since I first heard this was in development - “why?”. I don’t think this film ever gives me a compelling answer to that. Clearly, West Side Story is important to Speilberg, and I think he does a very competent job here updating the classic. Most of the differences in plot, sequencing, and dialogue/lyrics are good choices, and he avoids any huge missteps. The choreography and cinematography and most of the actors were great and certainly keeps you entertained through the runtime, but it’s hard to say what value this provides. The big disappointment for me has to be the production-style choice. Speilberg did a great job at making his set feel like a real city, which really helps convey the themes of class and displacement better than the original, but I miss the more theatrical elements of the original- bright colors, dances in silhouette, etc., and think about what a master like Speilberg and 60 years of technology improvements could have allowed if they went farther in that direction. 


7. King Richard

I think King Richard was a well-produced and very well-acted piece that doesn’t offer much to the viewer after the credits roll. Somebody striving and achieving something remarkable doesn’t automatically make for an interesting film, and this feels like a generic screenplay with the Williams family cut and pasted in. While the struggling underdog story was told well, I had too much of that feeling of an “authorized” biography, where you get the sense that all the gaps/inconsistencies in the narrative were intentional in order to avoid casting the subject in a negative light. One element that did lift this above the standard fair was the way the racism they faced was presented. If this was made even five years ago, I think they would have fabricated a single stand-in character who is explicitly racist and eats his hat after they achieve success, but instead, this film was created in a world where pictures can be greenlighted that acknowledge both subtle and explicit institutional racism. 


8. Belfast

I believe this is supposed to be somewhat autobiographical for Kenneth Brannagh, of what it was like for him growing up during the Troubles, witnessing the brutality that his neighboring small Catholic enclave suffered in a largely Protestant area. It feels like Brannaugh hasn’t really tried to learn anything about that era since, or at least isn’t too interested in a deeper understanding of what was happening around him when he was too young to understand it. I get that the film is supposed to be from a child’s perspective, but I don’t think it does a great job at that either. The film is filled with little speeches by old people in kitchens, which the filmmakers must consider moving and insightful, but they didn’t really pack the emotional or intellectual punch they needed. The lazy use of black and white and visual and audio sampling of better films didn’t help much either. Jojo Rabbit handles the “history through the eyes of a child” and the role of a bystander/perpetrator/neighbor to injustice in a way that is much more entertaining and moving than this. I wouldn’t call Belfast a bad film, but I feel like the only memorable or notable parts are its odd missteps. 


9. Nightmare Alley

While the lone cowboy might be the number one character archetype of American film, I always enjoy stories about mysterious con-men. It’s those Gatsby types that both represent the hope and cynicism of the lie of the self-made man. I was really enjoying living in the world of the circus that this con-man escapes to; a world that was generally more focused on storytellers and con artists than on the abuse of those with disabilities that was so common in this era. The film seemed like it was going somewhere interesting with this group of con artists, but after a long while the film and the protagonist both overstay their welcome with the carnival Once the film shifted scenery and tone, it felt to me like all logic and cohesion went out the window with it. Perhaps the third act was supposed to be a mess to match the mess the protagonist had become, but it just didn’t work at all for me. I feel like I watched the first half of the film and fell asleep and dreamed everything from the moment Cate Blanchett joins the cast. Maybe I need to watch this ending again to ensure I hadn’t dreamed (nightmared?) the whole ending.


10. Don't Look Up

I watched this film when it debuted on Netflix, a while before Oscar nominations were announced. I appreciate when a big budget and an all-star cast is allocated to a social satire film, as they are really tough to make, and even a good one is not going to be an assured hit, but I saw this as a big swing and a big miss, and certainly did not expect it to get the reception it did come awards season. This movie just wasn’t funny, but that wasn’t the biggest issue; the biggest issue is that the social commentary is so toothless. 

While it’s pretty clear to ME that the “Don’t Look Up” chanters, who would rather believe nonsense propaganda over their own eyes, are supposed to represent the insanity that has taken over the Republican party in recent history, I bet if you screened this for a MAGA hat-wearing man angry about CRT and pizza shops with basements who is waiting for JFK Jr to return on a spaceship and overturn the election, they would tell you it is a satire of all the liberal “sheeple” who are controlled by the mainstream media. The asteroid as a stand-in for climate change would certainly suggest that one side (the side who wants to stop climate change) are correct and the other side is wrong, but it’s such a bland and tired metaphor, it doesn’t have the power to change convictions or arouse support. To the MAGA hat, the asteroid might be an obvious metaphor for a nuclear-armed Iran, a caravan of migrants from Mexico, or the Great Replacement Theory. Adding a narcissistic and self-serving politician and the even more narcissistic and self-serving tech guru just creates the ultimate everyman’s bogeyman- characters shallower than a horoscope so that they look like whichever politician and business figures you dislike and not those you favor. Ultimately the humor and social commentary of this film both boil down to the same thing - “look how stupid those other people are”, and this toothless film leads almost every viewer, no matter their convictions, to that same outcome. 


Acting

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog


Best Director

Jane Campion The Power of the Dog


Screenplays:

Drive My Car

Licorice Pizza


Jason


1. Power of the Dog

Stunning cinematography, incredible acting, gripping story, and that ending…wow! 

2. Dune

I had never seen the David Lynch version and quite honestly, didn’t know much about the story before seeing this film. I was blown away by the production quality and the vision that Denis V has created is just incredible. I can’t wait to see the second part in 2023.

3. Licorice Pizza

Such a fun and joyous romp through young love, LA in the 70s and a tremendous turn from the lead. Paul T never fails to disappoint.

4. West Side Story

I hadn’t seen the original WSS story since junior high (that’s a long time ago) and this was such a fun trip down memory lane. Spielberg more than did the original justice and I truly enjoyed this film. The casting was spot on, the music is timeless and so is the story!

5. Belfast

Another great, compelling and personal look at a filmmaker’s life. Kenneth captures the authentic feel of what it must have been like during this time period and the scenes with the grandparents got me right in the feels!

6. Nightmare Alley

Noir is one of my favorite genres and Del Toro is one of my favorite directors, so this was an easy one for me. I need to go back and watch the original.

7. Drive My Car

A beautiful and small film about the power of love, loss, and human connection. Best international Oscar, here it comes.

8. CODA

I enjoyed CODA and I can’t say that I think it’s as incredible as many of the lists do this year. The acting was spot on and the story is interesting, it just didn’t capture me like others. It’s definitely worth another watch to see what I may have missed.

9. Don’t Look Up

I love Adam McKay and his style and I thought this film was fun and very timely. The acting was funny (Meryl Streep was hilarious) and the social commentary was spot on. I can’t say I’d call this worthy of a best picture spot and good nonetheless.

10. King Richard

The Fresh Prince carries the film from beginning to end. What could have been a pretty ordinary sports biopic elevates because of Will Smith. I did enjoy getting to know more about the story of the Williams and this is another one I can’t see as a best picture nominee compared to the rest.

 

Director: Jane Campion

Actor: Will Smith

Actress: I’ve only seen Lost Daughter, so I’ll abstain from this one

Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur

Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose

Original Screenplay: Licorice Pizza

Adapted Screenplay: The Power of the Dog