Thanks to the nearly extra month we had in watching films this year, I have seen almost all of the nominated films.
Before I begin, I’ll say this years crop of movies is not as good as last year. I don’t know if it is the COVID-19 effect, the dumbing down of movies because of streaming, or if there is a legitimate crisis in brain power in Hollywood but the movies as a whole just aren’t as good.
Then again, it could be that last year was just a year that particularly spoke to me. I tell you, Minari is still in my head.
Now, let’s jump in. Be advised, I will spend more time on the best picture category because that is the most fun. I skip the categories I know nothing about (like Short Film (Live Action).
The nominees are Belfast, Coda, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power Of The Dog, and West Side Story.
The only movie that will make me mad if it wins is Don’t Look Up. That movie was just a step up from Bird Box. You can read more of what I thought of Don’t Look Up here. To know what I thought of Bird Box, read here.
I know Power of the Dog has a lot of energy behind it, but to me this is a two film race between Coda and Drive My Car. I was surprised by how engrossing Drive My Car was, even though it is three hours long and in Japanese. Coda, though, for me, was the most enjoyable film of the lot and the most complete all around film — the acting was spectacular, the filming was right on, the story was compelling, it was so funny, and made people cry. Either could win, but I’d prefer Coda.
Belfast has a punchers chance — I loved that movie too, but it has the same issue I think King Richard does, and that is that it is very personal. My experience is those films tend to not win in the big category.
For the record, I can’t even figure out why Licorice Pizza was nominated. I didn’t hate it, but it is not a very good movie. All it has going for it is the it is about 1970s Hollywood, and remember, Hollywood loves itself move than anything else.
Keep in mind, I hated Birdman (click here) and was bored to tears by Nomadland, and both of those won best picture, so, what do I know?
I always like to play with themes when it comes to the Best Picture nominations. There are three of them. One is the idea of the ‘Man of Destiny’ — and by man I mean man. All of these are about powerful men — even the wonderful story of Venus and Serena Williams is couched as a man’s story. The one exception, of course, is Coda. Another reason why I think Coda should win, in that it has a female protagonist who is awesome. Another theme is smoking. Lots of cigarette smoking in these movies, which might be nostalgia. I notice all of them have a nostalgia about them. The most noticeable to me was the car cassette player in Drive My Car. It felt so quaint and ancient, but in an aching for the simpler past kind of way. Performing is also a major theme. Eight of these ten movies features performance specifically — play production, music lessons, sideshow carnies, movie stars, athletic performance, piano solos for the governor, a black and white film where the only color is from the movies or plays, or a benefit concert for a cosmic event that is played out, literally, on television. The other two films, Dune and West Side Story, have the feeling of performance because of their history as stories.
Actor In A Leading Role
The best actor this year was the little boy in Belfast. But he wasn’t nominated and I don’t know why.
Of those nominated, Andrew Garfield, Will Smith, and Denzel Washington, I think are the three likeliest choices. Garfield probably did the most intense acting (again, about a performance and play) but I think the Oscar goes to Will Smith.
Actor In A Supporting Role
J.K. Simmons put in the best performance in Being The Ricardos, but I think the Oscar goes to Troy Kotsur from Coda. Ciaran Hinds has an outside shot from Belfast, but he doesn’t seem to have enough screen time to legitimatize the choice.
Actress In A Leading Role
I think the Oscar goes to Jessica Chastain. She became Tammy Faye the way Renee Zellwegger became Judy Garland last year. I will add a caveat, though. I didn’t like the movie Parallel Mothers because it was a muddled mess of a plot, but Penelope Cruz’s performance was emotionally complicated. She could win if enough people are moved that way and turned off by the biopic genre.
Actress In A Support Role
This is the one of only two sure bets this year. The Oscar goes to Ariana DeBose. She was the most amazing part of Spielberg’s West Side Story. The rest of the story was a wash, but her performance was literally one for the ages.
Animated Feature Film
More than most years, this is a tight race. Disney’s Encanto is the favorite, and it is a very fine film although I have a bit of psychological trauma after watching it that I will not share with you here because . . . reasons. However, The Mitchells VS. The Machines is a fantastic film that I enjoyed way too much. If I were giving the Oscar out, it would go to Mitchells, but Encanto is probably still the favorite. I liked Raya and the Dragon, too, but it is not a best picture quality. Luca was a little strange and Flee — don’t get me started on Flee. Flee is a compelling human story trapped inside of a poorly done cartoon that looks like someone’s first year college project.
Nightmare Alley could win this on production value, but I liked The Tragedy of MacBeth most. They made bold, minimalist choices that evoked the power of the story.
Cruella should win this.
Jane Campion is the favorite, and I can’t figure out why. I didn’t think The Power Of The Dog was that good. It was boring, plodding, and predictable. Kenneth Branagh will probably win for Belfast because of the power of his love story to his childhood. However, The best directing work in this lot was Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car.
Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) should win.
This probably goes to Tick, Tick . . . Boom! just because of of the enormous amount of work involved in piecing it together. So many motions and movements and things going on all a the same time.
International Feature Film
Drive My Car. Anytime a film is nominated for best picture and in the International section, it must necessarily win the sub-category. Fun fact — The Worst Person In The World is a movie to be avoided at all costs.
MakeUp And Hairstyling
This is a battle between Dune and The Eyes of Tammy Faye. I’ll go with the Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Music (Original Score)
Encanto and Parallel Mothers is the only soundtrack that is enjoyable, and the whole world is still singing Bruno so I’ll go with Encanto, which is the second of two sure bets.
However, the best soundtrack was Cruella — Tina Turner singing Led Zeppelin, ELO, Florence and the Machine, SuperTramp, Blondie, Nina Simone, and Queen. We need a category for ‘Coolest Soundtrack’.
Music (Original Song)
Another tight race here. Billie Eilish is favorited for the Bond Theme, but honestly, to me, it is not even in the top ten Bond themes and borrows too much from Skyfall and Spectre in its arrangement. Dos Orugitas is a fun song, but the caterpillars aren’t even the most enjoyable song on that soundtrack (do we dare talk about Bruno?). My money would go to Beyonce for Be Alive.
Nightmare Alley probably wins this one. I didn’t really care for the story, nevertheless, the production value is very high.
No Time To Die, if for no other reason, James Bond is dead and he has been slighted so much by Oscar. I mean, Skyfall should have been nominated for best picture. Everyone knows that.
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, and it is not even close.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Drive My Car is a three hour movie based on a forty page short story. It is in a league by itself.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
This is a toss-up, because it depends on the mood of the voter. I can see The Worst Person In The World winning here just because it is so weird, vulgar, and odd. But I can see Licorice Pizza winning because Paul Thomas Anderson. However, I think, if we’re going with original, then the story about Belfast in the time of The Troubles, in which the mom makes the little boy take the washing powders back to the store that he accidentally looted during the riot while the riot was still going on should win.
These are my predictions and ideas. Also note, Andrew Garfield, Bradley Cooper, and Lin-Manuel Miranda all need to take a break. They were everywhere this year. Let someone else have some screen time, fellas.