I’ve seen most of the Best Picture nominees this year (no Nightmare Alley, Drive My Car or West Side Story) and wanted to drop a quick post on who I think should win this Sunday.
Power of the Dog
There’s a point early in the movie, where Montana simply swallows you as a viewer, and I thought how much I had missed Jane Campion’s directorial eye. Add in the great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Kirsten Dunst is fine, Jess Plemmons is a placeholder) and the patience of the second half of the film, and its understated conclusion, and it was very satisfying. I get those kidding about Power of the Nap, but in pandemic times, I had time to savor the unfolding. To that point, I saw this in my family room, but this would have worked so much better in a movie theater, where it would have been projected 50 feet across and I would have given it uninterrupted time. It felt like a movie movie, whereas many of the others felt like TV movies, if that makes sense.
As there’s ranked choice voting, my ballot would go:
- Power of the Dog
- West Side Story – Spielberg still has it. (I didn’t see it all, but saw enough when Virginia was watching to think it fits here.)
- King Richard – Will Smith was great. One disconnect was the movie portrayed the sisters as just regular ol’ girls who somehow won tennis matches when they were like Marvel characters. Serena (power) and Venus (power plus her long-limbed, rangy speed) were obvious superheroes from the first time we saw them. That isn’t to say they didn’t put in the work — obviously, they did. But the movie really downplays their physical gifts. And as executive producers, they made sure the movie took it very easy on their dad.
- Dune – So ambitious, really well-done, but it was one of those movies where every important utterance is done in a hushed voice with a sandstorm of noise rising around it. The point of movies is not to hide the point of the movie. And it took nearly three hours to get through half of the book.
- Licorice Pizza – More of a collection of scenes than a plot, and Gary was, hands-down, the most annoying character of 2021. His charm had largely dried up and blown away about 20 minutes into the movie. Bradley Cooper had a great turn. We’ll be seeing more of Alana Haim. This may sound nuts, but I think she deserves a better movie.
- Belfast – The movie did its best to rehabilitate Van Morrison. The little boy (Jude Hill) was a treasure, as were Judy Dench and Ciaran Hinds.
- Coda – I get folks loved this movie, but it felt very Lifetime-esque in how it resolved. That said, what parent could watch the last third without a lump in their throat? Troy Kotsur (Ruby’s dad) is a serious runner-up in Supporting Actor. I see sentimentally how he might win, but Smit-McPhee was better, in a better movie.
- Don’t Look Up – Funny opener, but it mostly lost me when it shifted into serious territory — or maybe I’m just in denial on some of its most dire implications. On the great side, Cate Blanchette did a dead-on Mika Brzezinski. Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice) has done this kinda movie better before.
- Drive My Car
- Nightmare Alley
I understand that Drive My Car is a sleeper. I hope to see it soon.
Some other categories:
Will Smith has to win, right? He was great as Richard Williams, and he’s due a lifetime achievement award. Cumberbatch has an argument for the Oscar, too.
I saw everyone but Penelope Cruz, and I’m hearing that Jessica Chastain might squeak in for Eyes of Tammy Fay, but I think Olivia Colman deserves it for The Lost Daughter, which I didn’t like much. She’s simply at the top of her game and shouldn’t be penalized because she has been there for a while. Shades of Giannis Antetokounmpo …
A final note on Best Actor/Actress. Being the Ricardos wasn’t a bad movie, but Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem actually held it back. Kidman was not funny even once in 2 hours, while playing the funniest woman on TV, and Bardem very much felt like a throw-away performance.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, see above.
Judy Dench. Belfast has to get something.
Jane Campion. She has such a great eye and trusts the audience. The first third of Dog had me wanting to go re-watch The Piano.
Some last thoughts
Dune should get all the technical awards. Campion should win best adapted screenplay for Dog and Zach Baylin should win original screenplay for King Richard. I could see Paul Thomas Anderson winning for Licorice Pizza, because some of the scenes are wonderful, but it barely holds together as a movie.