What do I think about the Oscars?

Every year, I’m less interested in the Oscars. I didn’t even watch the show last year. Academy Awards - WikipediaAnd what happened? Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and then got a statue. Maybe I should watch it this time.

When I looked at what the Academy thought were the best ten movies of 2022, either Hollywood cannot make good movies, or a lot of voters have no concept of quality.

Consider Living. Here’s a British remake of one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces (Akira Kurosawa’s Ikura), and it’s almost as good as the original. An aging bureaucrat, emotionally dead and cut-off emotionally from both his job and his family, discovers that he has only months to live. Wine, women, and song don’t help. He has scarcely time to make his empty life meaningful, and doesn’t tell anyone important; after all, this is the land of the stiff upper lip. Warning: You may come out in tears.


Living only received two nominees: Bill Nighy for Best Actor and Kazuo Ishiguro for Adapted Screenplay (from a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa).

But this year I’m focusing on one Oscar: Best Picture. Here are the ten nominees. Some of them are exceptional. Others are trash.

A Women Talking

Here’s a brilliant work about women coming into their own in a horrible situation. In an extremely religious and chauvinist farm, girls are not taught to read, write, or vote. Women and girls can be raped without consequences. Almost the entire film is set in a barn as the woman, and one decent man, argue about leaving the only home they ever knew. Cinematographer Luc Montpellier gives the film a cool color palette that almost looks black and white. The terrific cast includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, and Frances McDormand. Director Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews wrote the screenplay.

A- Everything Everywhere All at Once

With all the serious cinema going around lately, it’s great to have a funny, silly, action-packed joyride starring Michelle Yeoh. In trouble with the IRS, she’s struggling to save her laundromat. She also has husband problems, father problems, and teenage daughter problems. Things get truly out of control when people suddenly start changing. They’re not the people she knows, but variations from other universes. It turns out that Yeoh’s character is the only person who can save the multiverse – with help from her dysfunctional family, of course. There’s a lot of over-the-top fighting, mostly at the IRS office. Not the best film of 2022, but almost certainly the most entertaining.

A- All Quiet On the Western Front

It’s about time the German film industry turned Erich Maria Remarque’s powerful anti-war novel into a film. Hollywood did it in 1930. If you’re looking for something that closely follows the book or the earlier movie, you’ll be disappointed. If you want to be reminded of the horrors of mass conflict, this one does the job. Thanks to better cinema technology and lack of censorship, this version brings to life all the dirty, bloody, crazy, horrible experience of war.  Like Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, this version also takes you into the comfort of the general staff, who eat very good food while the soldiers outside starve. The film’s main problem: Compared to the other versions, the ending is overdone.

A- Tár

Cate Blanchett seems capable of doing anything. In this drama, she conducts a symphony, plays piano, speaks German, and, of course, acts. She plays a famous conductor who is also a mother. The film opens with her being interviewed, and I could have happily watched that scene for the length of the full two hours and 38 minutes of the whole film. Instead, we learn more about this exceptional person as she works and plays (mostly works). Eventually, an actual real plot comes up when a student commits suicide, and the Internet decides it’s her fault (and perhaps the internet is right).

B+ The Banshees of Inisherin

Here’s a story that seems impossible, set in a small Irish island about 100 years ago, where everyone knows everyone else. The people do some very strange things. Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) have been close friends for years. Then, suddenly, Pádraic tells Colm that he doesn’t want to be his friend. But Pádraic is a bit thick, and quite can’t accept it. Soon they’re doing unspeakable things to each other, and worse, to themselves. Aside from the strange characters, the film contains beautiful scenery.

B Triangle of Sadness

This is a very strange film, set mostly on a cruise for the rich and the good looking. Clearly, it’s saying things about upper and lesser classes, and how looks can be turned into wealth (for a while). In one scene, a husband cries over his wife’s dead body while taking off her jewelry. I wouldn’t call Triangle a dark comedy, with an extremely hilarious ship-in-the-storm sequence. Eventually, a few survivors are lost on an island, and one of the poorer survivors becomes the head of the group. The last act seemed to be inspired by J. M. Barrie’s 1902 play, The Admirable Crichton.

B- The Fabelmans

Every scene in Steven Spielberg’s fictional autobiography is absolutely perfect. The camera is always in the right place. The actors give perfect performances. The settings, the lighting, and everything else is just right. The problem is that too many of those scenes don’t feel connected to the others. And with the long running time and no real story, the movie becomes dull.

C+ Top Gun: Maverick

This sequel from a 34-year-old movie follows a barely aged Tom Cruise, with the job of training a bunch of gung-ho navy pilots on a secret mission to bomb Iran (even though we’re not at war). Despite the fact that Cruise’s character is supposed to be a teacher, you’re absolutely sure that he’s going to get in the cockpit and save the day. Basically, it’s a selection of military cliches. How it got to be a nominee I can’t imagine.

C+ Elvis

Like so many films by Baz Luhrmann, this musical biopic is flashy yet superficial. Austin Butler (as Elvis) and Tom Hanks (as Colonel Tom Parker) give fine performances, but you never really get to know either of these two people. What makes the movie worth seeing (if anything) are the recreations of early concerts that helped bring rock music to white people. Hanks’ fat suit should get an Oscar.

D+ Avatar: The Way of Water

There’s a little bit of plot and some shallow characters, held up by visual effects that are exceptional and beautiful. Director James Cameron was smart enough to not make a big thing out of the 3D. The big final battle felt like it would never end – and I mean that in a bad way. It has some things to say but they’re buried under the colossal action. The writer and director who created Titanic has taken a large fall.

So, what do you think will win Best Pictures? I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d put my money down on The Fabelmans. It’s about movies, and a lot of people in Hollywood like Spielberg.