With Licorice Pizza as my final viewing, I have finally completed the 24ish hour journey of viewing all of the Best Picture nominees for the 2022 Academy Awards. The Oscars will be held this Sunday, March 27 and now I’ve completed the film course necessary to find it relevant. And I do it all for you (kinda).
Here’s the nominees’ ranking according to what I think was the best regardless of the Academy’s opinion side-by-side with their ranking according to what experts expect to be the Academy favorite (it’s an odds system like Vegas) so it’s what I want versus what we’ll probably get). Starting from least favorite to best.
[Read in the dramatic voice of a Hollywood starlet] Featuring the diverse landscapes of brutal Arakkis to the unforgiving grasslands of 1920s Montana, these nominees remind us that even from across the universe there is a commonality in the storied human spirit. A girl is understood without being heard. A man travels through his grief without getting behind the wheel. A father teaches his daughters to play a game. Love is found and love is lost. And we learn that we may not have as much control over our destiny as we once believed. These are our nominees for [dramatic pause] Best Picture:
I didn’t like Drive My Car nearly as much as critics. I found the 3 hours very tedious and the most interesting part of the story (the multilingual production of Uncle Vanya, a play within the movie) was barely featured. I chalk it up to westerners being enamored with an eastern depiction of grief. Sometimes when something is actually just nothing we think maybe we just aren’t smart enough to understand it so we give it an award. I don’t think it belongs on the Best Picture nomination list at all.
The experts think the last runner-up for the prize and the Academy’s least favorite (of their favorites) is Nightmare Alley. They think that it was a great film but a crowded field and it was lucky to get the nomination at all. It’s at 14/1 odds of winning.
I didn’t love Licorice Pizza and while I understand why it’s on the Best Picture nominee list, I have to disagree with the choice. The plot of the film is that a 25-year-old woman falls in love with a 15-year-old boy. While there is no physical breach of propriety, it’s still very weird and I couldn’t get past it. This film to me is mainly a reminder that Hollywood cannot help but celebrate perverse attraction to minors and children. The performances were very good especially on the part of Cooper Hoffman (the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) as Gary Valentine but it’s just not enough to get past the ick factor and the otherwise boring plotline.
The Academy’s 9th favorite according to experts is the campy dark horse, Don’t Look Up. Its odds are at 12/1 to take home the top prize.
I liked Don’t Look Up more than most. I liked that the film took aim at every type of political and media influencer there is in America and our willingness to follow them as long as they suit our narrative. They shot at mainstream media, underground media, conservatives, democrats, pop stars, academics, military chiefs and on and on. They even criticized the global governments in their passive resignation to allow the United States to make all major decisions. The only group which was spared from criticism was a religion with Timothee Chalamet’s final prayer being one of the more poignant and important moments in the film. Plus it was funny. All-in-all I think Don’t Look Up deserves just a bit more credit than it’s gotten from audiences and the Academy.
The Academy has in 8th place (according to experts) Drive My Car which I hated. Agree to disagree. Its odds of winning Best Picture are currently 21/2.
My 7th favorite was King Richard which I thought was good. I did not think it was groundbreaking and I hardly ever think it’s worthwhile to make an authorized biography (the Williams family signed off on the content of the film thereby rendering it rose colored). However, I did think Aunjanue Ellis was sensational as Oracene “Brandy” Williams and the story was pretty well developed showing a lot of sides of Richard Williams and the start of the most important movement in tennis which was Venus and Serena Williams.
The Academy has Licorice Pizza in the 7th slot which is still a pervy movie even if the older romantic partner is a woman. The odds for victory for Licorice Pizza are 19:2.
Nightmare Alley, aptly named, shook me to my very core and is my 6th pick. It was a little too indulgent to be higher and some of the dialogue meandered into cheese but it was visually stunning and psychologically one of the more compelling films I’ve ever experienced. Nightmare Alley will stay with you forever and not in the way you might think. Someone please check on Guillermo Del Toro.
The Academy has King Richard up at sixt place, no doubt inflating the performance of Will Smith as Richard Williams which I found extremely trite, derivative of his prior roles and offensively ham. Its odds of victory are 9/1.
The Academy and I agreed on our number 5 which is Dune. Masterfully shot, meticulously costumed (I do think Dune will win in the costume and possible cinematography categories) and breathtakingly detailed, Dune is a masterclass in science fiction. If not for the slightly confusing plotline and the sandworm (I just don’t think a film with a worm villain can win an Oscar), Dune would have had a fairer shot on Best Picture. It definitely deserved to make the list. The odds for Best Picture victory are 17/2.
From 4th place onward the rankings became very hard for me and the race becomes extremely tight with the Academy. The top 4 contenders are definitely the top 4 movies and the Academy and I only have them in different order but we agree on all the movies in the top 4 slots.
My fourth favorite is Power of the Dog which is an absolutely stunning movie celebrating western landscapes and fates. The true hero of Power of the Dog is Kirsten Dunst’s career defining performance which took my breath away. She has stiff competition for Best Supporting Actress but she deserves the trophy. The movie might have edged up higher in my esteem if it hadn’t started out so boring.
The Academy has West Side Story in the fourth slot. The odds of victory for the new Speilberg interpretation are 8/1.
I loved the new West Side Story. As one of my all time favorite musicals, I had high expectations and they were met in spades. Between the stunning costuming and choreography, the easy spanglish and the grittier treatment of difficult racial and cultural issues of the era, Speilberg’s West Side Story nails it. All at once fun, devastating and powerful – the new version escalates quickly and sweeps viewers away. I would not be sad if it is the dark horse winner this year.
The Academy’s third-place pick is Belfast, the autobiographical story of Kenneth Branagh’s family leaving Ireland during The Troubles. The odds set for Breanagh taking Best Picture are also 8/1, only narrowly edging out West Side Story by a handful of expert votes.
My second favorite of the group this year was Belfast. Kenneth Branagh is known for his theatrical films focusing on classical literature and Shakespear and usually starring himself. Belfast is a major stylistic departure for Branagh and is both brilliantly conceptualized and executed. Told from the perspective of a child (young Branagh) during the protestant/catholic conflicts in Belfast, the film allows viewers to be emotionally torn and a little surprised as violence escalates and situations become more dire than the film’s casual pace would imply. With a ton of heart, it’s easy to get lost in this family-focused history of events. Plus, it is not lost on me that Branagh took two actors known for basically sex movies/shows (Jamie Dornan of Fifty Shades of Grey and Caitriona Balfe of Outlander) and made them bona fide movie stars. Dornan is unrecognizably restrained and Balfe steals the whole film. She was absolutely snubbed for the Best Supporting Actress category. I do wish it hadn’t been in black and white. But I do understand why Branagh did so – as it is a major departure from his normally very colorful films.
The Academy has CODA as the first runner-up with 15/2 odds.
My favorite of the group is, without question, CODA. CODA does not have the sweeping visuals normally associated with a Best Picture but it has the most unique and well-thought storyline of and it has all of the heart. CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults and the film follows a young hearing girl whose entire family is deaf. Her coming of age follows her foray into young love and music as her family grapples with their business and the serious politics of their town – unrelated to their being deaf and otherwise. The performances are excruciatingly good with Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin as Jacki Rossi anchoring the group of newcomers including Troy Kostur who plays the father of the family, Frank Rossi, and is up for Best Supporting Actor (of which he definitely should win and is favored to do so). Missing from the Best Supporting Actor category is Daniel Durant who plays the older brother, Leo Rossi and delivers an emotional, stirring performance grappling with the weight of issues like masculinity, patriarchy, and independent survival. He absolutely should have been nominated. As if all of that isn’t enough, CODA has the ability to fill viewers to the brim with joy. If you see just one of these nominated films it should be CODA.
CODA has been sneakily moving up the ranks for Best Picture and some think it might have the stamina to kick out the Academy’s top pick which is Power of the Dog. Power of the Dog has 13/1 or 6/2 odds depending on the ranking to take Best Picture but it did win the Golden Globe and the Academy does not like to follow the path of the Globes.