We are quickly approaching perhaps the most glamorous and recognized event of the film world. In my family, it is a tradition to fill out ballots–a list of all nominated films in all categories–and the film connoisseur who best predicts the outcomes gets to choose a place to go out to dinner. While I don’t have a great winning streak due to always picking which films I wish would win, I am in fact a dependable person to guide you in fast tracking your Oscar readiness. This is because I have spent an unruly amount of time in the theaters in the recent past.
Filmmakers have burst out of the pandemic flaming with creativity, and this year’s films are of exceptional quality. In order to streamline your efforts, I have done some research into number of nominations, what has been nominated for other awards like Directors Guild of America and American Society of Cinematographers, The New Yorker’s selection of their favorites, my own good old bias, and the input of Mr. Adam Souza who is a video production teacher here at Franklin and is doing his best to be prepared.
What makes a good movie; what makes an Academy Award winner? In an article from U.S.A Today–”The Oscars Were Never Meant to be Diverse, We Can Stop Pretending as if They Were”–it is discussed that The Academy’s conception by white men is the root of the ignorance toward the beauty of films by people of color and women. The win by Chloé Zhao last year as the first BIPOC woman and second woman ever for Best Director has been a sign of hope after the Academy was under heat in 2020. People are getting sick of limited representation. This year the Golden Globes were held privately and not aired due to this plight. Adam Souza says that what ultimately makes a good movie is the impact that it makes on you. “Sometimes the credits roll and I don’t get up right away. I’m having to sit there and ingest. That is a sign that it was a good movie. I’m still experiencing and feeling what I just went through.” That feeling isn’t always joy or satisfaction. “There’s been times where I didn’t enjoy a movie (…) but, if you were able to align yourself with it, or you realize you learned something from it, or it hits upon something for you.”
In order to rank these movies, I created a point system. One point for each Oscar nomination with the exception of Best Picture which gets two points, two points for Directors Guild of America nominations (DGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and American Society for Cinematography (ASC). Films nominated for one category were omitted, but may be included in the bonus snub section at the end! With this in mind, here is a collection of films in order of what will be expected to make the largest splash for you, and at the awards. Films that I have personally seen and recommend will be marked with an asterisk. In addition, please consider supporting local theaters like Academy (located on Stark and 78th, has $2 Tuesdays, and plays classics as well as reruns that you may have missed!).
#1 The Power of the Dog (20 points) Netflix
The bang for your buck guarantee, being nominated for 12 categories at the Oscars, spearheaded by female duo: director Jane Campion and cinematographer Ari Wegner. This is a new spin on Western drama exploring themes of sexuality and force among perceived weaknesses. This razor sharp film is favored to win many categories including Best Leading Actor and even Best Director, which would mean consecutive years of female wins.
#2 Belfast (17 points)* Amazon Prime, Apple TV+
From the perspective of a young boy, we witness the divide of Belfast Ireland in the 1960s among religious differences. This semi-autobiographical work by Kenneth Branagh will have you both laughing and crying. Moving performances and expert craftsmanship make this recognition well deserved.
#3 Dune (17 points) HBO Max
Denis Villenueve’s sci-fi remake featuring major stars was controversial for fans of the books, but reeled in an impressive 10 Oscar nominations, with many upset that he wasn’t listed for Best Director. Souza commented that Villenueve’s “pacing is very intentional. His movies all put you in a sort of trance.” Dune part one feels like the set up for a franchise; that being said, for me at least, this wasn’t Villenueve’s best example of a structured story.
#4 West Side Story (12 points)* In theaters and soon on Disney+
This timely adaptation of the 1957 musical is a seamless presentation of Spielberg’s hard earned filmmaking skills. From achievement with costumes, choreography, cinematography, performances and more, this film is a quintessential example of a Best Picture nominee. Highly recommend, even for those who aren’t fans of musicals.
#5 CODA (8 points) Apple TV+
The only hearing member of a deaf family of fishermen chases her dreams of being a singer. Troy Kotser makes history this year as the first ever nominated deaf male actor for his portrayal of the fisherman Frank Rossi. If you are a lover of the Sundance-experience subgenre, this movie is for you. It’s quite a feat for an indie film to be nominated for Best Picture when competing with high budgets.
#6 Licorice Pizza (8 points) Amazon Prime
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest coming of age epic is an unconventional Los Angeles love story, both to the city he grew up in and in the literal sense. Souza liked Licorice Pizza as a departure from the Academy’s usual preference for doom and gloom. “What I loved about it, is that he read the room. With you know what’s going on right now, and instead of giving us his normal like intense emotion, he gave us a fun movie; a movie that was based on a time in his life.” There are many amazing scenes within the film that could stand alone, but for me personally it came off as self important at some times.
#7 King Richard (7 points)* HBO Max
The one and only Will Smith portrays the Williams sisters’ father Richard in a biopic of tennis, breaking glass ceilings, the complexities of fame and the public eye. The ensemble cast and incredible true story make this inspiring film strong.
*C’mon C’mon: An intimate look at an uncle’s journey to understanding parenthood, brought in two awards for Gabby Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the New York Times Greatest Performers of the Year; surprisingly, the moving film was not nominated.
*The Hand of God: In the past it has been common that international films are limited to the foreign category, but this glass ceiling was shattered with Bon Jun Ho’s win in both Best Picture and Director for Parasite. Drive My Car (highly recommended by Souza) is nominated for the international category as well as for Best Picture. Unfortunately, The Hand of God (by the Italian director Paolo Sorrentino), a striking coming to terms with grief and young adulthood, was not nominated outside the international film category.
*The Green Knight: Based on the 14th century poem by Sir Gawin, this film is not for everyone, but Dev Patel’s performance was faultless, and this is definitely a movie that will stick with you long after viewing.
*The Tragedy of MacBeth: While this film was nominated in other categories (point score of 6), Joel Coen’s stark interpretation of the Shakespeare classic was innovative in every sense of the word. In providing a freshness to a classic, this film deserved a Best Picture nomination.
*Passing: Also taking a spot on The New York Times Performers of the Year, as well as their Oscar nomination predictions list, Tessa Thomas and Ruth Negga were favored for recognition. Perhaps the content of the film was too controversial for the Academy? My guess is as good as yours on this one.
*Shiva Baby: This independent film by Emma Seligman takes place during the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva, a time of spiritual and emotional healing after the death of a loved one where family members gather to pray, mourn and eat. In this film a young woman is confronted by her sugar daddy and ex girlfriend from childhood. This movie is frustratingly hilarious and features a great performance by Rachel Sennott, of a relatable character to people in our age group.
A full list unedited and void of my bias by point value for your reference:
Power of the Dog (20)
West Side Story (12)
Licorice Pizza (8)
Nightmare Alley (8)
King Richard (7)
The Lost Daughter (7)
Being the Richardos (7)
House of Gucci (7)
Don’t Look Up (6)
No Time to Die (6)
Tick Tick BOOM (6)
The Tragedy of MacBeth (6)
Drive My Car (5)
The Worst Person in the World (2)
Parallel Mothers (2)