The 95th Academy Awards are coming soon. Once again, I saw all ten Best Picture nominees. For the first time in three years, I didn’t need a streaming service to see any one of them. Elvis was the only one I saw outside of a theatre; on an airplane divided by two flights. The other nine I was lucky to see in theatres. There is your mix of enjoyable and unenjoyable. A mix of common popcorn fare and serious topics.
This year’s batch have some notable details. For the second straight year, a film directed by Steven Spielberg is nominated. For the second straight year, a remake of a Best Picture winner is nominated. Two of the nominated films are sequels to legendary sci-fi or action films. Two of the nominated films have four acting nominations each. On the contrary, half the films have no acting nominations. Also interesting that comedies, which normally get the sort end of the stick at Oscar time, are this year’s toast as two of the heavy favorites are comedic films.
The purpose of my reviews are to give a summary of the Best Picture nominees. I will be saving my predictions for a separate prediction blog. In the meantime, here is the first of my reviews of the Best Picture nominees of the 2022 Academy Awards:
All Quiet On The Western Front – Just like the 1930 film, this is an angry film. This film makes it look like World War I was a vanity effort. Like all the war was where it was all about the egos of those in power. While the young men fought and many died, these leaders with the power only cared about themselves and the power they wanted to hold onto. Even those who worked in the military seemed to take the losses of life very lightly. Seemingly not caring that a generation of young men were being lost. The last 20 minutes of the film would especially enrage many. Armistice had been declared for November 11, 1918. Germany was the losing side, but the German leader wanted one last battle. Another bunch of young men dead, just shortly before the war finally ended. Will definitely have you leaving the theatre asking what was it all for?
I’m planning on doing a comparison of this film to the 1930 original for after the Oscars. So in looking at this film, I won’t compare it to the original. I won’t even call it a remake because even the original was adapted from a novel. It’s possible this film is a re-adaptation. I will say the film is an excellent work. The film does a good job in telling the story from the point of view from the young soldiers and the meetings with the leaders. It shows the two different worlds between the two very well. The battle scenes are also intense to look at. Of course, war is ugly. There’s no compromise in the story here. Most surprising is how they slowed down the last 24 hours of World War I over a period of just over twenty minutes. That paves the way for the final dramatic scenes that would make the viewer angry at the end.
Top credits go to director/writer Edward Berger. He brings back the horrors of World War I in grand style and delivers a film that has a big message to send even now as Ukraine is going through a war of its own. The acting from newcomer Felix Kammerer was also excellent, even if his part didn’t have that much depth. Albrecht Schuch was also very good at Kalczinsky. The film also had excellent technical elements like the music of Volker Bertelmann, the cinematography of James Friend and some of the best production design and visual effects of the year. The visual effects really did a good job for the battle scenes.
Avatar: The Way Of Water – Usually when a sequel comes out, the freshness of the original seems lost and the rehash seems to be too similar to the original. Nevertheless the story does aim to have some notable differences from the first. One of which is Jake’s new family on Pandora, including his relationship with his oldest son. The other is facing rivalries both from Earth and his world. The best thing about this film is that the first Avatar took the audience to a new world. This film is also successful in taking people to a new world. Although it feels there may be something missing in this film, it’s still very spectacular and gives the audience the escape they’re looking for. The new twists in the story will also give people the drama they’re looking for and the action scenes they all enjoy.
James Cameron does it again. Not only does he bring back the world of Pandora successfully, but he does it so in breaking box-office records! To think James Cameron films have knocked each other out in setting the record for the highest-grossing ever! First Titanic, then the first Avatar, and now this! However it’s not simply box-office numbers. Cameron succeeds in creating a world where people can escape and be enchanted by. Pandora dazzled people back in 2009 and 2010 and it does it again here. Cameron also wrote an excellent story with four other writers and compiled the official script with two of the writers. They had to make it a believable story, especially since this film is thirteen years since the first. It does a story that works for the film. There was very good acting from returning actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana. Also excellent was newcomer Jamie Flatters in playing Jake’s oldest son. The film’s best qualities, nevertheless, are its visual effects. It’s these effects that give people the escape to Pandora they’re looking for and keep their attention on the drama as it unfolds. Simon Franglen also does a good job in composing a good score for the film.
The Banshees Of Inisherin – This is a film not everyone can understand at first. Even after one sees the film, they can only guess what the film is about. Some say it’s about human weaknesses, or about men and their inability to relate, or even about Irish pride as seen through the eyes of McDonagh. I’ve often felt the story is as much about the island town of Inisherin as it is about the central story. Inisherin is a town away from the mainland and lucky to be out of the range of fighting during the Irish civil war. However Inisherin comes across as a town where nothing really happens or nothing really improves. Anybody who wants to get anywhere have to be like Siobhan and leave the island. Sometimes it seems like the dead friendship of Padraic and Colm is symbolic of how dead the town of Inisherin is. In addition Inisherin being a small town, it’s often a case where word easily gets around about what’s happening. The feud between the two soon becomes the talk of the town.
This film is unique as it attempts to make a comedy out of something intense and dramatic. It’s a story of a drama that is slow, but the slowness is its quality. A story about a man deciding to end a friendship because his friend is ‘dull’ and spend the rest of his years composing music seems odd and pointless. Nevertheless the film allows for the intensity to build over time. It also has its ugly surprises, but the surprises become important to the drama. The different characters also add to the story. They help provide for the environment of the story almost as if the film is based on a classic Irish fable. In addition, the scenery adds to the story. The film is as much about the scenery and the landscapes as it is about the town and its drama. Its addition to the film help builds the story.
Top credit should go to director Martin McDonagh. McDonagh infrequently shells out works. It seems like almost once every four to five years. In fact his last film before Banshees, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was five years ago! This is quite possibly his best work. It’s a story that gives you the unexpected and Martin did an excellent job with it. Also when you see the ending, you easily forget that this film is a comedy. Once again, a case of a film that mixes comedy with tragedy, and it does a memorable job here.
Additionally, the story came alive from the excellent acting. Colin Farrell did a great job making Padraic to be kind and loyal and always trying, but pushed to his limits near the end. Brendan Gleeson was also great as the stubborn Colm. He captured his hardness very well. Kerry Condon was also great as Siobhan, the sister who tries to find a way out. Also great was Barry Keoghan, the troubled son of the policeman Padraic and Siobhan try to help out. The supporting characters like the Garda, the banshee and the priest also added to the story. There were also additional technical feats with this film like the cinematography of Ben Davis and the score from Carter Burwell.
Elvis – It’s not easy doing a musical biography and making it into something different. On top of it, you can be sure there have been countless made-for-TV movies made about Elvis. So how can you make an Elvis movie for the big screen of 2023? One ingredient that makes it different is the story being told from the point of view of Colonel Tom Parker. Those of us who know a lot about Elvis may have overlooked his relationship with the Colonel, especially the rocky moments. Another is to add some creative flares. Those that remember Moulin Rouge will remember how that film has creative flares. Luhrmann applies similar creative flairs from Moulin Rouge here. Another ingredient is to have the best songs of a musician’s career as well as their career’s most significant moments. You can’t pack everything about Elvis into 159 minutes of story. This film does showcase the most famous moments of his career.
Another excellent work from Baz Luhrmann. Just when you thought you couldn’t bring Elvis back to the big screen, Luhrmann does it, and in a stylish winning way. He pulls the right moves to deliver an Elvis film people of today will want to see at the theatres. Of course it’s the performance of Austin Butler that has to be the biggest quality. A thirtysomething of today able to epitomize Elvis? The answer is Yes! Butler does an excellent job in playing The King in with a performance with dimension and doesn’t go cartoonish, as one can risk doing performing Elvis. Tom Hanks is also quite good as the colonel. It’s hard to picture him with a Dutch accent, and there were a few times when I questioned if it was off or not, but he did a good job with his role. The technical details also make the film excel. The cinematography, production design, makeup and costuming are all some of the best of this past year.
Everything Everywhere All At Once – Now there have been some absurdist films that have been nominated for Best Picture or other major categories. What makes this film-of-the-absurd is that this takes place in a multitude of worlds. Thanks to technology, Evelyn is able to make many trips of the mind to many different universes and assume many different personas: past, present and future. Even the persona of a rock somewhere in the desert is possible! Usually most people look at stories like these and ask “What the hell?” This is one absurd story that many people found enjoyable. The kung fu fighting scenes also helped a lot too. And to think this all started as Evelyn’s taxes were to be done and she was to get some bad news!
To think it’s the magic of the directing/writing team of the Daniels (Kwan and Scheinert) that delivered this gem. The two have not had a lot of directing experience. Until this film, they’ve only directed some short films together and their only feature was Swiss Army Man from back in 2016! Here they have the perfect breakthrough film for them, and boy is it unforgettable. It’s a fun, thrilling story that comes off as weird and bizarre at first, but starts making more sense as time goes on.
Also excellent is the combined acting. Michelle Yeoh shines as Evelyn. When I first saw her in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I had a feeling she would go far. She had a lot of grace with her. Although this role is way more multidimensional, she still does excellently here and delivers one of the best performances of the year. Ke Huy Quan is also excellent as the meek Waymond. Quan is also this year’s former child actor comeback story. He is best remembered as Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom and Data from The Goonies. Here he gets the adult actor breakthrough he was waiting for, and what a scene-stealing performance! Additional scene stealers are an unrecognizable Jamie Lee Curtis as the IRS agent and Stephanie Hsu as the daughter whose nihilism threatens the multiverse. All the aforementioned actors had a lot to do with their main role and their various roles in the many worlds of the multiverse. That’s a lot of work! Additional technical credits go to Shirley Kurata for the costuming and the band Son Lux for the score that fits the film well.
And there’s the first of it. This is the first half of my review of this year’s Best Picture nominees. Second half coming in a day or two.