It’s something that if you see all ten Best Picture nominees, that means you would have seen 65 of the 125 Oscar nominations! Possibly more than most Academy members!
A single blog having all the Best Picture nominees reviewed would be too exhausting to the eyes. Makes sense to split the ten Best Picture nominees over two blogs. You read the first. Here is the second review of this year’s Best Picture nominees:
The Fabelmans – “Movies are dreams that you never forget.”
After I saw this film, I’ve been telling people this is a reminder that for every big-name director, there was a child with a dream. We’ve seen films before of children being enchanted by film. This is Spielberg’s chance to tell his own story. Essentially that story of Sammy Fabelman is the story of ‘Stevie Spielberg!’ It all started when Sammy’s parents Mitzi and Saul took him to see The Greatest Show On Earth and they told them of the magic of movies: from both the scientific and artistic side. Sammy tries to remake the train crash scene with his toy train set and film it with an 8mm camera… and that was the making! One thing I have to say is that what’s missing in the theatres nowadays are films that make people want to chase their dream. I don’t know about you but if I saw this film as a child, it would make me want to be a film maker. Even adults who grew up with Steven Spielberg movies and have been blown away by them would want to see the story of how it all started.
There are many scenes where one can see that this is how it all started for Spielberg. The scene with Sam biking will remind many of E.T. The scene where he does his war films will remind many of Saving Private Ryan and other war-themed films he’s done. The scenes where he experiences anti-Semitism will tell people of what inspired Schindler’s List. Speaking of which, it’s not to say the dream doesn’t have its rocky moments. We are reminded of times when the dream faced some bumpy paths. There was how his filming exposed Mitzi’s concealed love for Bennie and would lead to the friction in her marriage to Burt. There’s the anti-Semitism Sammy went through being the only Jew in his Northern California town. There’s that time Sam did not want to shoot a movie for years because it would mean using the camera Bennie gave him. It’s funny how when he was young, he insisted to his father “It’s not a hobby,” and as a teen Sam wanted nothing to do with it. I guess the message the film tries to give the audience is that if the skill is in you, the dream can’t die no matter how hard you try to end it.
Top admiration to go to Steven Spielberg. It’s not easy to do a semi-autobiographic story of the director without it getting egotistical. Instead of something egotistical, we get an inspiring story. On top of it, this isn’t any director we’re talking about. We’re talking Spielberg. His films have thrilled us since the late-70’s to now. The film showed he was the type who went that extra mile in adding affects to his films even when he was young. Sometimes I think this film is Spielberg’s gift to us.
Young actor Gabriel Labelle was great in his performance of Sam Fabelman. It was not an easy task playing a boy with film dreams but going through the frustrations of teenagerhood. He did an impressive job. Michelle Williams was also excellent in playing the troubled mother. It was not easy playing the mother that supports her son’s dream but going through a troubling marriage. Also great was Paul Dano in playing the father caught in the middle. Judd Hirsch was also great in the brief scene he played the eccentric uncle. In addition, John Williams gives a great score to go with the film.
Tár – This is a story that we often see of a toxic personality falling from the top of their game. If there’s one thing we all learn as we get older, it’s that if we want to excel and be among the top, we need to have some amount of arrogance and some amount of ruthlessness to get there. Lydia Tár is exactly that case. Yes, she’s condescending to those that think differently. Yes, she does get this feeling that she owns the show when she really doesn’t. And yes, her controlling personality does not leave her when she’s with the women she loves. One thing we often forget is that Lydia Tár’s toxic control-freak persona is something very common in show business. We see it time and time again. Most commonly from the men in show business. This film shows it’s even possible for a woman to be this controlling and manipulative. It’s very easy to try and go from the top of your game and then face the comeuppance of a downfall as your actions catch up to you. That’s the story of Lydia Tár. It got to the point everyone had to turn on her. The suicide of Krista Taylor was the beginning of the end.
The film is a straightforward story of a conductor on top of her game who faces a downfall and then finds new life in the aftermath. Despite that, it still has to capture the essence of the conductor and their music. Despite Lydia Tár being a control freak of a person, like most people at the top in arts and entertainment are, it also has to capture Lydia’s passion for music. The film itself has not forgotten about Lydia’s passion for music as it shows itself throughout the film. Music is a common theme throughout the film and it captures the essence excellently.
The brains behind this piece is Todd Field. Todd has had other films that looked like potential Best Picture nominees like 2002’s Far From Heaven and 2015’s Carol (which Blanchett also plays lead) that have “missed by that much.” This time, he finally gets it! While the two aforementioned films are timepieces, this takes place in modern times. It’s an excellent work about a toxic musician facing their comeuppance in modern times. Also making the film soar is Cate Blanchett. Her performance as a prima donna conductor owns the film from start to finish. She keeps her character interesting and helps the audiences into sharing her passions. Although Blanchett practically owns the film, supporting performances from Nina Hoss as her wife and Noemie Merlant as her angry assistant also add to the film.
Top Gun: Maverick – I’m sure the idea of a sequel to the original Top Gun had been an idea ever since the film became a hit. It was possible one could be out two or three years after the first. Most sequels are out in that time, and it’s mostly duds in such cases. A sequel thirty-six years after its original release seems like quite the gamble. Sure, there has been a lot of this retro-80’s stuff coming back and yes, there has been a lot of rebooting and remaking, but a sequel? Can a Top Gun sequel work with a sixtysomething Tom Cruise?
Peter Craig and Justin Marks were able to write a story to serve as the catharsis for the Top Gun sequel. The story ended up being a believable story of Maverick who’s on the verge of moving from pilot to teacher, but was born to fly. In the meantime, he has to teach a new generation which includes the son of Bradshaw. It’s a story that makes sense to have. In addition, it’s a story that gives the effects of flying a fighter jet. Most of us will never fly in one. The first Top Gun film was a hit because it gave the thrill of flying a fighter jet. This film continues to give us that feel without making us forget the physical toll flying such a jet can take on the passenger.
Top marks go to director Joseph Kosinsky. It was no easy task to direct this sequel; a sequel to a film that came out when he was 12. A director with proven work in science fiction was needed for a film like this an Kosinsky was the right one. He delivers a sequel that has a sensible story and keeps the action active and dazzling. The dream team of scriptwriters also did a very good job in delivering a story that’s believable and a story that isn’t too similar to the original film, like most film sequels are.
Tom Cruise returns to give his best acting in many years. Maverick was the role that made him a superstar in 1986. To play Maverick 36 years later was no easy task. It was not easy playing a man who has aged over time, but still had that young love for flying big. Tom did it very well. Jennifer Connelly was also good as Penny, but her role was not as developed. The set of young actors to play the new recruits were also very good. Miles Teller was not only good as Rooster, but he was able to steal the show from Maverick many times. Glen Powell was easily dislikeable as Hangman, Nevertheless the main attraction to a film like this is the effects. Again, this film delivers in its effect to give the audient the feel of what it’s like behind a fighter jet at supersonic speed. It’s what makes a movie like this!
Triangle Of Sadness – This is a rare case of a comedy with a message to deliver. There are a lot of themes in this film to take note of. One is social status. The story goes from the young model/influencer couple who debate about paying for a date to the various business people and socialites. They flaunt their riches, they enjoy their time without a care in the world, they all have their dinners of choice. The workers on the ship are just there to do their job. All that changes after the heavy rocking of the ship and its shooting down. The scene of the ship rocking is especially key as we see the Russian oligarch not only share control of the ship with the American captain, but also them shouting both anti-capitalist and anti-socialist sayings on the intercom.
In the aftermath, the eight surviving passengers are on an island with nothing. There’s also the theme of power. On the ship, the rich had it all while the workers did what they wer told and has basic living conditions. After the sinking the Filipino woman who was a cleaner on the ship is now the leader because of her survival skills. Power going from the bottom to the top. It also shows how even she can use her power to get what she wants and how power can even be an addiction for her.
The film doesn’t just deliver a message about classism and superficiality. It does so in a unique fashion. First it starts with a male model who makes less than his influencer girlfriend. Then it’s an argument at a restaurant which then leads them to this cruise with the mega wealthy. The cruise introduces us to them and their mindsets. Then the ship rocks furiously with everyone getting sick on board. Then the ship is torpedoed which leads to the eight survivors on what appears to be a deserted island. The time on the island gives a new structure with the former cleaning lady leading and the other survivors co-existing. It’s a clever arrangement of a story mixed with the bizarre and the disgusting to go along with it. Nevertheless the message doesn’t get lost. Nor does the story of the model/influencer couple lose its status as the prime story.
Top accolades to go to director/writer Ruben Ostlund. This is a unique tragicomedy that lampoons the rich but also reminds us how addictive power can be for even the smallest of the small. It has a lot of bizarre humor and even treads on the disgusting, but it all works when you look back on it. It’s actually a smart edgy comedy. Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean were also very good playing the couple. Their roles weren’t too deep, but they did well in playing the young and superficial pair. There were scene-stealers in this film. The most notable being Dolly de Leon as the cleaner-turned-leader. She was excellent in going from just a cleaning lady to becoming the leader with all the unfairness that comes with it! Also a scene stealer is Zlatko Buric as the Russian oligarch who helps endanger the ship with the captain.
Women Talking – If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2022, it’s about how religion is often used to control women. That is one world issue felt big in 2022 with the loss of Roe v. Wade and also with the Women’s Revolution in Iran. Here we’re presented a story of a community whose religious beliefs create a community separate from the rest of secular society. It’s a community with strict values unchanged for centuries. This strictness causes a problem as there’s a rapist in the community threatening the women. The men have not made any effort to protect the women from this madman so they have to organize things themselves. It’s in this conversation that they have to decide, to stay and fight or to leave all at once before the men return? Even though leaving seems like the best choice, how will they do it? How will the children be raised properly? Will the boys be raised to treat women with respect? There is a lot to think about in this film. August, the university-educated token male in the discussion, serves as the image of hope for the women. He’s the one man in the community they can trust to raise the boys right.
The film is done very smartly. It presents the issue and the vote which leads to the discussion. It’s fair to say 85-90% of the film involves the women meeting in the hall for the discussion. That’s possibly the most critical part of it. While the men who dominate the community are away, the women finally get their moment to discuss things and make the choice to do something of their own choosing. When you hear them talk, it’s not simple common blabbing. These are the women speaking their fears, their anger, the hurts they’s endured, their passions and their families who mean so much to them. The discussions get very heated with all that’s happen, but they all have a bond that’s like a sisterhood that they show near the end. Even though it is primarily about the women, it’s also about August as he is their sense of hope to make the community better. He does it at the sacrifice of having to lose the woman he loves. It hurts him, but he knows it’s worth it.
The biggest praise of this film should go to writer/director Sarah Polley. Those of us living in Canada have seen Sarah develop over the years first when she was a child actor in the Road To Avonlea TV series, then seen as the next “it girl” in films like The Sweet Hereafter, Go and Existenz, only to drop acting and move in the field of writing and directing. She has come of age greatly over the years and one could call this film her crowning achievement so far. She does an excellent adaptation of the novel into a film that will get one intrigued of what will happen, what will be decided upon. I’ve often felt since the story is mostly in the same room, it can be adapted into a stage play. We’ll see. As for the acting, it’s hard to pick a standout. All the women here did an excellent almost-unselfish job of portraying their characters well. If I could pick the standouts, they would have to be Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy. A tough call. Ben Whitshaw also did an excellent job as playing the man watching, observing, and providing both wisdom and hope.
And there you go. There’s my second blog of my review of the Best Picture nominees. My predictions for the Oscar wins I anticipate to have by Saturday.