Oscars 2022 in Review
Last night, was an all-time low for the Academy Awards even without the now-infamous altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock. Cutting important filmmaking categories but finding time for nonsensical tributes just made no sense. For a celebration of film, the whole telecast was quite disrespectful. I truly hope next year they can regroup and come back from this. Let's make the movies the star again and let the show be about our love for them. In any event, let's recap the big category winners and I'll give my thoughts on what won, what should have won, and my rankings of all the nominees.
WHAT WON: CODA. I love love love love LOVE CODA and I have ever since I first saw it at Sundance, but I don't think it was ever meant to be a Best Picture winner. It certainly was the little film that could and I admire the heck out of its pure resilience. It will always be a personal favorite of mine forever, but I do worry about its legacy and the vitriol that will be thrown at it in years to come on whether or not it was worthy.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE WON: THE POWER OF THE DOG, DUNE, or BELFAST. While CODA is a heartwarming favorite of mine, a film that had more impressive craft all around would have made a stronger winner.
WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Mass, The Last Duel, The Green Knight
MY PERSONAL RANKING
OF THE BEST PICTURE NOMINEES:
10. DON'T LOOK UP
While I appreciated the commentary in this film, it kind of ended up being just one joke that we got hit over the head with for nearly three hours. You reach a certain point, where you want to just throw up your hands and say "Okay, we get it. Do you have anything else of value to say?" In the end, it comes off like an echo chamber of the rich and powerful patting themselves on the back because THEY care, but no one else can be bothered to.
9. WEST SIDE STORY
An unnecessary remake of a beloved Hollywood classic offers an updated and diverse cast, and little else. So many choices in this were head-scratching, but the biggest fumble is the handling of the romance at the center of the film. You can have great side performances, cinematography, and choreography, but it all falls apart if we don't believe this love story is worth fighting for. Portraying this would-be Romeo and Juliet as puppy love rather than star-crossed lovers is a huge mistake while Tony and Maria's lack of chemistry sinks the film. Full review HERE
8. LICORICE PIZZA
A lot of people REALLY loved Licorice Pizza, but I just never understood the hype. Yes it's got great performances, and yes I understand it's more of a "vibes" movie and less of a movie with a plot...but the plot it does have is just not my favorite. It's one thing to portray the relationship with a minor in film, but it's another to endorse it and honestly I never quite know where the film itself stands on the relationship between its two main characters. Is it being celebrated? Is it showing how dysfunctional it is? Maybe both? Either way, it's a bit hard to stomach when the ending comes off as so triumphant. At least end it on a The Graduate type note...
7. KING RICHARD
King Richard tells the story of the rise of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, from the perspective of their father Richard, whose constant tutelage and unwavering persistence in the face of impossible odds facilitated their success. There are some great performances here and some truly inspirational moments. Where it trips up for me is the length and pacing, plus needing a bit stronger of an ending.
6. DRIVE MY CAR
Drive My Car is a beautiful film with incredibly poignant moments, that I'm definitely not sure needed to be three hours long. It's a powerful story of dealing with grief and unresolved feelings towards one's partner, that also happens to be sandwiched between a lot of redundant, long scenes. It's a lesson in patience, but for those who have that patience, you do get rewarded in the end. But whether or not its worth the journey depends on the viewer.
5. NIGHTMARE ALLEY
Nightmare Alley is an interesting one where it didn't really hook me until the last 30 or so minutes and then I absolutely loved it. It's a gorgeous-looking film with incredible production design, costumes, cinematography, and color grading. While I think it, like many of the nominees this year, also suffers from pacing issues, as well as some parts needing to be simplified, while others needed expounding. All in all, generally great performances and a truly solid film.
Belfast is the beautifully told recollection of a childhood in the midst of turmoil. It's almost more a series of memories than a film with a clearly defined plot, which is what frustrated many viewers. But I found it to be a lovely film both in appearance and themes. Loving others despite our differences and knowing that we're all equal is a very pertinent message in our day and age.
3. THE POWER OF THE DOG
The Power of the Dog was a supposed lock as it enjoyed the Best Picture frontrunner status for months. Had the awards been held back in February when they normally are, before there had been any turning of the tide to CODA's favor, this probably would have held on to win the big prize. While it wasn't my personal favorite of the lot, it was undeniably a powerful film that was incredibly well made on all fronts. It's definitely a film I more admire than love, but sometimes those are the best types to win Best Picture.
So as I've said, I've absolutely adored CODA from the moment I saw it at Sundance in January 2021. It was a perfect coming-of-age crowd-pleaser. Is it the Sundance movie that I would have championed to be this year's Best Picture winner? No, that would have been the criminally underseen and overall superior film Mass. I truly love CODA for what it is, but I'm not going to pretend it's a spectacle of a film that should be a Best Picture winner. But, it still is one of my personal favorites of the year. CODA has heart and will put a smile on your face...which counts for a lot these days. Original Sundance review HERE
The sweeping cinematic Dune was my favorite film last year and would have been my dream pick to win Best Picture. Dune is a stunner. It's a tribute to the power of film and its ability to transport us into another world. Every element involved was top-notch and its artistry cannot be beaten. Dune received a lot of love at the Oscars and actually received more awards than any other film. Hopefully, if its sequels are just as good they can get the Return of the King treatment. Original review of Dune can be found HERE
Who won: Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Who should have won: I'm honestly not sure. I think a case could be made for anyone nominated except Nicole Kidman. I haven't seen Penelope Cruz's performance so I can't comment, but I think Jessica did a good job, even if it wasn't the strongest win.
Who should have been nominated: Lady Gaga for House of Gucci, Martha Plimpton for Mass, and Jodie Comer for The Last Duel.
MY PERSONAL BEST ACTRESS RANKING:
LAST: NICOLE KIDMAN
Nicole Kidman was totally miscast as Lucille Ball and I found her performance pretty distracting. I was never not aware that this was Nicole Kidman as I watched. She never was able to completely disappear in the role which was required for this specific part. She had flashes here and there where her performance worked, but there were so many other actresses more deserving of a nomination than Nicole for this role.
TIE FOR BEST: JESSICA CHASTAIN, OLIVIA COLMAN, KRISTEN STEWART
I didn't have a favorite this year, all three of these performances were strong, but each had something I didn't love about them either. Olivia was solid and understated in an unlikable role. Kristen gave her strongest performance to date, but I didn't love her portrayal of Princess Diana as a fragile weakling...though it worked for her movie. Jessica was probably my favorite performance of the three, but this seems more like an oscar making up for her not getting one for Zero Dark Thirty.
Who won: Will Smith for King Richard
Who should have won: Andrew Garfield who was absolutely transcendent in Tick Tick...Boom!
Who should have been nominated: Peter Dinklage for Cyrano.
MY PERSONAL BEST ACTOR RANKING
LAST: JAVIER BARDEM
Like Kidman, Javier too was miscast as Desi Arnaz. He looks nothing like Desi and perhaps had too much gravitas for the role. He probably bothered me less than Kidman because he seemed a bit more committed to the part, but he absolutely should not have gotten a nomination for this role.
MIDDLE TIER: WILL SMITH & BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
(Note: I did not see The Tragedy of Macbeth, so I cannot comment on or rank Denzel's performance). I think for Will, King Richard was a really strong performance. Was it the best of the year? I'm not so sure, but rather I think members of the Academy wanted to reward him for a strong role that was the culmination of his career. Benedict's performance was also strong, but more reliably so from him than anything necessarily truly remarkable.
BEST: ANDREW GARFIELD
Andrew Garfield was so dynamic in Tick Tick...Boom! He was absolutely magnetic and commands the screen. You can't take his eyes off of him, and he's really doing so much all at once. He exudes the perfect manic energy of a talented man procrastinating like crazy to avoid dealing with his writer's block, as well as everything going on in his life. Also, who knew he could sing??
Who won: Jane Campion
Who should have won: Jane Campion. Of those nominated, she truly delivered beautiful and gripping work with The Power of the Dog. She infuses the film with an impenetrable sense of dread that you cannot shake. Everything is orchestrated together perfectly to achieve exactly what she wanted.
Who should have been nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Dune
MY PERSONAL RANKING OF
BEST DIRECTOR NOMINEES
5. Steven Spielberg
I know I'm in the minority, but I just don't love his version of West Side Story. It's a perfectly capable film, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original in terms of heart or intensity. His West Side Story simply is for people whose sensibilities can't handle classic films.
4. Paul Thomas Anderson
Again, Licorice Pizza wasn't really my cup of tea, but I can see the value others find in it. Paul Thomas Anderson pulls out fantastic performances from all involved and truly makes some magic happen where maybe in the hands of someone else couldn't have pulled off what he accomplishes here.
3. Kenneth Branagh
As I mentioned, I found Belfast to be a lovely film, and Kenneth Branagh's direction is very strong all throughout. It's not the showiest film, so it'd be easy to take his directing for granted, but he really crafts a beautiful film with really strong performances from everyone involved.
2. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Drive My Car is so unassuming, and yet it has some of the most powerful scenes of any movie from last year. The subtle character work that Hamaguchi carefully crafts gently pulls the viewer into the fictional lives. While not every scene worked for me, I can't deny that the film as a whole wasn't beautifully made.
1. Jane Campion
To echo what I said before, Jane was a truly deserving winner of her Best Director Academy Award. It's magnificent to see two female directors winning back to back and this is definitely a win that should be celebrated!
Well, that covers all of the big winners from yesterday and like the Academy, I don't have the time to cover everything. But here's hoping they wise up to their mistakes and turn things around next year.