This was supposed to be an Award Season blog so I can guess I should finally write about the recent Oscar nominations. My initial thought was that there was no such thing as an asterisk awards season. I may seem defensive when it comes to putting asterisks next to 2020 awards and titles after watching the Los Angeles Lakers win their 17th NBA championship in the fall of 2020 shortly followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series (For the record, I did not watch the Dodgers because I did not want to jinx them). No fans, no traveling, no challenge. It was like taking a stroll through the park on a bright spring afternoon. Using this logic, I had assumed that the 2020/21 Oscar nominees were the real deal. No asterisks next to these nominees on Wikipedia or the history books at the Academy museum. A picture is a picture.
Then I finally caught up with all eight of the Best Picture nominees.
Baby, these are the asterisk Oscars. I’m sure if A24 and Netflix could’ve figured out a way to re-release Uncut Gems as a 2020 release, Howie would be the front runner to sweep the damn thing. It’s not to say these pictures are bad (well, one is), but these pictures are just okay to great. Is there a picture in the bunch that could hang with last year’s nominees? Probably. Was anything as impactful and significant as Parasite or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or The Irish Man or even Little Women? Absolutely positively not. Nope. No way. No dice. Can’t do it, Sally.
If I was an Academy voter, this would be my ranked Best Picture ballot:
Sound of Metal – My favorite of all the Best Picture nominees. Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci are really great. It feels fresh. I rarely find the right words to express how much I like a picture. This one just worked for me.
Judas and the Black Messiah – Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, and Jesse Plemons all deliver real strong performances. The picture never feels boring or repetitive. Biographical pictures are tricky because the filmmakers are condensing someone’s life to fit these specific plot beats and may try too hard to hammer how important these people are.
Nomadland – I think it’s getting the push back because it’s not the epic vicious takedown of large corporations that most wanted. That was never the picture Chloe Zhao was going to make. Zhao makes pictures about people trying to find that small glimmer of hope and trying to push through life. Zhao isn’t going to take a metaphorical blow torch to Amazon and its working conditions. She’s more interested in the story about the person who’s slightly happy at their job. Even if they have to work multiple shifts in a day. I think it’ll win Best Picture because it’s an “important” movie and the Academy wants to be seen as progressive.
Minari – This is another good picture, but I have some problems with it. It’s foreshadowing, but I feel like there should be a different term used for foreshadowing used in independent films/dramas. I can’t speak for everyone, but I usually spend most of my time watching these pictures waiting for the bottom to drop out on these characters. What will make things worse for these characters? You keep showing me this burning barrel so I have to assume at some point, something will burn down.
The Father – Once again, everybody is good in the picture, but it still felt like a play to me.
Promising Young Woman – Maybe I need to give it a second spin, but it dragged a bit for me. I’ve been binge watching episodes of Red Letter Media’s “Best of the Worst,” and Promising Young Woman felt like the NPR version of a picture that Red Letter Media would review. I get why horror fans roll their eyes when the term “elevated horror” gets tossed around.
Mank – What happened to David Fincher? Too digital and clean to be a period piece.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Was this supposed to be a parody movie? Not Another Lawyer Movie? Meet the Hippies? Jeremy Strong makes Johnny from Airplane! seem subtle.
My only other Oscar opinion is that I hope Sean Bobbitt wins Best Cinematography for Judas and the Black Messiah.
The Oscars work in a weird cycle where one year, they’ll collectively get everything right and the next, they’ll get it all wrong. Last year was a year where it felt like the voters got it right…. I’m not sure this version of logic can apply. Other than Not Another Aaron Sorkin Movie, none of the nominees feel truly offensive. At the same time, the Academy voting block is a weird collection of individuals. These are Biden Bros; people who might’ve had their brain broken by the pandemic and wished they could’ve stormed the capital; there are people who’ll go to war defending the likes of Mel Gibson and Woody Allen and toss a female filmmaker into the woods because a character drama didn’t open to Transformer like numbers. Remember the Imagine video? People thought that was a good idea get to vote on these awards.
And finally, jeers to KCon:tact Season 3 for only having Loona perform two songs last weekend. I understand that “12:00” promotion cycle has ended for Loona, but at least, let them perform more than two songs. The choreography for “Voice” is great. I remain cautiously optimsitc that some of my other faves will perform more than two songs at KCon:tact 3.