Cinematic Consideration: The Oscars!

By Nathan H. Box, MNPL

For us cinephiles, this week is our Super Bowl. My social media feeds are filled with debates over the most deserving film to win best picture, snubs, and which actors and actresses should hear their names called out on Sunday. As someone who loves this art form, I devour the conversation, arguing with strangers, and patiently waiting for my Oscar party on Sunday night.

Of every film nominated across all 23 categories, I have had the distinct joy of watching all of them except three: Parallel Mothers, Writing with Fire, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom. For over 25 years, I have obsessively watched this awards show and, without a doubt, this seems to be the most even year. Make no mistake, there are clear winners in some categories, but there are others where it is anybody’s guess. 

Speaking of guesses, below are mine, accompanied by some reasoning. To make it interesting, I’ll give you a sense of who I think should win and who I think the Academy will choose. If you have a few moments, we would love to hear your choices below in the comments. 

Best Picture

My Choice: Belfast

The Academy: The Power of the Dog 

To see conflict through the eyes of a child gives the battles of man a new perspective. Belfast is an experience I will never forget. I have never fully understood the violence between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, but watching this film framed for me the human cost of such challenges.

Best Director

My Choice: Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

The Academy: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Yes, West Side Story is a remake, but it is a beautiful, vibrant, and an imaginative retelling of a quintessential piece of American cinema. In Steven Spielberg’s capable hands, new life is breathed into this story for a new generation. The result is a cinematic experience I want to relive again and again.

Best Adapted Screenplay

My Choice: The Power of the Dog

The Academy: The Power of the Dog

Adapted from the 1967 novel written by Thomas Savage, The Power of the Dog tells a new story of the American west. Gone are stories of good versus evil. Instead, we are offered a nuanced story about envy, longing, belonging, and quiet rage. This movie is methodical and will leave you pondering its ending long after the credits have ended.

Best Original Screenplay

My Choice: The Worst Person in the World

The Academy: King Richard

I feel like The Worst Person in the World was written for me. In my estimation, it encapsulates what it means to be in your late 20s and early 30s. Trying to navigate relationships, self-worth, and your own ambitions in a world where so much is expected of you, this is a film about growth and perseverance.

Best Actor

My Choice: Andrew Garfield, tick, tick…BOOM

The Academy: Will Smith, King Richard

In King Richard, Will Smith delivers one of the best performances of his career, but in tick, tick…BOOM, Andrew Garfield gives the best performance of the year. As struggling playwright, Jonathan Larson, who would go onto create the Broadway-smash, Rent, Garfield is a man obsessed with his vision. Food, friends, work, none of it matters if Larson cannot achieve his dream. Garfield fully embodies the role; a role filled with heart, passion, and dedication.

 Best Supporting Actor

My Choice: Troy Kotsur, CODA

The Academy: Troy Kotsur, CODA

If you have not seen CODA, I recommend you do it as soon as possible. It is the story of a deaf family and their hearing daughter, Ruby, who is pursuing her passion for singing. Troy Kotsur, who plays Ruby’s father, gives a performance filled with heart and love. While he may not be able to fully appreciate his daughter’s talent, his dedication is powerful.

Best Actress

My Choice: Kristen Stewart, Spencer

The Academy: Kristen Stewart, Spencer

In my initial review of Spencer, I said it was a film I would show to a film appreciation class; a film we would dissect scene by scene. As Princess Diana, Kristen Stewart’s performance is engrossing as we watch her give way to paranoia and madness. Watching her perform feels voyeuristic and painful. Each choice she makes in this film is worthy of discussion, but it is also award worthy.

Best Supporting Actress

My Choice: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

The Academy: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Ariana DeBose, as Anita, in West Side Story, is vibrant, fierce, and a grounding force. When she is present, she elevates every scene. Dancing, singing, acting, there is nothing Ariana cannot do. I, for one, cannot wait to see where her career takes her next.

Best Animated Feature

My Choice: Flee

The Academy: Encanto 

Flee is a revelatory experience as it sheds light on the refugee and immigrant experience. If you are open to it, this is a movie with the power to change you for the better. The world can use more empathy and artistic expressions such as this film are made to pull such a force out of us. 

Best Cinematography

My Choice: The Tragedy of Macbeth, Bruno Delbonnel

The Academy: Dune, Greig Fraser 

The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Shot completely in black and white, how it makes use of this palette is nothing short of breathtaking. Shadows, highlights, bright spaces, and dark corners are characters in this film equal to the actors on the screen.

Best Costume Design

My Choice: Cruella, Jenny Beavan

The Academy: Cruella, Jenny Beavan

Cruella is a story centered on the world of high-fashion, which means the costumes better match the setting. Without a doubt in my mind, they do that and much more. The dresses and clothes in this film are not just props. They are fundamental to the story.

Best Documentary Feature

My Choice: Flee

The Academy: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

I cannot shake Flee. Watching the news, seeing millions of Ukrainians flee their homeland because of an evil man, the story behind this film and its central message seem more important than ever before.

Best Documentary Short

My Choice: Audible

The Academy: The Queen of Basketball

In my estimation, Audible is nearly perfect. Focused on a deaf high school football team from Maryland, this short is more than a sports movie. It is an underdog story about characters with complex lives.

Best Film Editing

My Choice: Dune, Joe Walker

The Academy: Dune, Joe Walker

Dune is a visual feast heightened by the quality of its editing. Every scene feels important, perfectly paced, and beautifully crafted.

Best International Feature Film

My Choice: The Worst Person in the World

The Academy: Drive My Car

The Worst Person in the World is another one of those films I cannot shake. The more I think about it, the more I seem to find things I like about it. In so many ways, it felt relatable, real, and authentic.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

My Choice: Cruella

The Academy: Cruella

Again, Cruella is a story about the world of high-fashion. To make it believable, we had to be transported to this world via tools such as makeup and hairstyling. In so many ways, they defied my expectations.

Best Original Score

My Choice: The Power of the Dog, Jonny Greenwood

The Academy: The Power of the Dog, Jonny Greenwood

The score to The Power of the Dog is a mysterious and haunting reimagining of music we often associate with the American west. It possesses the power to intensify every scene, and serves as a character in its own right.

Best Original Song

My Choice: Be Alive, from King Richard

The Academy: Be Alive, from King Richard

Kids get ready! Beyoncé is about to win an Oscar.

Best Production Design

My Choice: The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Academy: Dune

When you consider The Tragedy of Macbeth, one might call the production design minimalistic. In my estimation, how the spaces are used is an homage to the original play, but they also elevate the sense of calamity lurking around every corner.

Best Short, Animated 

My Choice: Robin, Robin

The Academy: Robin, Robin

Easily the weakest category of the year, I found myself unimpressed by most of this year’s nominated animated shorts with one exception, Robin, Robin. This short is charming, funny, and a wonderful tale about the family we choose.

Best Short, Live Action

My Choice: The Long Goodbye

The Academy: The Long Goodbye

This year’s live-action shorts are heavy and depressing. My choice for the Oscar is a story about an immigrant family in Britain preparing their home for a wedding. Their peace and joy is broken by a right-wing march that spirals out of control. Easily, this is one of the most heartbreaking films I have seen this year.

Best Sound

My Choice: West Side Story

The Academy: West Side Story

I now own the soundtrack to West Side Story on vinyl. The sound and music are so vibrant and enthralling it became an experience I wanted to live with again and again.

Best Visual Effects

My Choice: Dune

The Academy: Dune

Every year, they release a new movie that pushes the visual envelope further than I ever thought possible. Dune was that release in 2021.

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