We here at the Crimson, by which I mean me, have not seen all of the 54 nominees for the 95th Academy Awards. I have seen a measly 17 of them. Still, I watched the announcement of the nominees on Jan. 24 with interest and hopes — some of which were met, and some of which were dashed. As happens in every transpiration of this annual cycle, there were snubs and there were surprises. Here I would like to expound on some of the more talked-about categories.
It was a surprise — though, if one gauged by the betting markets, only a slight one — to see “Triangle of Sadness” among the Best Picture nominees and “Babylon” left out. Though I have not seen “Triangle of Sadness,” I was saddened by “Babylon’s” exclusion. Damien Chazelle ’07’s telling of the rise of talking films divided critics and flopped at the box office. It is, admittedly, a bit of a monstrosity. Its three hours and nine minutes move forward with a relentless fury that makes the viewer feel like a cat in a clothes dryer. Yet I found it a masterpiece. It bursts with love and hate; it is intensely, recklessly, overwhelmed by a death drive; and yet it cannot conclude.
But enough sorrow. There is much to celebrate in the list of the nominees. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was far from my favorite film of the year, but it was, strictly speaking, ours. If more films like it proliferate in years to come, their sentimentality and bloated humor will grow tired fast, but for now “Everything Everywhere” has clearly captured the attention of a generation that feels it finally sees itself onscreen. There is a storied place for such films in the history of cinema. The picture is not the first work to comment on how, in an age where most people are connected to the expanse of the internet most of the time, one finds oneself constantly aware of the vast multiplicity of that which is. As a friend put it to me, a senator gives a speech in Congress, and hours later there are hundreds of thousands of dramatically different renditions of the speech floating around on TikTok, from scathing, highly edited takedowns to autotuned songificiations to videos of aspiring and unaspiring musicians recording themselves harmonizing to autotuned songifications. “Everything Everywhere” makes that experience of being on the internet manifest. If, in the process, it also straightforwardly produces the effortful insipidness of that experience (butt plug–powered martial artists; a bagel with literally everything on it), this is forgivable. We are happy to see such an aesthetically film make it to the Oscars in a big way. It is favored to win the award; it would not be this writer’s choice, but he will not object as he objected to “CODA’s” egregious victory last year.
As for the others: The inclusion of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which we have not seen, bodes well for the future of non–English language cinema at the Oscars. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a better if less sophisticated technological achievement than the behemoth “Avatar: The Way of Water.” “The Banshees of Inisherin” is unassuming, but severed fingers stay on the mind. Better that the Academy encourage a lack of restraint than suffocate it, even if “Elvis” goes too far. And I was relieved to see “Women Talking,” an unassuming, dialogic meditation on the dynamism of spoken conversation, make the cut.
My loyalties are divided as to what should win. I lean toward “TÁR,” an eerie near–horror movie that Jamelle Bouie has excellently assessed as a meditation on “the perilously short distance between self-creation and self-delusion, and the danger of treating others as mere means to the end of one’s self-actualization.” But I have a soft spot for “The Fabelmans,” which more than previous Steven Spielberg–Tony Kushner collaborations, synthesizes Spielbergian mythos with Kushnerian trenchancy. Fortunately, critics do not get to vote for the Academy Awards, and college newspaper critics do not get to vote for any awards; and thus I do not have to choose.
The controversy in this category is that two Black actresses who had been assumed to be locks for nominations, Viola Davis of “The Woman King” and Danielle Deadwyler of “Till,” were snubbed, with unexpected nominations for Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”). Since of those four movies I have only seen “The Woman King,” I won’t wade into the brouhaha here.
As for the others: I did not think Michelle Williams’s performance in “The Fabelmans” was a leading one and was not blown away by it; for me, this is a contest between Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere”) and Blanchett (“TÁR”). Not much of a contest, though: Blanchett’s performance will cast a long shadow in years to come. I liked Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere” and would be content to see her win; but it would be a mistake on the Academy’s part.
The Academy’s fetish for mimesis, especially in judging performances, is well-known for causing performances like Eddie Redmayne’s in “The Theory of Everything” — stale but precise — to win trophies. An underrated effect of this fetish, however, is to shut out performances that are great because they simply project a vibe. This is why Harrison Ford has only one acting nomination, and it’s for “Witness” instead of “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars,” or “Blade Runner.”
Daniel Craig became famous in one “vibe role” — James Bond — and since 2019 has been making his name again in another. Benoit Blanc of the “Knives Out” films could not be more different from Bond, but Craig’s performances in both roles are for the ages. Someday he will play a very serious role as a politician or a mathematician, and he will win, and we will all know that he is actually winning for playing James Bond and Benoit Blanc. The Academy should have cut to the chase and awarded him now.
I would also like to have seen Diego Calva nominated for his work in “Babylon,” but likely winner Brendan Fraser brings gentility and even cheerfulness to a film (“The Whale”) that seems determined to stamp these qualities out. Colin Farrell (“Banshees”) and Austin Butler (“Elvis”) are each serviceable to their films’ overall moods. Bill Nighy, in “Living,” cannot live up to Takashi Shimura’s work in “Ikiru,” but no one could. I have not seen “Aftersun,” but Paul Mescal’s nomination is a win for independent cinema, and I generally celebrate such victories.
Best Supporting Actor
I have not seen “Causeway,” but I hear tell from certain Crimson film editors that Brian Tyree Henry’s performance, a surprise nominee, is excellent. Brendan Gleeson’s and Ke Huy Quan’s nominations for “Banshees” and “Everything Everywhere,” respectively, are as expected as they are welcome, as is Quan’s victory, which is generally supposed to be a sure thing. Paul Dano’s (“Fabelmans”) exclusion is decidedly unwelcome. Either Judd Hirsch (“Fabelmans”) or Barry Keoghan (“Banshees”) could have been jettisoned to make room for him. And I was sorry not to see my preferred winner, Jovan Adepo (“Babylon”), make the pack, but he was never expected to. One of these years!
Best Supporting Actress
In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Angela Bassett does not exude royalty quite as much as the late Chadwick Boseman did, but then Boseman’s was a once-in-a-generation presence. Bassett is still great, and I look forward to her victory. In this category, all the nominees were anticipated: In addition to Bassett, there are Hong Chau, for “The Whale;” Kerry Condon, for “Banshees;” and Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu, for “Everything Everywhere.” Condon, Curtis, and Hsu are all fine. “Women Talking” fell to the fate of many an ensemble piece before it — with so many award-worthy performances, voters could not coalesce around one — but I would have nominated both Jessie Buckley and Liv McNeil from among its cast. I would have also nominated Lee Jung-hyun, for “Decision to Leave.”
Every year there is some nominating decision that serves to indict the Academy of unseriousness. This year, that decision (or at least one of them) is the total exclusion of Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave,” which should be up for Best Picture and Best Cinematography and possibly Best Director as well as a handful of acting trophies. That a Korean film should be unjustly excluded from these categories is no shock: Even after “Parasite,” the Academy remains an American institution. But for it to be excluded from Best International Feature? In a year when the paint-by-numbers historical drama “Argentina, 1985” has been nominated? If the Academy has enough going for it to have schande, this is a schande.
Finally, one of the greatest Oscars fumbles in history was the Academy’s failure even to nominate Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” from “Do the Right Thing,” for Best Original Song in 1989. (“Under the Sea,” from “The Little Mermaid,” won.) The suckers were simple and plain, but they have a chance, if not to redeem themselves, then to take a different tack, this year: The Academy seems to be poised to give the statuette to M. M. Keeravaani’s and Chandrabose’s “Naatu Naatu,” from “RRR.” “RRR'' should be up for a whole slew of prizes, but if it had gotten snubbed for Best Original Song, it would have been as if “Decision to Leave” had been snubbed for Best International Feature. We all sin and we all do good works; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is no different. Hopefully, come March, it will do the best work it can with the nominations it has set before itself.
A daring shift from an unexpectedly long sequence of bodily fluids to a third act of thought-provoking social commentary cemented my love for “Triangle of Sadness.”
Ruben Östlund’s film, while soaked in seemingly meaningless vomit, is refreshingly complex. It has all you could ever ask for in a three-act film: Engaging events and delightful dialogue that turned a fascination with humans and their various bodily substances into something truly special.
The film follows model-influencers Yaya (Charibi Dean Kriek) and Carl (Harris Dickinson) on a vacation aboard a luxury yacht. Although expecting relaxation, chaos soon ensues once a violent storm wreaks havoc on the bowels of the ship and its affluent patrons. When all hope seems lost for the passengers, their trip just gets worse: Pirates take over the ship, stranding a pack of survivors on a nearby island.
Zany humor transforms this film from a horrific array of events into dark comedy in its finest form. Having a diverse cast aids this effort; by having each character represent various quirks, the film avoids dullness. Instead, a blend of memorable one-liners and jokes that are littered throughout the movie significantly enriched the viewing experience.
If this movie could be solely captured by the stylings of one character, it would be that of Woody Harrelson’s Captain. His character interestingly bridges the gap between random occurrences and larger messaging, turning the yacht captain into a broader denouncement of the elite class. With this, the film’s commentary on class is familiar yet distinct. While building on depictions of destructive privilege such as in “The White Lotus” and “Old”’s disturbing lost-on-a-beach narrative, it paves its own distinctive path that is worthy of an Oscar victory.
Harrelson, beyond his character’s fascinating narrative function, excels in his delivery of comedic yet impactful lines — creating many formidably memorable moments in the film. In addition to Harrelston, Kriek and Dickinson serve as excellent additions in this bizarre plot by allowing for the exploration of the dynamics of a couple caught in the appearance-obsessed throes of the influencer industry. As a viewer, I felt myself tugged alongside the ups and downs of the couple’s emotional journey, riding along the waves of their confusion and misery.
The film’s cinematography should also not be overlooked. Featuring a mixture of alluringly creative shots of the ship’s demise and the defeating life on a desert island ensures that each scene of the film is enticing. The film’s excellent capturing of beautiful landscapes and opulent interiors in the midst of pure chaos is similarly impressive.
In an Oscars season with notably impressive contenders, this film stands apart. And, avowedly, I am a fan of films that deviate from the audience’s expectations. However, whether or not you like deviations from feature film norms, “Triangle of Sadness” has much to love for every type of viewer.
While I admittedly didn’t know what was happening when watching the film — and quite frankly, still don’t — I reveled in my confusion. The film uses its weird nature to propel its appeal, making it my top pick for Best Picture.
A complicated relationship between a man and his dead best friend’s son, a dangerous, nearly impossible mission with an impending deadline, and lives at stake — what more could you possibly ask for?
“Top Gun: Maverick,” the highly anticipated sequel to the ’80s blockbuster “Top Gun,” delivers all of this and more. Along with its engrossing and nuanced plot, the film also features stellar performances from an A-list cast and stunning shots, making it the perfect candidate to win this year’s Best Picture award.
The film’s greatest strength lies in the compelling plot. Centered around Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise), who trains a team of navy pilots to dismantle an unsanctioned uranium plant, an assignment so perilous that many doubt if it is even possible, much less survivable. There’s an even greater sense of urgency as the mission must run by a certain date whether the team is ready or not, and Maverick’s position in the Navy is being called into question at every turn.
“Top Gun: Maverick” manages to masterfully weave all of these elements together and create constant waves of suspense that leaves viewers fully engrossed every second. Often, the movie seemingly resolves the building tension in a scene, causing the audience to lower their guard, only to strike back unexpectedly with a new suspenseful twist. It brings the experience of watching the flying scenes as close as possible to actually being in the plane.
While the story has all of the underpinnings to be another typical pro-military patriotic film, it manages to steer clear of this and achieve nuance by focusing on the complicated relationships between the characters; camaraderie, teamwork, and forgiveness are at the forefront of themes explored. Maverick has a tangled history with one of his trainees, Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller). The son of Maverick’s best friend and a man for whose death he feels responsible. Additionally, it is revealed that Maverick hindered Rooster’s naval pilot career, causing Rooster to harbor lots of resentment towards him. The film focuses on the relationship between the two men and how they each grapple with their feelings toward the other, culminating in an extremely satisfying resolution. Miles Teller and Tom Cruise play the struggle between the two characters brilliantly, giving one of the best portrayals of a not-quite-father-son duo. Perhaps the most satisfying scene in the film is when Rooster, in one of the most stressful moments of his life, with anguish all over his face whispers, “Talk to me dad,” with Maverick whispering back, “Come on kid, you can do it.”
Other relationships are also integral to the movie and to the team’s success, and they further boost the complexity and enjoyability of the film. The team’s camaraderie is emphasized well, with wonderful performances by Glen Powell and Monica Barbaro. Maverick’s relationship with his friend and former rival Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer) and romantic interest Penelope "Penny" Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) add further dimension to the story. The movie manages to juggle these subplots and relationships deftly so they do not feel unnecessary or boring; each is essential to the whole of the film. One underlying issue Maverick faces throughout the film is finding his place outside of the navy. Time that Maverick spends with Penny forces him to grapple with this precise issue, making their relationship more than a cheesy romance. Maverick is able to confide in Penny about his rift with Rooster and worries about the future of his career, showcasing a whole other side of Maverick beyond his skill in a plane.
Furthermore, the visual images in the movie are stunning. “Top Gun” makes extensive use of aerial shots to capture the high-speed plane action, resulting in breathtaking visuals. In addition, the film features cutting-edge visual effects which help create a sense of realism and immersion in the aerial sequences, making the audience feel as if they are in the cockpit with the characters. The editing is fast-paced and dynamic, with rapid cuts and quick camera movements that create a sense of excitement and urgency, and they also help illustrate the technical skill and precision required for aerial maneuvers. Close-up shots in the planes make up many scenes, showcasing minute facial expressions of characters and the talent of the actors. These all combine for a thrilling viewing experience.
“Top Gun: Maverick” manages to take something nostalgic and breathe new life into it to make for a compelling, entertaining story. It covers themes that are universal and uplifting, and allows viewers a brief escape from reality. Regardless of whether or not it wins Best Picture, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a movie to be celebrated.
—Staff writer Jennifer Y. Gao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elvis, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was the ultimate teenage heartthrob of the 1950s who now, — with his renowned provocative dancing, greased-back black hair, and mesmerizing voice — has been brought back to life by Austin Butler in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.”
Audiences watched the life of Elvis Presley from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks, who was Presley’s questionable manager. Parker wakes up alone in a hospital room in Las Vegas, with papers and newscasters labeling him as a crook, a manipulator, and a cheat who took advantage of the young talent. So the movie is Parker’s attempt at explaining himself and telling the story of Elvis’s rise to fame and eventual fall.
The movie brings together audiences of all ages; typical moviegoers, teenagers, and even those who were fans during Elvis’s prime. The audience will surely enjoy the extraordinary performance of Austin Butler, which captures the whole essence of Presley — from his sideburns to his gravel voice. Butler’s performance is transformative, as seen in a major sequence of Elvis’s performance. You can see Elvis transform from a nervous kid with trembling legs behind the stage to a performer whose strong voice travels into the hearts of girls in the audience — carried by charm, charisma, and raw emotion. Butler became Elvis. He captured both the vulnerability of Presley as he faces rejection, as well as the highs when Elvis eventually falls in love with his wife, Priscilla.
Although it is predominantly a musical drama, the movie does more than tell the story of Elvis: It tells the story of a changing America. Elvis had been raised in a predominantly Black neighborhood, growing up with soul music that was crucial to the formation of his own style. His style was not accepted by many at the time; yet, he continued to perform to make his family proud. A scene in the film shows the suggestive nature of Elvis’s dancing and sound, earning him the title of “A white boy with Black moves.” Elvis’s main musical inspirations came from his childhood from the sounds of famous Black artists. The film highlights the racial controversies that arose from Elvis’s music as they fit into a broader conversation of racial dynamics and fame during the 1950s. The movie does a spectacular job of pointing out the tense social atmosphere at the time with threats of Elvis’s arrest and the transformation of his image.
“Elvis” is an ever-changing film with eye-catching sets and a color palette indicative of a rich and bustling lifestyle of vibrant Las Vegas shows, gambling, and fame. Butler revived an icon of American culture through his electrifying performances and a spot-on accent. Although an American icon, “Elvis” maintains relatability among audiences with its themes of family and love, which makes it a standout in the Best Picture category.
“Elvis” is deserving of the Best Picture Award. It had everything, with fantastic production and costume design, flowing storyline, and dazzling performances that made me wish I was one of the girls losing my voice and hollering at Elvis Presley myself!
“Lincoln,” director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner’s 2012 drama about the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution by the House of Representatives, is a good movie, but it’s a little hokey. The climactic scene wherein the House finally votes to approve the amendment is typical of the whole: As jubilation takes hold of the chamber, lofty wind instruments play generic Americana. The “History” side of me cheers on the fact that the story is being told for a wide audience — the “& Literature” side just wishes it weren’t done so sentimentally.
Such sentimentality is, perhaps, to be expected from the man who directed “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” but it comes as a bit of a surprise from the man who wrote “Angels in America.” Not that sentimentality is always a fault — “E.T.” is a great film, and Spielberg is responsible for many of those — but there is some potential in the Spielberg-Kushner partnership that was not realized by “Lincoln,” nor by last year’s “West Side Story,” which went all-in on the Kushnerian critique but lost just a little of the Spielberg magic.
“The Fabelmans” regains that magic by being intensely a Steven Spielberg picture and, equally intensely, a Tony Kushner screenplay. It is a celebration of cinema and a celebration by Spielberg of the love he puts into his films — and not, contrary to some critics’ interpretations, of himself, which is why “The Fabelmans” is a joyous artifact rather than an obnoxious one. It brings Spielberg, and us, back to the setting of mid-to-late-century suburbia as imagined by the man himself, and when author-insert Sammy Fabelman and his sisters walk for the first time to their new high school, one feels a rush of excitement at the nostalgic familiarity of it all.
Yet “The Fabelmans” is also analytical, and critical, of the gaze that has permeated Spielberg’s work. Spielberg worked with Kushner extensively on the screenplay — must have done, because the movie excavates his parents’ marriage and its effect on his filmmaking. It psychoanalyzes Spielberg in an almost Freudian fashion. What’s more, “The Fabelmans” interestingly suggests that the rose-colored lens through which Spielberg has shot white, goyische, suburban America has been for Spielberg a means both to have some part of an ideal that, as a mildly nebbishy 5’8” Jew, he was never to achieve and to take revenge on the owners and inhabitants of that very ideal. And the film is able to execute this synthesis of analysis and entertainment so well not only because Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner are very good at their jobs but also because, when you’ve had the impact on cinema that Steven Spielberg has had, autobiography is film history, and film history autobiography. The analysis is a natural outgrowth of the material.
What I keep coming back to is how fast the movie goes by. It’s two and a half hours long, and I was startled when I looked at my watch for the first time during the movie and realized there was just a half-hour left. That’s because the movie feels like vintage Spielberg — only with a newfound maturity and critical remove from itself. Frederick Douglass once asserted that the “process by which man is able to invent his own subjective consciousness into the objective form, considered in all its range, is in truth the highest attribute of man’s nature.” In “The Fabelmans,” Speilberg achieves this — without, however, getting so far afield of subjectivity as to lose a touch that really can be best described in one word: “Spielbergian.”
Disembodied fingers, a miniature donkey named Jenny, and a Catholic witch.
These are just three of the outlandish entities that figure prominently in Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin.” And while these examples correctly convey the more-than-slightly wacky nature of the film, they fail to capture how McDonagh’s adept combination of such ingredients makes for one of the more strikingly beautiful and emotionally resonant films of 2022, which is wholly deserving of the Best Picture trophy.
“Banshees” tells the tale of Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Padráic (Colin Farrell), two feuding men who cannot find a way to end their friendship on amicable terms. The film finds its setting in the cramped village of Inisherin on a small island off the coast of Ireland, moving almost exclusively between a pub, a house, and a cliff. In its unique storytelling pursuit, the film’s idiosyncratic Irish humor, stellar cast, and breathtaking cinematography all do their part in presenting a remarkably small, poignant tale.
Of its many strengths, “Banshees’” humor reigns supreme. While the film’s synopsis and dramatic marketing do not position the work as highly comedic, it becomes clear from the very first lines that laughter is going to play an important role in the story. More specifically, this comedy finds its roots in the many mundane yet zany quirks of daily life in a remote Irish village during the 1920s. Whether it’s the nosy postmaster begging for news and blaming open letters on “the heat,” the bartender who cannot choose a side in the friendship feud, or Padráic hiding behind a wall to avoid the aforementioned witch, the film constantly assails you with characters whose every action seems a stroke of comedic genius. None of the other Best Picture nominees made me laugh as hard as “Banshees,” and as a lover of laughing, this makes me enormously partial to its cause.
Of course, such comedic success would not be possible without strong and emotionally-grounded performances from the main cast, none of whom disappoint. However, the star among stars is Barry Keoghan, who plays a lovably daft villager named Dominic. Keoghan manages to embody a highly gullible and simple demeanor in a way that is funny without feeling cartoonish, making his moments of vulnerability feel painfully honest. Even down to his skittish, awkward mannerisms, Keoghan gives life to Dominic in a way that is so spectacular it becomes impossible to go unnoticed. And when the film begins to embrace its more dramatic underpinnings in the final act, Keoghan once again matches the tonal energy with aplomb and delivers the most poignant, heartfelt speech in the movie. I hope (but do not expect) to see Keoghan take home an Oscar of his own come Sunday.
Along with the commanding performances, this Irish film unsurprisingly stands out as one of the most naturally beautiful films of the year. Shot entirely on the Emerald Isle, “Banshees” treats its viewers to many aerial shots of the verdant Irish landscape and uses such moments to maintain the film’s slightly languid tempo. The film’s use of ocean imagery is especially impressive, with the bright blue Atlantic waves serving to reinforce changing moods in the film. Contained within these landscape shots are animals of all species, which the film actually uses as much more than mere accessories. In fact, animals like the lovable miniature horse Jenny and Colm’s shepherd dog feel as though they are standing in for the audience, watching the village madness unfold with a cocked head and wide eyes.
While the moral of its story struck me as frustratingly opaque upon my initial watch, “Banshees” has resonated with me in a way that few films do, stirring up thoughts about the nature of camaraderie, stoicism, and village life. But mostly, “Banshees” is just a funny, beautiful, and touching movie — three qualities that are surprisingly hard to come by in many films. And while it could be said that the film deserves two thumbs up in addition to an Oscar, those who watch “Banshees” will understand that such a compliment could only be made in poor taste.
—Staff writer Brady M. Connolly can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradyconnolly44.
In April of last year, my grandma and I walked into a full theater to watch one of the most influential movies of 2022. We could barely find a place to sit before the movie started and as soon as it did, I knew that it would be a life-changing experience. The audience gasped, laughed, and cried with each other. It was the first movie since the Covid-19 pandemic that reminded me of the beauty, joy, and unique experience that only watching a film in theater can provide.
The director duo, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Schienert, dreamt up a universe of hotdog-fingers, googly-eyes, and everything bagels that proves not just mind-boggling, but heart-warming. Through its depiction of family relationships, depression, loneliness, and the overwhelming nature of society today, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is able to deeply connect viewers to its heartfelt message about love, empathy, and understanding. Simply put, this movie feels like a breath of fresh air, a warm embrace, or a cup of hot cocoa on a freezing winter’s day. Like no other nominee, it simply deserves to sweep the Oscars, including the trophy for Best Picture.
It is hard not to compare this action-packed multiverse movie with other time-traveling, multiverse-hopping films already out there. When I left the theater, I could not help but think about how much better this movie handled the multiverse than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I also thought about its similarities with “The Matrix.” However, it somehow still felt like a unique story that has never been told before. With lots of creativity and imagination, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is able to be a surprising and genuinely original film. Where else will people find a love scene with limp hotdog fingers? A fight scene swinging dogs, fanny packs, and using buttplug-shaped trophies as weapons? Or scenes representing nihilism as a huge, spinning everything bagel?
Some people — including my grandma — have argued that the movie, although entertaining, is overwhelming. With that said, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a small movie with a combination of new ideas, themes, and experiences that Hollywood has not been able to create in the past few years.
All of these tricks could be easily dismissed if it was not for the heartfelt storyline that keeps this movie tightly wound together. Stripping this movie of the staggering visuals, the intense battle sequences, and wonderful audio composition (think of the stillness of the talking rocks), leaves a simple, wholesome story of family bonding that everybody can relate to.
It is not just the message that makes this film a strong contender. It is also the diverse cast and phenomenal acting of Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, and Jamie Lee Curtis that push it over the edge. Lead actress, Yeoh, says it best in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re a tiny little movie with a big beating heart, without a doubt,” she said. “We had ambitions because we felt that our story just needed to be told. In times of chaos and turbulence, this is a movie about healing. It’s about love. It’s about a very ordinary person — which we all are — who’s given the opportunity to be a superhero with superpowers that are love and compassion.”
When I left the theater, I told my grandma that there are going to be a hundred directors wanting to do the same thing and never be able to pull it off. As the awards season comes to a close and the Oscars grows closer, my hope is that the Academy voters will realize that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has an unmatched cinematic creativity that needs to be applauded. Most of all, this film needs to be acknowledged for its innovative storytelling, its phenomenal visuals, and its unique ambition.
—Staff writer J.J. Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A war. An older officer entrusting his men with a crucial mission that will change, if not the course of the conflict, then certainly lives. Rugged patriotic soldiers embarking on a harrowing journey. Numerically superior, dastardly enemy combatants fighting for the wrong cause. If the director is feeling particularly adventurous, the death of one of the heroic protagonists marking the emotional climax and motivating his comrades to fulfill the objective and avenge their dead friend.
That’s more or less the makings of any traditional blockbuster Hollywood war film. Some directors try to spice things up — think Sam Mendes with “1917” or Steven Spielberg with his cult classic “Saving Private Ryan.” But try as they might to break with the mold — usually with hectoliters of fake blood and gorefest — they fail miserably. Sure, their depictions of wars might be nasty affairs, but they are never a futile waste of life. At the end of the day, the protagonists and their actions contribute to something.
Edward Berger’s 2022 “All Quiet on the Western Front,” an adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name, is not that kind of film.
Three minutes into the movie, a shell-shocked conscript, Heinrich, is forced to join an assault on enemy positions. Confused and utterly terrified, he is killed mere yards away from his trenches. When we meet the protagonist, Paul Bäumer — reissued Heinrich’s uniform collected from the dead body, cleaned, mended, and still with the previous man’s name — one thing becomes clear: This is a film about war as it really is, devoid of the propagandistic heroism and glory.
There is no hope or purpose to be found in Berger’s war, a point he drives home with brutal eloquence and striking visuals throughout.
The frontline intertwines moments of seeming normalcy with scenes of hell on earth. The soldiers are ordinary people cooking soup and cracking jokes until they have no choice but to get mowed down by machine gun fire, be rolled over — in a gut-wrenching five minute sequence — by tanks unstoppably creeping through the battlefield, and get incinerated by the enemy flamethrowers. That is, if they manage to get to the frontline in the first place, avoiding death in a gas attack at a train station, not having realized it’s too early to take the gas masks off.
Berger skilfully weaves opulent German high command chambers into the battlefield horror, reinforcing the futility of the situation and showing that the reason behind the bloodshed is not a burning desire to protect the country, but the pride and personal ambition of bureaucrats divorced from reality. The generals are well aware of the hopelessness of the situation: In fact, halfway through, they sign an armistice. But still they throw thousands into the meat grinder for “honor.”
To put it briefly, the film’s violence is repulsive and at times almost unbearable. But it is never gratuitous. It’s not a mere obstacle in the way of the protagonists, not a mere facet of war, irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The bloodshed, loss of life, futility — this is Berger and Remarque’s war. Nobody is in the right and nobody will emerge victorious.
To say that “All Quiet on the Western Front” is an anti-war film would do it a disservice. It is a war film in the fullest sense of the word. The Academy would be right to acknowledge its bold vision and poignant depiction of Remarque’s idea that “death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it.”
—Staff writer Zachary J. Lech can be reached at email@example.com
To understand the trend of the 95th annual Academy Awards, we must first go back to the 27th Academy Awards, when Judy Garland, a fading child star, sat in her hospital room. Garland’s new film, “A Star Is Born,” was her last chance to reclaim the spotlight — a task which seemed reachable, as she was not only the favorite to win Best Actress in 1955, but seemed so guaranteed to win that NBC cameras filed into her room to capture the moment. However, another name was read and a new star was born: Grace Kelly. With that, the camera crew left and closed the door of Judy Garland’s major acting career — out with the old and in with the new.
After 68 years, the same trend has seemingly arrived again. Michelle Yeoh, at 60 years old, is one of the oldest actresses in her category, but was again a favorite for best actress. Seated in the first row, with her category being announced by historic winner Halle Berry, auspicious signs presented familiar circumstances, but, this time, the narrative changes: She won. Not out with the old, but not out with the new either.
From the Cocaine Bear to a star-studded rendition of “Happy Birthday,” the 95th annual Academy Awards were full of new surprises — but the greatest part of this year’s honors were the seemingly predictable wins giving way to new representation. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has been both a critic and fan favorite since its release as a summertime blockbuster. All the major media outlets forecasted its Oscar dominance, but not even the seemingly most certain prediction is guaranteed.
As seen in the dominance of the OscarsSoWhite hashtag over the last decade, the Oscars have a persistent problem with diversity. So when a film with abundant representation is nominated for an Academy Award, it has the potential to go the way of Judy Garland — making all the top ten Oscar snubs lists rather than walking away with the big prize. However, this year’s Oscars allowed “Everything Everywhere All At Once” to fulfill the predictions and make history while doing it.
The success of “Everything Everywhere All At Once”’s success is a win for Asian representation. This is the first time that multiple actors of Asian descent have won in one year, and, of course, Michelle Yeoh’s historic victory makes her the first Asian American actress to ever win Best Actress. While Asian people finally being recognized is the most important accomplishment of the night, something that Yeoh noted in her acceptance speech establishes another evident 2023 Oscar’s thread: The old can never be out.
In her speech, Yeoh said, “Don’t let anyone tell you you are past your prime,” a mantra she and Jamie Lee Curtis have clearly both adhered to. With their wins, the 95th Academy Awards awarded actors who have been working for decades to gain their footing or be respected in the industry.
Moreover, while Michelle Yeoh aimed her directive to the older women in the audience who, like Judy Garland, have consistently been passed over for younger women in Hollywood, Oscars’ night saw men claiming that narrative as well. Ke Huy Quan, a former child actor won best supporting actor, and Brendan Fraser, a since forgotten ’90s heartthrob, made his leap back into prominence by winning best actor for his role in “The Whale,” beating early favorite “Elvis”’s Austin Butler, a comparatively young actor.
The big winner of the night teaches us what success Hollywood can find when it embraces its originality again; but in a world where two of the best picture nominees are sequels and lackluster remakes reign supreme, how can you make a classic into something inventive and relevant? The answer might lay in the second most popular winner of the night, “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
While the film is very different from both its book and the original 1930 production, “All Quiet on the Western Front” deserves its own praise for bringing this story to a modern audience. The original film was a sensation in its time because of its innovative techniques to showcase the horror of war, including the use of sound, but a modern audience watching the original picture with a knowledge of contemporary amenities like visual effects would find it difficult to understand the visceral, shocking nature of the original picture. Thus, the movie’s intention is lost with age. It is for reasons like this that remakes should be considered. While the film does not share many similarities with its original source material, it is a successful example of how modern technology can help recontextualize timely classics for a modern audience.
Overall, the 95th Annual Academy Awards appear to have been the perfect amalgamation of the old and the new. It avenged Judy Garland’s loss by giving old-guard actors waiting for deserved success their wins. It also offered a needed reimagination of a classic Hollywood success. As the Academy nears its 100th year, the appreciation for what has come before and what Hollywood’s past could lend to its future is more important than ever.
—Staff Writer Avery Britt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you told people last year that the thirty-year delayed “Top Gun” sequel would be one of the best movies of 2022, they would have laughed in your face. A sequel to a movie about overly masculine, oiled up fighter pilots speaking in action movie cliches? Really? But now, much to the dismay of Letterboxd patrons and film bros around the world, “Top Gun: Maverick” has not only been nominated for Best Picture, but is one of the frontrunners to win the Academy’s most prestigious award. As with every box office hit that gets nominated for the prestigious prize, this praise comes with a bit of controversy. However, as fun as it would be to dunk on another legacy sequel cash-grab, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of the best movies of the year, and the praise that it’s getting from the Academy is well deserved.
The Academy, to put it bluntly, has been struggling. Viewership continues to plummet year after year, social media has a stranglehold on viewer attention, and American infatuation with celebrity culture just isn’t what it once was. From the audience’s perspective, this makes sense: Why should the average American tune in to watch people they have nothing in common with praise movies they’ve never heard of? Realizing this, the suits at the Academy needed to nominate a universally beloved movie with a recognizable star that the average American would want to get behind, and “Top Gun: Maverick” fits the bill perfectly.
Hollywood politics aside, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a fantastic movie. Yes, the propaganda is still apparent and the hints of American imperialism still bleed through, but when a movie is reliant on military funding and approval, some form of a recruitment ad is to be expected. The true merit of “Top Gun: Maverick” is that, in spite of these constraints, the movie provides an experience that can be universally enjoyed. The sound design is impeccable, the actors are remarkably committed, and the action set pieces may be the best in recent history. Even the cheesy lines and straightforward story come off as endearing under the guise of the film’s 80’s action movie aesthetic. But most importantly, the film creates a spectacle that so effectively incites a mix of awe and adrenaline long forgotten by theatergoers. No matter who you are, it’s hard to deny the rush when you hear the roar of an afterburner.
This may be the greatest case for “Top Gun: Maverick” this awards season. The modern blockbuster landscape is dominated by CGI slog-fests, churned out by visual effects artists under the heels of profit-driven studios. The result is a subpar theater experience that moviegoers have no choice but to accept, and that studios justify with delayed streaming releases. “Top Gun: Maverick” is a direct response to this, with a cast and crew so hellbent on realism that they would rather become pseudo stunt pilots than resort to a minute of greenscreen. Because of this intense commitment to authentic effects and stunts, “Top Gun: Maverick” has effectively revived moviegoing culture, and its superb box office performance will hopefully eliminate studio complacency in visual effects.
So does “Top Gun: Maverick” deserve to actually win Best Picture? Probably not. But nevertheless, Kosinski and Cruise have put together one of the best action movies of our generation and have hopefully corrected the course of mainstream cinema. And for that, they can have as much Academy praise and baby oil as their hearts desire.
“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”
Will Win: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Should Win: “Tár”
Should Have Been Nominated: “Babylon”
Jonathan: This seems like an in-the-bag for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” And, like, that’s fine. It’s captured a generation’s imagination. Sure. But “Tár” is on another level. It’s been talked about as a cancel culture movie, but it’s really just a culture movie. That means it captures cancellation, yes, but also pretension, superficiality, ideology, power, and, above all, guilt. It captures all of these with absolute self-declaration. It should win.
Brady: I cannot say enough good things about “Tár.” More so than any of the other Best Picture nominees, I felt genuinely startled, excited, and disturbed upon my first watch. However, I am not as sure of “Everything Everywhere” being a lock to win. It seems the most likely scenario, but I believe it’s polarizing style may hurt its chances given the Academy’s ranked-choice voting system. If this were to happen, look for crowd-pleaser “Banshees of Inisherin” to play spoiler.
Jonathan: This article better top the Crimson’s “Most Read” sidebar if “Banshees” wins. Speaking of movies that fall alphabetically between “ba’athism” and “bar mitzvah,” it was disappointing to see Damien Chazelle ’07’s cocaine-fueled take on “Singin’ in the Rain” get snubbed for a nomination. If “Tár” imposes, “Babylon” bursts. Shame it couldn’t burst onto the slate of nominees; but it will burst onto filmgoing memory sooner or later.
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Todd Field, “Tár”
Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”
Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”
Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Should Win: Todd Field (Jonathan), Martin McDonagh (Brady)
Should Have Been Nominated: Park Chan-wook, “Decision to Leave”
Brady: The two Daniels have won most of the precursor awards and will likely seal the deal. Directing duos are cool! Also cool are the sweeping shots of the majestic Irish landscape that make “Banshees” so delightful to watch. Beyond natural beauty, McDonagh deftly and hilariously captures the fraternal intimacy of the Irish pub.
Jonathan: As much as I enjoy “Banshees,” and its digital mutilation, its cinematography is a subject on which you and I differ — as you think it is sweeping and majestic and I think it looks like an advertisement for an Irish tourism agency. “Tár”’s cinematography, on the other hand, approaches a splendid kind of ultra-modern bourgeois gothic. The edifices of today’s cultural elite become cathedrals of capitalism under Field’s gaze — and gaze is only one part of a decisive vision that registers throughout “Tár”’s runtime. “Tár” is not only great but also auteristic, and Field should win this. That would be a somewhat harder conclusion if his work were up against Park Chan-wook’s ethereal, Hitchcockian effort in “Decision to Leave.” You can always count on the Academy’s provincialism to make this kind of decision a little easier.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett, “Tár”
Ana de Armas, “Blonde”
Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”
Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Will Win: Cate Blanchett (Brady); Michelle Yeoh (Jonathan)
Should Win: Cate Blanchett
Should Have Been Nominated: Rooney Mara, “Women Talking” (Jonathan); Emma Thompson, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” (Brady)
Jonathan: On the “Will Win” side, this is a toss-up. I think that Yeoh’s SAG win indicates that the momentum is in her favor — not to mention the fact that “Well-established screen presence and first-time nominee Michelle Yeoh becomes first Asian actress to win a lead performance Oscar” is a better story than “Cate Blanchett gets her third Oscar.” On the “Should Win” side, it’s a bit less of a toss-up. Blanchett and Yeoh are both excellent, but Blanchett, with the benefit of a better screenplay, casts a longer shadow.
Brady: Blanchett’s turn as the EGOT-winning, ego-obsessed composer Lydia Tár has taken on a life of its own on Twitter, and rightfully so; the performance is unforgettable. Regardless of your love for “the televised horse race of it all,” it is impossible to watch “Tár” and remain oblivious to the fact that you are watching a great performance. As for Emma Thompson, her dialogue-heavy performance in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” was simultaneously heart-breaking and eye-opening. Plus, Emma Thompson is just wonderful.
Jonathan: I would have been happy to see any of the plausibly leading actresses of the ensemble “Women Talking” be nominated. But Rooney Mara was the one the studio promoted for lead, so Rooney Mara’s the one who should have been nominated. The film is a tribute to the power of spoken conversation and deliberation, to the gentle electricity that can come of people — in this case, mostly women — talking, and everyone, not least Mara, pulls her weight.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Austin Butler, “Elvis”
Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”
Bill Nighy, “Living”
Will Win: Austin Butler (Brady), Brendan Fraser (Jonathan)
Should Win: Brendan Fraser (Jonathan), Paul Mescal (Brady)
Should Have Been Nominated: Daniel Craig, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
Brady: Jonathan, you said it best in your rundown of the Oscar nominees. The Academy loves mimesis, and Butler is the best lookalike on the list. And I say that not to minimize his artistry. In a movie as wonky and inconsistent as “Elvis,” Butler manages to deliver a highly nuanced and poignant portrayal of The King. The closing scene of Butler singing “Unchained Melody” was one of my favorites from 2022. However, Mescal anchors his second ever film with an emotional depth that literally made my stomach ache. As a young father struggling with depression as much as parenthood, Mescal taps into beauty and tragedy in a manner far more captivating than any of his fellow nominees.
Jonathan: The Academy does love mimesis, but “Elvis” is such an un-Oscarbaity film that I don’t know if that will figure in. Butler doesn’t feel as though he’s doing a painstaking impression; he feels like a ball of musico-sexual energy. But maybe that very combination of historical impersonation with awesomeness will win the Academy over. I certainly wouldn’t complain, but I would really like to see Fraser win. He’s so lovely and understated in “The Whale,” and he’s got a classic comeback story to lift him over the finish line. As for Daniel Craig: I ranted about this in my nominations rundown, so I’ll keep this short: The Academy hates good vibes. Good vibes are good, so this is bad. Daniel Craig should be winning this thing.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Hong Chau, “The Whale”
Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Will Win: Angela Bassett
Should Win: Angela Bassett (Jonathan), Kerry Condon (Brady)
Should Have Been Nominated: Jessie Buckley, “Women Talking” (Jonathan); Frankie Corio, “Aftersun” (Brady)
Jonathan: This is a really weak category this year, and I’m not enthusiastic about any of the nominees. Bassett is the best of the lot and is (Jamie Lee Curtis’s SAG win notwithstanding) the clear favorite. But Jessie Buckley, who brings her signature bite to “Women Talking,” should be in the running. Is it my favorite Buckley performance to date? No. But it stands out among this year’s crop.
Brady: I agree with the assessment of this year’s category as being weak. Angela Bassett certainly did a thing with her performance, but I am not quite sure it was THE thing. “Wakanda Forever” rushes her through the mourning process of T’Challa’s death, and Disney seems to be building her entire campaign on one (admittedly striking) monologue. Not that a supporting actor cannot accomplish amazing feats with limited screen time, but Queen Ramonda is no Fantine. Condon is afforded much more time to develop a compelling character and does a wonderful job, but she is not the best part of “Banshees.” It is hard not to believe that Corio fell victim to the Academy’s bias against young actors; the control and heart she exhibits in “Aftersun” sticks with you.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”
Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”
Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Will Win: Ke Huy Quan
Should Win: Brendan Gleeson (Jonathan), Barry Keoghan (Brady)
Should Have Been Nominated: Jovan Adepo, “Babylon” (Jonathan); Brad Pitt, “Babylon”
Brady: Quan is the biggest lock of the evening. Keoghan plays the part of the village fool in a way that is immensely endearing and uniquely hilarious. In a film full of wonderful performances, Keoghan is the standout. As for Pitt, I was not a fan of his 2020 win for “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” because his performance felt like a stale caricature of his real-life persona. “Babylon” does not veer far from this persona, but it explores its depths in a manner that is so much smarter, engaging, and devastating. The Oscars are notorious for awarding deserving actors too late, but with Pitt, they did it too early.
Jonathan: Gleeson is wonderfully moody. But Jovan Adepo, man. There’s this one shot in “Babylon'' where he’s just been made to put on blackface so that he won’t appear white in the black-and-white music film in which his character is starring; because if he appeared white, then the all-Black band would appear interracial, and if the all-Black band appeared interracial then the film couldn’t be screened in the South. The shot zooms in on him as he blows his trumpet through the cork, and there’s an intensity and a pride and a shame and an artistic seriousness coming from him that you just don’t forget. One reads and hears much about the humiliation of blackface, but I felt something new watching Adepo’s turn in “Babylon.” His whole performance is great; that scene alone should win him the Oscar.
—Staff writer Brady M. Connolly can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradyconnolly44.