Coda: At the 2022 Academy Awards, “Coda” became the first streaming service film to win Best Picture. Directed by Sian Heder, “Coda” (Child of Death Adults) tells the story of Ruby, the only hearing member in an all deaf family. Since her family relies heavily on her to assist with running their fishing business, Ruby has no plans of leaving Gloucester after high school, but after signing up for choir, she finds passion in singing and envisions a future in music.
Summed up, it’s a story about a small-town girl going against her family’s wishes to pursue music. Parts of the movie are very funny and touching, but others feel a little unoriginal, notably the bland blooming romance between Ruby and her duet partner, Miles. The strongest parts of “Coda” are the scenes featuring the family. The performances from Ruby’s mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin), brother Leo (Daniel Durant), and father Frank (Troy Kotsur, who will surely tug on your heartstrings) anchor the movie and make you want to know more about their characters. Kotsur won Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Did “Coda” deserve to take home the night’s biggest award? I would have chosen “Power of the Dog” or “West Side Story,” but I can understand why “Coda” won. Last year’s best picture winner “Nomadland” was a story about a broken woman who prefers a life of seclusion, which eerily mirrored our world in 2020. So maybe in 2022, a story about moving forward, chasing our dreams, and appreciating family while also embracing change was exactly the type of movie that needed to be rewarded. “Coda” also won Best Adapted Screenplay. (Watch on Apple+)
King Richard: Will Smith won Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. You’ve heard about the mishap if you’ve spent time on the internet in the past two weeks. I’ll keep this brief. Chris Rock made a G.I Jane joke in relation to Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who in fact has Alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease that causes baldness. In response, Will Smith went on stage and slapped Rock. Rock’s joke was pretty tasteless, but resorting to physical violence is never okay. “King Richard” is Smith at his best, and, unfortunately, what was supposed to be a crowning achievement in his career is forever overshadowed because he lost his temper. The academy has announced that it is banning Smith from future events for ten years.
“King Richard” shows the sacrifices Richard Williams made in leading his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) in becoming tennis superstars. Living in Compton, California, and raising three other daughters, Richard and his wife Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis) train their daughters in tennis daily while also trying to overcome the obstacles of succeeding in a sport dominated by the upper class. The movie isn’t afraid to show that Richard was often stubborn and difficult to work with, and as far as sports biopics go, “King Richard” is an exciting look at the early years of two of the most outstanding athletes of all time. (Stream on HBO Max)
Drive My Car: This Japanese film took home the award for Best International Feature Film. Two years after a personal tragedy, Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is an actor and theater director who has recently moved to Hiroshima to direct a multilingual adaptation of Uncle Vanya. The theatre company forbids Yūsuke from driving, and he must have a chauffeur, a young woman named Misaki Watari (Tōko Miura). While Yūsuke is reluctant to have someone drive his red 1987 Saab 900 Turbo, Misaki proves to be a skilled driver, and the two form a bond. Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive my Car,” which is almost three hours long, is a quiet film about surrendering to grief and learning to move forward.
Belfast: Written and directed by the legendary Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast” takes place during the beginning of The Troubles, a 30-year conflict between Protestant loyalists and Catholics in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The movie is told from the perspective of nine year old, Buddy (Jude Hill). As violent crime and lack of prospects increase in the area, Buddy’s Pa (Jamie Dornan) and Ma (Caitríona Balfe), who give wonderful performances, have to decide if they can leave their home in hopes of a better future. Shot in black and white, “Belfast” isn’t Branagh’s strongest film, but it’s a sincere and bittersweet love letter to his childhood home. The movie won Best Original Screenplay. (Rent on Amazon Prime)