Honoring film achievements from the past year, the Oscars are like the Superbowl for movie lovers. The nominations were announced on February 8th, and I hope to be able to catch more movies before the big show next month.
“The Power of the Dog” leads the charge with 12 Nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director Jane Champion, and four acting nominations. Rough and tough Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch as one of 2021’s best movie villains) and his kind-hearted brother George (Jesse Plemons) are wealthy ranch owners in 1925 Montana. Phil is less than pleased when George moves his new wife, Rose (Kristen Dunst), to their farmhouse, and Phil almost makes it his mission to terrorize Rose quietly. Phil’s lifestyle is strongly influenced by his relationship with Bronco Henry, his late mentor (both brothers seems to disagree what type of mentor Henry was), and Phil slowly begins to form a friendship with Rose’s teenage son (Kodi Smit-McPhee, a high contender for winning Best Supporting Actor). “The Power of the Dog” is a slow psychological thriller, and the slow burn is worth the payoff.
A surprise Best Picture nominee is “Don’t Look Up,” a satirical black comedy about two astronomers desperately trying to warn civilization about a world-destroying comet. Featuring a star-studded cast of Meryl Streep, Leonardo Dicaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, and Timothée Chalamet, the movie may have received its nomination based on star power alone. Still, I think it’s important to acknowledge comedies at the Oscars too. “Don’t Look Up” is entertaining and tons of fun, but it sometimes feels too long and unfocused. The movie is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Original Score, but I cannot imagine it taking home any awards.
Jessica Chastain received a nomination for Best Actress for playing the title character in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which is based on the true story of the Evangelist and controversial Christian television personality in the 70s and 80s Tammy Faye Baker. The movie was also nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and for a good reason. The elaborate makeup and Chastain’s physical transformation make the film worth watching, and she’s unrecognizable as Tammy Faye. Andrew Garfield, who plays her financially irresponsible husband and co-star Jim, looks about 20 years older than in real life.
“Dune” was nominated for Best Picture and nine other awards, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation 1965 novel by Frank Herbert took home all the technical awards. While I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, Dune is a sweeping visual achievement and a faithful adaptation of the book. Read my full review of “Dune” on huckleberrypress.com.
While one of “Licorice Pizza’s” nominations was for Best Picture, I was surprised Alana Haim did not receive a Best Actress nomination. The coming of age tale follows 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), a child actor living in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, who strikes up a close bond and friendship with a 25-year old photographer assistant, Alana (Haim). While his career and family circumstances make Gary eager to grow up too fast, Alana seems to be struggling to grow up at all, and somehow these two form an interesting though often troubling friendship.
The Best Actor category has five strong performances this year. If Andrew Garfield wins Best Actor for his portrayal of the late composer and playwright Jonathan Larson in “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” he’ll be the first actor to win in the category since Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady” in 1964. Garfield’s role isn’t as intense and emotionally demanding as some of the other nominations, but his performance is so full of authentic heart that he still has a chance of winning. “Tick, Tick… Boom” is also nominated for Best Editing.
This year another musical to receive praise is the ambitious adaptation of “West Side Story,” which was nominated for Best Picture and six other awards. With his Best Director nomination, Steven Spielberg breaks the record for being the first filmmaker to be nominated in the category. Ariana DeBose’s scene-stealing performance as Anita scored her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Despite Rita Moreno’s iconic performance winning the award for the role in 1961, Debose does a wonderful job making the role her own. Even though the chances of winning seem small, she still has a promising career ahead of her. Read my review of movie musicals in 2021 on huckleberrypress.com.
If you have kids, “We Don’t Talk about Bruno” from Disney’s “Encanto” may be a favorite in your household. While that hit song was surprisingly not nominated, “Encanto” did receive Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song “Dos Oruguitas.” Disney’s animated musical hit about a Colombian family where most of its members are blessed with an extraordinary power seems like a frontrunner for Best Animated movie.
The 94th Academy Awards airs on March 27th. Stay tuned for more reviews and predictions!