For some, a good dose of real-time celebrity spectacle is their bread and butter and if you’re anything like me, awards season is something to look forward to each year. With the 95th Academy Awards just around the corner, the excitement has become almost palpable. From seeing your favorite film of the year get their flowers, to the extravagant red carpet attire, teary-eyed acceptance speeches, and potential mishaps, you can assure there will be plenty of unforgettable (and meme-able) moments.
The appeal of witnessing the glitz and glamor of Hollywood live from the comfort of my sofa is enough to get me to tune in, but the star-studded allure of the evening aside, the best part of Oscar season by far is the movie-binging that needs to be done in preparation for the big night—in the name of research, of course. With such a long list of incredible nominated movies this year, deciding where to start with your watchlist may be hard. Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered with our handy guide to the frontrunners that are worth a watch. Whether they win big or not, you might end up loving them anyway—or get pleasure in tweeting about how it totalllyyy got snubbed with your other movie snob friends if they don’t snag an award.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Adventure, Sci-Fi, Comedy Drama, Action
This absurdist science fiction comedy-drama centers around a stressed-out Chinese-American immigrant named Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) who, while being audited by the IRS, discovers that she must connect with inter-dimensional versions of herself to save her daughter and the entire multiverse—no big deal. As reality unravels, Evelyn desperately tries to channel her new-found powers, while facing the disappointments and “what-ifs” surrounding her own life. Once she’s seen every universe, she grapples with the existential thought that maybe nothing matters. As Evelyn learns about her parallel selves and their wildly different nuances, she realizes her endless potential and gains a newfound gratitude for everything she chooses to make matter in her life, namely her family. In a year where it seems like every movie sent us through the multiverse, Everything Everywhere All at Once takes us on a visually stunning and tenderly introspective American-immigrant journey that cements it in its place far above the rest. Also, taxes? The IRS? Maybe this one should have been nominated for best horror.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Drama, Dark Comedy
Directed by Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin is a deeply thought-provoking dark comedy, set on a remote Irish island, that champions outstanding cinematography. The film follows best friends Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who until now have been content with their monotonous routine and quiet existence. That is until Colm one day has a change of heart and decides that he no longer wishes to continue his friendship with Padraic. To be frank, Colm finds Padraic to be a bit dull—ouch. This, naturally, sends Padraic into a spiral at the loss of his only friend on this small, lonely island. Where he once prided himself on his ability to always be nice, Padraic soon realizes that niceness is not worth much in this new and changing world he is living in. It quickly becomes clear that Colm is dealing with an existential crisis, brought about as a result of old age and the onset of the Irish war of independence. The Banshees of Inisherin leaves the viewers exploring war from a distance, grappling with the effect it has on the minds of those living in its wake, while surprisingly making us laugh out loud in the process. Nothing makes a dose of tragedy go down smoothly like some comedy.
This film follows its title character, Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchette), a highly skilled and world-renowned composer and conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic. Throughout the monumental 2-hour and 37-minute run-time, the film acts as a deep character study as we are thrown into both the professional and personal world of this well-respected musical master. Though the film seems to start with Tár at the top of her success, we sit by and watch as it all comes toppling down around her when she is exposed for being involved in a sex scandal. For those who enjoy a slow burn, Tár paints a thought-provoking picture of self-control and destruction while having us reflect on the nuances of “cancel culture”. It leaves us to wonder what limits there are, not only to what powerful figures will do to maintain their fame and get ahead but to what we as the public will do to tear them down.
P.S. Right at the start of the film, you may catch yourself in the middle of a 90’s VHS-war flashback. Don’t worry, you didn’t forget to rewind the tape, the movie does start with the rolling credits.
Drama, Psychological Fiction, Novel
Inspired by real-life events, this movie adaptation of Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name, follows a group of girls and women from a Mennonite colony in Bolivia debating whether or not they should flee their community. The film starts with a large group of men from the colony in a nearby jail, awaiting trial for the rape of over 100 girls. The women find themselves completely alone for two days, left to decide their next course of action. Will they do nothing, stay and fight, or leave? As the title suggests, much of this film takes place in conversation as the group weighs out the pros and cons of each option while seeking solace in a barn’s hayloft. With so many movies based around abuse of power in our patriarchal society, being released in our post-#MeToo world, this movie is a breath of fresh air as it adds the next logical chapter to the story. It does not focus on revenge à la Promising Young Woman, nor on the abuser and their downfall (looking at you, Tár), but rather the women choosing liberation in the face of fear and uncertainty. By the end of this film, you may be sitting with a strange mixture of sadness and hope. But hopefully, most of all, the empowerment in choosing between the two dichotomies.
Biopic, Musical, Drama
Whether you know the story of the King or not, I can guarantee you’ve never seen it told like this before. In true Baz Luhrmann fashion, this movie is flashy, fast-paced, and sensational— essentially it’s a maximalist’s dream. Luhrmann tells us this story from the perspective of Elvis’ longtime (and crooked) manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The movie begins at the end of Parker’s life. We find him alone in his hospital room as he dives into the rise and fall of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler). The narration is giving deathbed confessional as we soon come to realize the role that Parker played in Elvis’ demise. However, the movie is not all doom and gloom. You can be sure to expect captivating musical numbers, Gatsby-Esque partying, and an impeccable performance from Austin Butler that will have you believe that the King lives. Take it from me and Austin Butler, by the end of this movie, you’ll find yourself wanting to fake an “Elvis accent” for the next 8 months too. But hopefully, a Spotify playlist will suffice for you.
Triangle of Sadness
This nomination for Best Picture, directed by Ruben Östlund, follows Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), two models who find themselves invited aboard a luxury cruise. Surrounded by the mega-rich and an off-beat—let’s be real, totally off his rocker—captain (Woody Harrelson), what starts as a lavish and Instagrammable voyage quickly turns catastrophic, adapting the movie trope of deserted island. Throughout this chaotically funny film, we are faced with a sometimes painfully blunt and rather dark satirical take on the uber-rich, the Instagram celebrity, and our obsession with beauty. Riddled with poignant commentary and themes, the film’s message can even be found in the name, Triangle of Sadness, a popular Swedish term that refers to the wrinkles that form between a person’s eyebrows when they are worried or stressed. But don’t worry, even if your life is stressing you out, at least there’s botox.
Animation, Fantasy, Musical, Comedy Drama
With his first full-length animated feature, Guillermo Del Toro reinvented the age-old tale of Pinocchio that we have come to know and love. Based on Carlo Collodi’s classic story of the wooden puppet who is magically brought to life after being created by a grieving woodcarver named Gepetto (David Bradley), I’m sure we’d all think we know how this story would go. However, Del Toro’s version of the story transports us to 1930s Italy against the backdrop of Italian fascism and the rise of Mussolini. A teeny-tiny stop-motion Mussolini was not on my 2022 bingo card, yet here we are. Though filled with charm, humor, and dazzling animation, Del Toro’s Pinocchio reinforces the fact that just because a movie is animated, does not necessarily mean it’s for children. Described as a “labor of love”, del Toro’s Pinocchio is breaking the glass ceiling for animation, cementing its status as so much more than just a children’s genre, but a truly respected art form.
Sci-Fi, Thriller, Western
BeatRoute’s Honourable Mention
The newest terrifying installment from the mind of Academy Award winner, Jordan Peele, NOPE is a genre-bending American neo-western science-fiction horror thriller that is not only my personal favorite movie of the year but is a cinematically stunning and unique story from beginning to end. This film follows a horse rancher, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya), and his sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer), as they try to record and wrangle a monstrous unidentified flying object that has decided to terrorize their farm and feed on their horses. Through impeccable technical mastery and horrifyingly good sound design, Peele leaves us with a contemplative dissertation on the hazards of the spectacle and the exploitation we all experience under a capitalist structure. With a film that warrants numerous rewatches and sparks the types of think-pieces that Jordan Peele movies usually do, you’re probably wondering why it was not considered a shoo-in for the Best Picture nomination. And to this, I say: yeah girl, me too. Despite not receiving any nominations, it’s still the Oscar winner of our hearts and should be at the top of any watchlist.
Like what you saw? Here’s more:
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