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Film Review: The Oscar Landscape 2024

FILM REVIEW
THE OSCAR LANDSCAPE 2024
A Look at the Choices – Academy Awards – March 10, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. on ABC

I believe there should never be contests for art, as a huge part of the beauty of any kind of art is in the eye, ear, or touch of the beholder. However, the Academy Awards are not really a contest. This annual handing out of Oscars, tearful acceptance speeches, and valiant attempts by the losers to cover a look of vast disappointment comprise the dramatics of one of the grandest marketing events in the world. 

My job here is to fill you in on some of the great films I was privileged to see in 2023, which are among the nominations. To me, the nomination, not the win, is everything. Often, the win is decided by algorithms that have nothing to do with the movie’s artistic value. There is not enough space here to go in-depth about every nomination, so I will mention those I deem worthy, and you may or may not agree.

Best Supporting Actor: Sterling K. Brown is hilarious as the “devil may care” younger brother of the tightly wound, over-thinking protagonist in American Fiction. Ryan Gosling has been asked to give life to a plastic “boy toy” in Barbie, and he nails it. Mark Ruffalo plays against type in Poor Things as a thoughtless yet sympathetic cad. Any of the three are deserving. Gosling will probably win.

Best Supporting Actress: Danielle Brooks steals her scenes in The Color Purple, as part of the first generation of black women to grow up somewhat unencumbered by the complete disenfranchisement of females and African Americans. America Ferrera has a small role but a big speech in Barbie, and the way she delivers that speech makes it one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. Jodie Foster’s role in Nyad is the supporter of all supporters, and Foster successfully strikes a balance between losing herself in the presence of Diana Nyad and gifting the champion with some of her own invincible personality. Da’ Vine Joy Randolph embodies the tragedy of life and the fire of renewal in The Holdovers. Again, all performances are brilliant – I believe that Foster will deservedly win.

Best Actor: In Maestro, Bradley Cooper brings to life an artist who was a major influence of the late 20th Century, and Cooper has recreated him with honesty and uncanny accuracy.  Cillian Murphy virtually absorbs into his character as J. Robert Oppenheimer. Jeffrey Wright is perfectly understated as an “innocent” who is constantly flabbergasted at the racism in our literary world in American Fiction. All are amazing. I think Murphy will win.

Best Actress: To shoot Nyad, Annette Benning not only had to inhabit her character, but she also had to endure the enormous physical challenges that Diana Nyad embraced. Lily Gladstone represents her people who suffered heinously during a dark period in the history of our country in Killers of the Flower Moon. Corey Mulligan beautifully shapes one of the most impactful and complex relationships of our time in Maestro. Emma Stone creates a hyper-imaginative fundamental vessel of human nature, with all its extraordinary beauty and flaws, in Poor Things.

Best Director: With Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer has created an art piece that juxtaposes absolutely unspeakable actions effected by humans against one another, opposite an idyllic family life, two parallel existences that actually happened. Yorgos Lanthimos builds a whole imaginary world and studies human nature in its basic form by placing a most unusual woman into a living scientific petri dish in Poor Things – fascinating, mind-bending, hilarious. Christopher Nolan examines one of the most horrific events in our recent history without prejudice in the dramatic story of the atomic bomb in Oppenheimer. These are my three favorites. Probably Oppenheimer will win, but I would vote for Poor Things.

Best Picture: Of the nine nominated films, these are my favorites. American Fiction is a perfectly sarcastic look at the dynamics of race in our country’s literary scene – sad and funny. Barbie creates a wildly colorful plastic world that is full of characters that we recognize in each other. The Holdovers – a simple, touching story about surviving through tragedy and sadness, and rising from it with help from unlikely friends. Maestro beautifully recreates the life of one of the great artists of our time, a bravura “tour de force” from Bradley Cooper. Oppenheimer offers a disturbing, dramatic, and relatable look at a dark part of our history. The Zone of Interest is an overwhelmingly haunting tone poem about the human horrors enacted by the Nazis. My favorite is Poor Things. Probably Oppenheimer will win.

P.S. Movies of 2023 I loved that were not nominated for Best Picture: Wonka and Bottoms.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

in Opinion
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