Picture from And the Winner Is…

And the Winner Is…

It’s that time of year again – Oscar season. The Academy Awards will be held on March 10th, so you’ve got a chance to catch any award contenders you missed. To help you plan your weekend viewing, we’ve assembled a list with review links for films nominated in the major categories.

Best Picture

American Fiction: A brilliant piece of satire, this story of a Black professor who writes literary novels and then pens a parody trading in Black stereotypes is filled with dark humor and biting wit. Restricted, Grade: C

Anatomy of a Fall: Did she or didn’t she? When Samuel dies in a fall, his wife, Sandra is prosecuted for murder. Tense and intriguing, this French courtroom thriller is also quiet, complex, and riveting. Restricted, Grade: C-

Barbie: More than just a cotton-candy colored story of a doll encountering the real world, this campy satire deals with complex issues of personal agency, misogyny, self-acceptance, and female empowerment. It’s unsuited for kids, but this clever comedy is a hit with teens and adults. PG-13, Grade: A-

The Holdovers: It’s Christmas at a boarding school, and a teacher and food services manager are left to watch over the few students who can’t be with their families for the season. Compelling, funny, and surprisingly touching, this is a deeply human tale. Restricted, Grade: C

Killers of the Flower Moon: When oil is found under the tribal lands of the Osage Nation, opportunists, hucksters, and criminals soon come calling. Ranch employee Ernest starts a relationship with Mollie, but her headrights soon put her in danger. Based on a terrible true story, this is a fascinating but disturbing tale. Restricted, Grade: C

Maestro: This Netflix biopic examines the life of Leonard Bernstein, legendary composer and conductor. Well-written and superbly acted, this film is a compelling introduction to a man of great talent and consuming challenges. Restricted, Grade: C

Oppenheimer: This biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the development of the atomic bomb, is the rare historical production to find a mass audience. Epic in scale, highly personal in tone, this well-written, albeit overlong film, provides an expansive look at the dawn of the atomic age. Restricted, Grade: C

Past Lives: When Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea to North America, she’s cut off from her friend, Hae Sung. Twenty years later, Hae Sung meets Nora again – along with her husband. Due to its release schedule, this film was not reviewed by us. PG-13

Poor Things: A mysterious experiment results in Bella, who has an adult body but the mind of a rapidly maturing three year old. In this deeply weird film, Bella runs off for an adventure and pursues self-discovery, frequently through sex. Restricted, Grade: D

The Zone of Interest: On the other side of the wall from Auschwitz live Rudolf and Hedwig Hss. Rudolf is the commandant of the notorious concentration camp and Hedwig is busy creating her domestic paradise. Deliberately understated and free of graphic violence, this drama is both brilliant and profoundly disturbing. PG-13, Grade: B+

Best Director

Justine Triet,Anatomy of a Fall: With this film, Justine Triet succeeds in creating a well-paced and consistently intriguing murder mystery for adult fans of the genre. R, Grade: C-

Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon: This historical tale is definitely overlong, but veteran director Scorsese brings his talents for visual storytelling to this horrific episode from America’s past. R, Grade: C

Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer: With a three hour run-time, Nolan has clearly gone overboard, but he does a fine job of pursuing multiple perspectives on the complex tale of Oppenheimer and his atomic legacy. R, Grade: C

Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things: With vibrant colors and intense content, Lanthimos brings his deeply strange, adults-only tale to the big screen. The movie has lots of awards buzz but we don’t believe it will appeal to most viewers (and definitely not to family audiences). R, Grade: D

Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest: Spare and somewhat disorienting, Glazer’s minimalist style starkly sets off the bland domestic idyll that exists on the other side of the wall from Auschwitz. With his quietly terrifying story, Glazer has made a bloodless but deeply unsettling story of the people who carried out Hitler’s Final Solution. PG-13, Grade: B+

Best Lead Actor

Bradley Cooper, Maestro: Hotly-debated prosthetics aside, Cooper offers an authentic performance of a musical genius struggling with his personal demons. R, Grade: C

Colman Domingo, Rustin: Domingo’s all-in performance gives real heart to the civil rights leader whose homosexuality sidelined him in his own time and nearly erased him from history. PG-13, Grade: B

Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers: Those sad spaniel eyes deserve separate billing as Giamatti brings to life the prickly teacher who finds himself building relationships with the school’s cook and boys left behind over the holidays. R, Grade: C

Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer: Driven, conflicted, and tormented, Murphy’s portrayal of the man who directed the effort to produce the atomic bomb provides the necessary gravitas for this monumental story. R, Grade: C

Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction: Burdened with stress, deceit, pride, and self-loathing, Wright’s Monk Ellison is a completely believable character who stands at the heart of this incisive satire. R, Grade: C

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown, American Fiction: Drugs, homosexuality, family estrangement – Clifford Ellison is struggling on every level. Sterling K. Brown humanizes him and makes him more than just the family black sheep. R, Grade: C

Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon: As always, De Niro brings everything he’s got to his portrayal of “King” Bill Hale, a local cattle rancher who’s determined to get his hands on Osage oil wealth, by fair means or foul. R, Grade: C

Robert Downey, Jr., Oppenheimer: Once again, Robert Downey, Jr. delivers in his role as Lewis Strauss, Oppenheimer’s nemesis. R, Grade: C

Ryan Gosling, Barbie: He’s Kenough. Ryan Gosling’s Ken is insecure, vulnerable, and in search of meaning and validation. That’s more than we’d expect from a plastic doll living in a pink fantasy world. PG-13, Grade: A-

Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things: It’s hard not to be overlooked in a movie that features Emma Stone’s blazing performance, but Ruffalo pulls it off as the lecherous lawyer who runs away with her. R, Grade: D

Best Lead Actress

Annette Bening, Nyad: Bening brings steely determination to her role as Diana Nyad, a 60-year-old committed to achieving her youthful dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida. PG-13, Grade: B+

Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon: In a break-out performance, Lily Gladstone gives life to Mollie, a young woman who moves from love to a terrifying realization. R, Grade: C

Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall: With her self-contained performance as the dead man’s widow and now the main suspect in his murder, Sandra Hüller provides enough emotion to keep the story real but not enough to give everything away. R, Grade: C-

Carey Mulligan, Maestro: Consistently brilliant, Carey Mulligan shines as Leonard Bernstein’s long-suffering wife, Felicia who has sacrificed her career for his and struggles with his repeated affairs. R, Grade: C

Emma Stone, Poor Things: The movie is weird, the main character even weirder, but Emma Stone brings her to life in an energetic, kinetic, over-the-top performance. R, Grade: D

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer: The ever-restrained Emily Blunt delivers a nuanced performance as Kitty Oppenheimer, who, despite her domestic isolation, provides her husband with repeated reality checks.

Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple: Feisty and strong-willed, Danielle Brooks’ character, Sofia, offers dignity and female empowerment in this musical adaptation of the famed novel. PG-13, Grade: C

America Ferrara, Barbie: It’s all about The Rant. America Ferrara entered the pop culture pantheon with her character’s impassioned rant against patriarchy. With a low-key, yet touching performance, Ms. Ferrara uses her character to ground the film. PG-13, Grade: A-

Jodie Foster, Nyad: Steadiness and unswerving support. That’s what Jodie Foster brings to her role as Diana Nyad’s coach in this inspiring sports film. PG-13, Grade: B+

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers: Burdened by her personal losses, Mary pushes through the holidays in a deeply touching performance from Ms. Randolph. R, Grade: C

Best Animated Feature Film

The Boy and the Heron: Stunningly animated, the latest Hayao Miyazaki film offers detailed design work and a plot that rarely goes in straight lines. Not geared at kids, this is a production aimed at older fans of the art of animation. PG-13, Grade: A-

Elemental: When a woman made of fire falls in love with a man made of water, Disney’s animation geniuses produce some stunning visuals. The story is also a sweet tale of immigrant families, reaching across divides, and appreciating the beauty of diversity. PG, Grade: A-

Nimona: When a soon-to-be-knight is framed for regicide, he flees into the woods, only to run into an unusual young woman named Nimona. It turns out that Nimona is a shapeshifter whose unsettling propensity for violence stems from a history of trauma. This animated film deals with some big themes and isn’t suited to small children. PG, Grade: A-

Robot Dreams This bittersweet buddy pic follows the adventures of Dog and a robot friend he orders. Due to release schedule issues, we did not review this film.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Once again, the Spider-Verse animators produced dazzling, cutting-edge work with a movie so action-packed that it can barely stay on the screen. This is the first part of a two-part film, so it has time to dive into multiple plot threads and give Miles and Gwen room to grow. PG, Grade:A

More details about the movies mentioned in this post…