Oscars 2023: A Year in Review
A quick summary of some of this year’s Best Picture Nominations in preparation for Hollywood’s biggest night
By Andrew Martinez Cabrera
Visiting Culture Writer
From The Batman to The Northman, whether you’re a casual filmgoer or a die-hard cinephile, 2022 had something to offer to both. For the most part, the Best Picture nominees reflect this, so join me in looking at some of 2022’s best films.
Top Gun: Maverick
Both Top Gun movies are propaganda pieces but for two different things. Whereas the original Tony Scott film is a 110-minute military recruitment video, Maverick is set on selling the audience, and in turn the entire Hollywood system, on Tom Cruise. Personified by the character of Maverick, both Maverick and Cruise deal with the notion of drifting into obscurity in an industry that prioritizes automation under the guise of advancements. But as long as both are still kicking, that worrisome future won’t become a reality. Unlike the average legacy sequel, Cruise does not step down to let the new kids take the lead, proving he still has a few tricks up his sleeves.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Writer/director Martin McDonagh returns to a European setting with the re-pairing of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in Banshees of Inisherin. The film chronicles the sudden bromance breakup of Padraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) after the latter decides to use his time wisely and pursue an artistic endeavor, deeming his former drinking partner as dull. McDonagh combines comedic and melancholic elements to compose a story where you can both laugh at the dry wit or cry at the comic tragedy unfolding on this island stage, as McDonagh wrestles with what to prioritize in life: artistry or close friendships.
Steven Spielberg tackles a semi-autobiographical story with The Fabelmans. Sammy, a stand-in for a young Spielberg, becomes enamored with the power of cinema not simply as a creative tool, but also as something he has full control over, which he can use to filter and rehearse his anxieties in a controlled setting. In short, film is his therapy. Spielberg lays himself bare, showing how a sentiment echoed by a distant uncle – “Art will give you crowns in heaven and laurels on earth, but it’ll tear your heart out and leave you lonely” – haunted the filmmaker, who hid the trauma of his parents divorce behind a technicolor veil. Through the film Spielberg shows how he is indebted to cinema as a medium for which he can express himself while also finding himself enmeshed in its trap. The Fabelmans’ mechanics and ideas function similarly to Spielberg’s previous films, but it is upfront about what he has been subconsciously communicating to audiences for decades.
Continuing with films about tortured artists comes TÁR, a film about a classical composer whose torture stems from abusing and manipulating others. The opening scene finds the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik moderating a panel where his introduction builds up Tár as a contemporary worth paying attention to, with distinctions including being an EGOT recipient, an author, and the first woman to lead the Berlin Philharmonic. What follows is director Todd Field’s slow-burning fall from grace as the viewer slowly uncovers the information that Tár has omitted from everyone around her. TÁR is a balancing act between the realistic, lived-in texture of the film and the surrealist qualities that follow the character Tár into the depths of infamy.
Avatar: The Way of Water
Once upon a time, James Cameron made a promise. He will not make just one, nor two, but FIVE Avatar sequels. The internet being the internet, began insisting that Avatar had no cultural value and that The Way of Water would be a surefire flop. $2.2 billion later, it’s safe to say don’t underestimate James Cameron. The Way of Water surpasses the original film in both technical and storytelling departments, deciding to write yet another anti-imperialist/pro-environment film. It is a film that proudly wears its science-fiction camp aesthetic, culminating in a one-of-a-kind theatre experience that begs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The surprise indie smash hit is my prediction for the Best Picture winner. I’m in the minority where I don’t consider this the masterpiece that everyone hailed it to be given that the Daniels aren’t subtle filmmakers. However, I am ultimately not made of stone. With so many films tackling the idea of the multiverse, a trope that’s being exhausted, Everything Everywhere’s appeal to pathos and its simple rhetoric of treating everyone with kindness (a Pixar-level message inside an R-rated picture) ultimately lands. The Daniels’ draw you in with a wildly-differing immigrant family, whose age and cultural divisions cause them to seek comfort in other universes. Given how popular this film is, the least Oscar-Baity movie might take the award home.
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Ryan Ford '23,