Wednesday, March 6, 2024


I haven't seen all the movies up for awards this season, but here's my reactions to what I've seen so far.

AMERICAN FICTION. Most original and satisfying movie of, and my pick for best flick of, 2023. (I've read critics saying it doesn't live up to the book. I haven't read the book but found this stinging satire seriously clever and witty, in the best historic sense of those words.)

PAST LIVES. Another unexpectedly unique story, subtly compelling and impactful. My choice for best director and original screenplay, both by Celine Song. 

THE HOLDOVERS. A story we've seen variations of before maybe, but so well done on every level it shines like the gem it is. Including the acting, especially Da'Vine Joy Randolph, my choice for best supporting actor of 2023.

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON. Epic filmmaking at it's best, and redemption for Scorcese with me after the catastrophe of THE IRISHMAN (so-called). Though I would have preferred spending all that time with the Osage characters (especially Lily Gladstonee who I hope gets the Oscar) and following the story completely from their perspective, rather than focusing so much time and energy on the perspective of the white men and their evil. But at least Scorcese was able to keep DiNiro mostly in character with only a few inappropriate DiNiroisms. 

OPPENHEIMER. Another epic film expertly done (by Christopher Nolan). My pick for best cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema). And so many great performances (Robert Downey Jr. my pick for the still binary Oscar for presents-as-male best supporting actor). Cillian Murphy impressive as always.

BARBIE. Greta Gerwig should have been Oscar nominated for pulling this product promotion satire off at all, let alone so stylishly. And Margot Robbie is, as always, the main reason to watch any film she's in. Some laughs and poignancy. Best costumes and production design.

NYAD. In almost any other year this would win multiple Oscars. Especially for best actor and supporting actor for Annette Bening and Jody Foster. Watching them play off each other is a master (air quotes) class in film acting. Unexpectedly engaging despite it being a lot of watching someone swim.

MAESTRO. Bradley Cooper should win a special award for best multi-tasker (directing starring co-writing co-producing). I thought he did a pretty great job, considering all the possible (and real) pitfalls. Again in almost any other year this would win a bunch of Oscars.

POOR THING. Starts out unappealingly, for me, trying too hard at calling attention to its artistic credentials, but Emma Stone is so spectacular in her performance I stuck it out to experience a lot of satisfying scenes. There are so many amazing performances in the best "actress" category this year, they all should win.

RUSTIN. Bio-pics are always full of challenges (as part of the story, and of the film making), and this one doesn't surmount them all. But Coleman Domingo is so good as the title historic character, he transcends the genre liabilities. In the binary Oscar world he's my choice for "best actor". 

THE COLOR PURPLE. Some amazing scenes and performances, but didn't have the impact my friends who saw it on Broadway said that rendition did. Coleman Domingo displays his incredible range, as do many others, but for me the lyrics were sometimes too thin for the otherwise energetic production  numbers, and the movement of the story seemed off at times. Still an intense experience.  

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. Surprisingly not bad for this late in the game.  And worth watching to see my longtime friend Karen Allen, as Marion Ravenwood, elevate the climactic scene to a level that complements while even surpassing Marion's first appearance on screen in RAIDERS. A very satisfying full circle.

AMERICAN SYMPHONY. I haven't seen the nominated documentaries, but my fave doc of '23 that I have seen is this one. Highly recommend.

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