Label regular writer, Connor Forbes, talks us through the upcoming Academy Awards with his personal critique of the films and actors nominated.
It’s Hollywood’s awards season! A period where individuals are celebrated, in an ensemble of career changing ceremonies, for their years of hard-work and effort. 2022 was a fantastic year for the movies, finally seeing healthy growth at the box office after the pandemic, with stellar blockbuster releases such as Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water. Now with the Oscars well on the way, let us take a look at some of the awards’ nominees and highlight films that were unfortunately overlooked this year.
Starting off we have the award for actor in a leading role. Notable nominees include Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser for The Banshees of Inisherin and The Whale respectively. These movies relied heavily on the actors performances and each succeeded, and were lifted to even greater heights with the casts supporting them. The Whale by Darren Aronofsky is an adaptation of the play in which Charlie (Brendan Fraser) faces the final week of his life after suffering from extreme obesity. Despite a couple of notes seeming off-key, the overall experience I found quite touching and that is in huge thanks to Fraser’s devotion to the role. After a hiatus from acting on the big screen, we are reminded of how powerful an asset he can be, portraying tear-jerking emotions in every line or nuanced expression. The rest of the cast includes Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Ty Simpkins who all go above and beyond in a final result that features some of the most emotional acting on screen for some time.
An actor that I believe should have been considered for this award however would have to be Ralph Fiennes in The Menu. Also working alongside the brilliant Hong Chau, Fiennes is as compelling as ever playing the domineering Chef Slowik. It takes a moment for him to come into the chess board that the movie depicts, but when he does there’s no mistaking which piece he plays. It is not typical for movies of The Menu’s genre to be nominated at The Oscars, but it is still worth a watch in my opinion.
Moving on to actress in a leading role, I would like to focus on a nominee that surprised me with her performance and that is Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans. The movie is a semi-autobiographical depiction of director Steven Spielberg’s early life and relationship with his family. Michelle Williams plays Mitzi Fabelman, Sammy’s mother, and she arguably stole the show with this role. Before watching I had yet to see Williams in a lead role and was shocked by how captivating she was on screen. After seeing her complex portrayal of someone who sacrificed everything, including her own happiness, for her family, I feel as if I’d been missing out on a truly spectacular actor.
A film that I believe not only features a contender for actress in a leading role but was also snubbed from the Oscars entirely was Till. The movie is a historical drama that tells the true story of Mamie Till-Bradley (Danielle Deadwyler), a woman who lost her son Emmet in an act of racial hatred and would become an activist for civil rights. Deadwyler is tremendous in this movie. She carries this anger throughout which is channelled into the mission of preserving Emmett’s memory. I could not believe that not only was Deadwyler not considered for best leading actress, but the film as a whole did not receive a single Oscar nomination in any category. Director Chinonye Chukwu would blame this on an “unabashed misogyny towards Black women” that still lingers in Hollywood.
In the category of international feature film, I have to bring up All Quiet on the Western Front. Based on the 1929 novel of the same name, the film follows Paul Bäumer, a young man who dives headfirst into the Great War in hopes of serving his country, only to be met with the cruel reality of war. The movie is German and follows that German perspective throughout which felt different, but necessary for an understanding and acknowledgement of all the innocent lives lost on both sides of the war. It truly holds nothing back, also depicting the wealthy politicians who signed the ceasefire and caused the deaths of countless young men. It was a powerful experience and one that I think as many people as possible should watch.
Now the main event, and the biggest award of the year: Best Picture. This year had a plethora of good choices; Elvis, Women Talking, and Tár were all wonderful stories, but I think this year’s best picture award is between two very special films. The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh is my personal favourite film of the year. It follows two friends on an island off the coast of Ireland when all of a sudden, one of them simply does not want to be friends anymore. It is a simple elevator pitch, but it develops in profound ways which I can assure, you will not expect. McDonagh has been my favourite director for some time, ever since I saw his film Seven Psychopaths, and something that he has always done, which shines in Banshees is the human aspect. He has a history in theatre which the human aspect has carried through his career where the characters are always the focal point. From the music and the setting to even Jenny the donkey, I wholeheartedly believe Banshees is a masterpiece.
The other contender which I think has a chance to win the best picture is Everything Everywhere all at Once. Starring Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, we follow Evelyn, a mother who wishes to reconnect with her family and finds herself crossing multiple realities and different universes with the fate of both the world and her taxes on the line. The Daniels created the most original piece of cinema this year; its style, premise, and set pieces all have a fresh sense to them, something that feels like it could only be made in the contemporary era. Beyond the fact that it is so original, and tries to push boundaries, it is still an emotionally driven family drama. Michelle Yeoh was, as she always is, incredible but Ke Huy Quan was the major surprise of this film, he is phenomenal. Something about the whole movie screams unique and it wants it that way. I was glad to see the film was not only a critical success but also breaking new ground at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing movie from A24 and the first to pass $100 million.
No matter who wins each award, it is good to see creators in Hollywood get the reception they deserve at awards shows such as The Oscars. Each one of the directors’ and actors’ careers have seen career-changing success in the past year and it is all but deserved. However, there is still discussion to be had over certain films that seem to have been disregarded including Till and She Said, both are bold dramas based on real-world stories of misogyny and discrimination that could have been arguably snubbed of awards because of the topics they discussed.
Edited By: Rachel Cannings (Head of Culture and Entertainment)
Design By: Sarim Mangi (Head of Design)