Oscars Week – 2024

close up of an academy award

Before COVID, Brian and I would go to the Cinemark at the mall in Lexington during Oscar Week. We would get a badge like we were at a film festival. I loved it because for the set price, we could see all the movies up for Best Picture. And that meant we would be able to enjoy the Oscars ceremony just a little bit more. But during the pandemic, it was cancelled. Last year, our local theater didn’t do it.

When they announced the Oscars, I checked the website and saw that our Cinemark was doing it again and I told Brian to prepare. I got my little Post-It Notepad and scheduled out the week.

That was last week – ending on Sunday with the Oscars.

I spent the last week thinking through the films. Overall, this was a great crop of films that ranged wildly from epic films to quiet character studies; color to black-and-white; love to hate. None of the movies we saw stood out as weak. Usually something sneaks in that doesn’t really work or seems “Oscar-baity”.

Here is my ranking:

  1. Anatomy of a Fall – The best movies make you question the characters, reality, and your own life. This examination of a marriage after the husband dies under mysterious circumstances. I didn’t know Sandra Hüller before this film – but I want to know every film she has ever starred in and want to see everything she will make in the future. The same is true for writer/director Justine Triet. I don’t think she did it. But I don’t think she tried to stop it either.
  2. Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan knows how to make sound and image a character in his movies. I have always loved J. Robert Oppenheimer and his life. I knew this story very well, but it didn’t matter. Nolan did a great job of explaining the contradictions of the genius and why many hated him. I cannot disagree with critics who said the female characters were flat and that it was too long. But I enjoyed every minute of the film.
  3. The Zone of Interest – This story of a family estate on the outside of Auschwitz is exactly as scary and introspective as you would think. Sandra Hüller stole many scenes in this one as well as the wife of the Commandant in charge of the death camp. It deserved the Best Sound Oscar. The entire movie had the sounds of the camp in the background (you never see the internal workings or horrors). It all existed within your own head from your own knowledge. The ending scenes emphasize the concept that we are all on the outside of horrors and lifv our own lives while monsters deserve good next to us. And how to we ignore it for our own success and betterment. I will be thinking of this move for a long time – but I have no idea if it will hold up in my living room if I watch it again.
  4. The Holdovers – A perfect Christmas family movie with great writing, great characters, and a fun story. It could be developed from a screenwriting class, and nothing really changes any of the norms. All three main characters (and actors) felt real and perfect. I could live in this world and hope for the best for them afterwards. If you just like a fun movie, I highly recommend this.
  5. Poor Things – I would say this is almost the opposite of The Holdovers and Barbie. The story of Bella Baxter (an amazing character name), who has the brain of her baby transplanted in her body when her prior being died by suicide. Bella explores the world freshly with immaturity in an adult body. The story is a bit on the nose – men want to control this woman who is “controlled” by a child. And she just wants to be free and live her own life. Allegories don’t need to be subtle. And this one was not. I really enjoyed the experience – the visuals, the script, and the concept. It was a perfect movie experience. But I never thought I would see that much of Emma Stone. Don’t see this with anyone in your family.
  6. American Fiction – Jeffrey Wright and Cord Jefferson should do another movie together. I enjoyed this and thought it was a fun movie. A nice hit on publishing, white liberals, and the concept of literary awards. But overall, I think the story of the family at the center of the movie was what made it worth watching. I wanted to know more about all of the central family members. It felt a little short in that front and the ending was a bit too cute for its own good.
  7. Barbie – What fun! I wish I had more to say. Margot Robbie was robbed of an Oscar nomination. She brought so much to a character that could have been a caricature – even in the steady hands of Greta Gerwig. The songs were fun, the sets were beautiful, and I laughed many times. I think the “real world” scenes were a bit weaker than the Barbieland scenes – but at the same time, only when Margot (or Ryan) wasn’t on the screen.
  8. Past Lives – I wanted to like this movie a lot more. I just didn’t get why they kept getting back together. I think if I had a better understanding of the middle part of the movie – why she reconnected with him when he was looking for her and why she enjoyed their conversations – I may have liked it more. But I never felt like they were a couple. I get that it is about loss and what could have been. I love The Road You Didn’t Take movies and stories. But I don’t get a sense that anything about the other “road” was interesting. It just was.
  9. Killers of the Flower Moon – This story was horrific and should be taught in every school. The acting was marvelous, and I would say 3 hours of the movie would put it in my top 5. But it was very hard to watch Lily Gladstone suffer for hour after hour. It felt like Gaslight and then Law and Order. I read a few things about the ending radio show and why Scorsese may have done it. But I really hated that as well. It really took me away from the closing scene in the courthouse between the two main characters.

Did not see: Maestro – if I had to skip one, I figured this one is on Netflix and may not need a big screen.

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