If you don’t have time to watch every Oscars nominee, here are five essential watches to get you ready for film’s biggest night
Whether you are – in the words of Bradley Cooper – a “crazy cinephile” or just someone who likes to follow cultural events, odds are you’ll be tuning into the Oscars later this month. There are, however, over 50 titles nominated, ten in the best picture category alone. So, just in case you don’t have time to watch every Oscars nominee, here are five essential watches.
Much like the medium it celebrates, the Oscars usually offers a healthy dose of drama and surprise. So, although some might try to predict who’s taking those golden statuettes home, there’s no telling what twists might take place. That’s why the list we’ve put together doesn’t just include likely winners but also culturally relevant movies and titles that might go home empty-handed but really shouldn’t.
Undoubtedly, reducing a roster of 53 films to a list less than one-tenth its size will leave some feeling unsatisfied. But, mostly we want to make sure anyone reading this article will feel included come March 27th.
5. Flee, dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Flee is included in this list because, despite being one of the best films in the competition, many Oscars lists will overlook it. Flee is an animated documentary from Denmark depicting the life story of a gay Afghan man who escaped the country as a child in the 1980s during its first civil war and is given the alias Amin Nawabi for safety reasons. The movie is nominated for Best Documentary Feature, Best Animated Feature Film and Best International Feature Film.
Flee is a must-watch for several reasons. Firstly, its subject matter is incredibly relevant to our day and age. Since Amin’s escape, the number of refugees and displaced peoples around the world has reached chilling astronomical numbers. Tackling this major global crisis by focusing on the protagonist’s personal journey gives the film a special emotional pull. Rasmussen met Amin when they were both in school in Copenhagen, and the intimacy and care with which he tells his story is noticeable throughout, especially in his depiction of Amin’s journey with sexuality and same-sex attraction within a traditional culture. Flee is also technically excellent, cleverly combining gorgeous 2D animation with standards of documentary storytelling and shocking archive footage.
Despite predictions that it will finish the evening trophyless, Flee is one of the strongest entries of this year’s Academy Awards. And, it’s one of those instances where you can’t help but hope for a turn of events.
4. Dune, dir. Denis Villeneuve
Dune was one of 2021’s biggest films, so chances are you’ve already watched it. But, just in case you haven’t, here’s your sign that you should. Albeit nominated for ten Oscars, it’s looking like the blockbuster might only secure wins in technical categories like Best Cinematography. However, it garnered a place on this list due to its cultural impact.
A star-studded cast featuring the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Mamoa and Zendaya (who, despite being a big part of the film’s promo, is only in it for ten minutes) is sure to create a lot of buzz during the actual ceremony. Still, it would be unfair to reduce Dune to its cast. French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s masterful conduction of this intimidating book-to-screen adaptation presented us all with an epic sci-fi feast-for-the-eyes with remarkable world-building storytelling.
To miss out on Dune would be to miss out on what is shaping up to be this decade’s most cinematic and most impactful franchise.
3. CODA, dir. Sian Heder
CODA is both an acronym standing for Child of Deaf Adult and a musical term that signifies the concluding section of a composition. In turn, it’s a very fitting title for one of the sweetest films of the 2022 Oscars. CODA, directed by Sian Heder, is the English-language remake of the 2014 French movie La Famille Bélier and tells the tale of Ruby (Emilia Jones), the only hearing member of a deaf family whose dream is to become a singer.
At a cinematic level, this film is perhaps one of the weakest nominees. But, its place on the podium is more than justified for the heart and earnestness it brings to the mix. It’s quite easy to tell when a project is important to the people involved in it, and CODA is definitely one of those cases. The film opened up a long-time-coming space for the deaf and hard of hearing community. And, it did so with the utmost respect and sensitivity.
Unlike its French counterpart, here, deaf characters are played by deaf actors. And, they all deliver outstanding performances that elevate the film’s already moving story to a whole new level. Troy Kotsur, who plays Ruby’s father, is leading the race for Best Supporting Actor.
2. The Power Of The Dog, dir. Jane Campion
The Power Of The Dog is likely to win Best Picture, as well as Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jane Campion, as it’s swept every other major award ceremony this season. With ten Oscar nominations, the only reason it isn’t topping this list is it’s not for everyone.
Based on the 1967 novel of the same name, written by Thomas Savage, this neo-western set in a Montana ranch in the 1920s explores ideas of hyper-masculinity, repressed sexuality and gender roles that still largely apply to the present day. But, it’s not meant to be spoon-fed to the spectator. Campion excels at transporting her characters’ inner discomfort and turmoil to the outside world by skilfully manipulating the silence and emptiness of the wild west to build a cut-throat tension and a fear that something terrible is about to happen at every turn. It’s a distressing watching experience, but all the more powerful for it.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s career-defining performance and a stunning original score complete this awe-inspiring effort by this year’s shoo-in for Best Director.
1. Drive My Car, dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Don’t be discouraged by this film’s running time. While most three hour-long films shouldn’t be three hours long, sometimes you come across one where every second of every minute of those three hours are necessary.
Drive My Car is a striking exploration of grief and human connection. It follows the life of actor and theatre director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) as he stages Chekhov’s, Uncle Vanya. The play helps Yusuke deal with the loss and hurt that have plagued his life.
Nominated for major categories Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best International Feature (and predicted to win the latter), the Japanese film continues the Academy’s much-welcomed tendency towards globalisation that climaxed with South Korea’s Parasite‘s historical sweep in 2020.
The slow tempo and stillness of Hamaguchi’s masterwork allow you to sit with these wonderfully complicated and wounded characters, both as a spectator to their stories and difficulties and as a part of the film yourself. A good movie is introspective and connects to parts of your soul and psyche. And, Drive My Car is a really good movie.