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The Academy Awards air this month, on Sunday, March 27. As is my custom, I enjoy watching as many of the nominated movies as possible, plus the short films. Pre COVID, more opportunities existed to watch the films. My local theater brought in all of them for special viewings during Oscar Week.
However, for the second year in a row, that didn’t happen. Instead, for the first time ever, I caught all ten of the 2022 Best Picture Nominated films at home, on various streaming services.
It’s not necessary to see all of the films before Oscar night. But in my experience, it gives extra meaning to the award show plus I end up watching movies I wouldn’t otherwise.
Check out my brief, spoiler free summaries of each film and my prediction at the end of the post.
Ten Movies Nominated for Best Picture
It’s a large group of films this year and they are extremely diverse, ranging from sci-fi to biographical to satire to off beat. I’m listing them in the order I watched them.
Rated PG-13 Run time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Screenplay written by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth, based on the novel by Frank Herbert. Directed by Denis Velleneuve. Nominated for 10 Oscars,
Stars Timothee Chalomet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Stellan Skarsgard.
Promoted as part one in a two part series, Dune tells a hero’s journey story about a gifted young man born into a destiny beyond his imagination and understanding. He must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to guarantee the future of his people. The hostile desert planet contains an exclusive supply of a rare resource that has the ability to propel humanity to its greatest potential…if it is in the right hands.
Fun fact: Director Denis Villeneuve read the Dune novel at age 12 and saw the first adaptation in 1984. His lifelong dream to do a new adaptation came true after he did two other science fiction films, so he possessed sufficient experience for the project.
Dune is available to watch on HBOMax.
Don’t Look Up
Rated R Run time: 2 hours 18 minutes
Screenplay written by Adam McKay and David Sirota. Nominated for 4 Oscars.
Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry and Timothee Chalamet.
This comedic drama…with sci-fi overtones…has been called satire at its best. Two unknown astronomers discover that an approaching comet is on a collision course with Earth. However, no one…from those in highest government positions to religious leaders to scientists…seems to care. The pair embark on a whirlwind media tour, trying to convince those with the power to make changes to do something before it’s too late. What does it take, to get people to look up?
Fun fact: Jennifer Lawrence filmed most of her scenes with a broken tooth. Due to COVID restrictions, she couldn’t get it fixed. In post production, the missing tooth was added in.
Don’t Look Up is available on Netflix.
The Power of the Dog
Rated R Run time: 2 hours 6 minutes
Screenplay by Jane Campion, based on the novel by Thomas Savage. Directed by Jane Campion. Nominated for 12 Oscars.
Stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Durnst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
In 1925 Montana, the Burbank brothers carry on the ranching legacy handed down to them by their parents. Phil is charismatic, cruel and manipulative while George does damage control in the wake of Phil’s brutality. When George marries and brings a new wife and her teenage son to the ranch, Phil takes great pleasure in bullying both. However, when the abuse abruptly shifts to befriending the boy and teaching him about ranching, concerns grow even more. (Read a more in depth review HERE.)
Fun fact: To get into the character of Phil and stay there, Benedict Cumberbatch did not bathe for two weeks and adopted chain smoking. He did not speak to co-star Kirsten Dunst outside of filming.
The Power of the Dog is available on Netflix.
Rated R Run time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Screenplay by Guillermo del Torro and Kim Morgan, based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham. Directed by Guillermo del Torro. Nominated for 4 Oscars.
Stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman and Mary Steenburgen.
An ambitious carnival worker with the ability to easily manipulate people, learns to perform as a mentalist. He hooks up with another performer named Molly, to develop their own two person act. They experience success on the road, until greed drives him to con a dangerous tycoon, with the help of a mysterious female psychiatrist.
Fun fact: COVID suspended production of the film after some of the scenes were shot. Bradley Cooper used that time to lose 15 pounds so as to appear younger for scenes at the beginning of the film.
Watch Nightmare Alley on Hulu and HBOMax.
West Side Story
Rated PG-13 Run time: 2 hours 36 minutes
Screenplay written by Tony Kushner, based on the stage play and book by Arthur Laurents. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Nominated for 7 Oscars.
This adaptation of the 1957 musical stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno.
West Side Story explores the threats of two warring gangs and the city’s wrecking ball in a decaying neighborhood in Manhattan. While the two gangs fight for supremacy, an unexpected and forbidden love develops between one of the gang members…and the sister of the leader of the other gang.
Fun fact: In spite of the 60 year gap between adaptations, three actors who appeared in the original musical play different roles in this new film: Rita Moreno, Harvey Evans and David Bean. Sadly, David passed away two weeks after this film’s release.
Watch West Side Story on HBOMax.
Drive My Car
Unrated Run time: 2 hours 59 minutes
Screenplay written by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe, based on the short story by Haruki Murakami. Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Nominated for 4 Oscars.
This Japanese film stars Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura and Reika Kirishima.
Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, a well known stage actor and director agrees to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theater festival in Hiroshima. The young woman assigned as his chauffeur helps him face his grief and confront painful truths from his past.
Fun fact: This film is also nominated for Best International Feature Film, at the Academy Awards.
Watch Drive My Car on HBOMax.
Rated PG-13 Run time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh. Nominated for 7 Oscars.
Stars Jude Hill, Lewis McAskie, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds.
Set in the 1960s, this historical drama tells the story of Buddy and his family as their working class neighborhood experiences increasing turbulence and violence. Nine year old Buddy does his best to understand “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland as friends and neighbors flee Belfast and his own family faces life altering decisions.
Fun fact: This film is based on the true events from Kenneth Branagh’s childhood.
Rent Belfast on Prime Video HERE. Start your FREE Amazon Prime trial.
Rated PG-13 Run time: 2 hours 24 minutes
Written by Zach Baylin. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. Nominated for 6 Oscars.
Stars Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton.
This biographical drama follows Richard Williams, father and tennis coach of Venus and Serena. Armed with a clear vision and a bold 78 page written plan, Richard is determined to write his daughters into history. His commitment, balanced by his wife’s grounded perspectives, defies the odds against his daughters as they pursue their dreams of being the best female tennis players in the world.
Fun fact: Saniyya, who portrays Venus, is left handed and had never played tennis before. She trained five days a week, followed a strict diet and exercise plan, and watched hours of Venus, who is right handed, playing in major tennis tournaments.
Rent King Richard on Amazon Prime HERE.
Rated R Run time: 2 hours 13 minutes
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Nominated for 3 Oscars.
This romantic comedy stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman and Sean Penn.
In 1973 San Fernando Valley, 15 year old Gary meets Alana when she arrives to take photos at the high school. With a wide age gap between them, Gary and Alana form a friendship that takes them through various start up businesses and brief romantic relationships with others. However, is there more than friendship developing between them?
Fun fact: Alana Haim’s on screen family members are all played by her actual family members. The Haim sisters have a Grammy nominated rock band. Paul Thomas Anderson met the Haims when he was a young boy. This film is inspired by the crush he had on Donna Haim, the mother of the girls.
Purchase Licorice Pizza on Amazon Prime HERE.
Rated PG-13 Run time: 1 hour 51 minutes
Screenplay written by Sian Heder, based on the previous motion picture “La Famille Belier”, written by Victoria Bedos, Stanislas Carre de Malberg, Eric Lartigau and Thomas Bidegain. Directed by Sian Heder. Nominated for 3 Oscars.
Stars Emilia Jones, Marlee Martin, Troy Kotsur, Eugenio Derbez and Daniel Durant.
Ruby is a CODA…Child of Deaf Adults. She is the only hearing person in her family of four. From early childhood, Ruby interprets for her parents in the hearing world while helping her dad in his business and helping her mother and brother communicate with the community. Ruby’s passion is music and singing. When she joins the high school choir, her teacher encourages her to apply for college, on a musical scholarship. How can Ruby share her love of singing with her family, when they have no place for music in their world? And how can she leave them and go away to college?
Fun fact: Ruby’s deaf father, mother and older brother are all played by deaf actors. Emilia, who played Ruby, spent nine months learning American sign language, taking singing lessons and learning how to operate a fishing trawler.
Watch CODA on Apple TV+
I think this was the most interesting group of best pictured nominated films ever. Often, in past years, I like one or two of the films and can barely watch others in the group, usually due to extreme violence. You perhaps noticed that many of this year’s films are rated PG-13. The captivation lies not in the shock value of these films but in powerful stories, clever satires and real life inspired tales.
I enjoyed all ten of these movies. Don’t Look Up made me laugh the most. Drive My Car, at almost three hours long, appealed to me more and more as the story unfolded. And ironically, my favorites were the last three I watched. King Richard is inspiring. Licorice Pizza is so quirky. And CODA is an incredible film…funny, insightful and heart touching. It’s the movie I loved the most.
However, I’m selecting The Power of the Dog for the win on Oscar Night. It is such a layered, complex film with a gripping storyline that stays with the viewer for a while. The Academy loves such weighty films.
How many of the 2022 Best Picture nominated films have you seen? Do you have one you are cheering for on Oscar Night?
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