Andy Ray Picks the 2022 Oscars
As I continue to advance in years, there is an ever-widening gap between my Oscar opinions and those pictures that actually win. In recent years, I enjoyed “Coda” and “Parasite,” but not enough to rank them on my Top Ten lists, let alone suggest they were worthy of Best Picture Oscars. So, this year let’s have two separate discussions. What should win, and what will win. And let’s jump right in at the top.
Oscar for Best Picture
The Academy’s recent modus operandi is to nominate ten films for Best Picture, but only five for Best Director. This seems disingenuous to me, as these two statuettes are often awarded to the same film. Ironically, “Green Book” won the Best Picture Oscar for 2018, even though director Peter Farrelly wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. But these instances are very rare.
Of the films nominated in both categories (those with the best chance of winning), my pick for Best Picture is Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical “The Fabelmans.” Not to discount “Lincoln,” “Bridge of Spies,” or “The Terminal,” but “The Fabelmans” is Spielberg’s best work in over two decades. Not only is it heartwarming (and I mean this in the best possible way, as Spielberg is known for oversentimentality), but it’s a keenly interesting look at a boy who was simply born to direct films.
The academy, however, has never “liked” Spielberg as much as the general public. Yes, his films are often nominated, but only “Schindler’s List” has won Best Picture. By my count, Spielberg has directed the year’s best film five times. (And I’m not counting “The Fabelmans,” which I ranked #2 this year.)
Instead, the academy has overnominated two films this year – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” and Martin McDonagh’s Irish comedy/drama “The Banshees of Inisherin.” I cannot express enough how strongly I disliked “Banshees.” The paper thin plot involves a man who wants to break off his friendship with his best friend. When the best friend resists, the first man begins dismembering himself. And this is supposed to be funny? Maybe it isn’t supposed to be funny; but it’s also supremely uninteresting, so it fails on both counts.
I liked “Everything Everywhere” better, but certainly not enough to suggest that it’s anywhere near the year’s best film. The Daniels start off with a good story about a Chinese-American family who operates a laundromat. They are under audit from the IRS, and during their initial meeting with the IRS agent, the parents jump into a parallel universe. The rest of the film plays out more like “The Matrix” than any “serious” movie I’ve seen. And I have a problem with that. The set-up to the original story is actually quite good. I lost interest when the surreal sci-fi fantasy element kicked in. The special effects and the acting are top-notch, but this simply isn’t the year’s best film. Perhaps therefore, I’m predicting the academy will bestow its Best Picture honor on “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”
Here, I’m going to repeat myself, but veteran filmmaker Steven Spielberg deserves this award for giving us one of the year’s motion picture joys, “The Fabelmans.” I believe the academy will split, however. “Everyting Everywhere” is only the Daniels second feature film. I’m predicting they’ll (however misguidedly) awared Martin McDonagh for “The Banshees of Inisherin.” McDonagh should have won for his 2017 film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – one of the decades best pictures. Awarding him for “Banshees” feels like a consolation prize – particularly since “Three Billboards” was the far superior effort – but they’ll award him anyway.
Oscar for Best Actor
Of the acting awards, this is probably the easiest call of the year. Brendan Fraser was better in “The Whale” than any other actor or actress in any film this year. I know “The Whale” was based on a play, and it certainly feels like it, as all the action takes place in Fraser’s apartment. Still, with ten films nominated for Best Picture, the absence of “The Whale” from that category is a glaring omission. Fraser should have no such issue in the actor category. Without his brilliant performance, “The Whale” would have failed to connect with audiences. Like Tom Hanks, Fraser is a likeable guy, and he draws us into the character of a grotesquely overweight college professor in a way that few other actors could accomplish so successfully.
Unfortunately, there is a chance the academy will instead honor Colin Farrell for his lead performance in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” I can’t imagine why, but they nominated “Banshees” for nine Oscars, and “The Whale” for three. You do the math. Still, I’m going to say the weight of Fraser’s performance (no pun intended) Trumps the fact that they really liked “Banshees.”
This one should have been a two-way race between Cate Blanchett’s determined and driven symphony conductor in “Tar” and Danielle Deadwyler’s portrayal of the mother of murdered African-American youth Emmett Till in “Till.” But Deadwyler wasn’t even nominated! I try to stay out of popular movements in my reviews, but I must ask again: What does a black director, screenwriter, or actor have to do to get nominated in this day and age?
Remember the “Oscars So White” movement, which criticized the lack of diversity in the 2014 nominations? The same could apply this year. You can’t tell me they found ten films to nominate for Best Picture and “Till” wasn’t one of them. Deadwyler’s performance is one of the best of the year – male or female, black or white. For that matter, young Jalyn Hall should have received a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as Emmett Till. Of the ten nominees for lead acting honors this year, nine of them are white. The tenth is Asian-American. Again, you do the math.
So, given the absence of the competition Deadwyler would have provided, my pick for Best Actress is Cate Blanchett. She’s won already for 2013’s “Blue Jasmine,” but this time she actually deserves it. “Tar” is not a fun or heartwarming film to watch, but much as with Fraser’s perfornance, “Tar” simply doesn’t work without Blanchett. Her passionate characterization of the emotionally broken conductor is the driving force behind Todd Field’s excellent yet distant character study. Without Deadwyler, Blanchett really doesn’t have much competition in this category. And I can’t believe they actually nominated Ana de Armas’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde,” a film almost universally despised by critics and audiences alike.
Oscar for Best Supporting Actor
I don’t have a clear favorite in this category, but I suppose I’d go with Judd Hirsch, as the supportive uncle who helps guide young Sammy Fabelman to a career in directing films. It’s a small role, but it’s vital to the development of Sammy’s dream to turn his filmmaking prowess into more than just a hobby. Hirsch has been a very astute character actor for many years. He is good here, but not necessarily any better than he ever is.
The academy will instead award Brendan Gleeson for his portrayal of the self-mutilating Irishman in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Gleeson has been an excellent actor for a long time, and Lord knows he deserves it. Just not for this film. Also, will this be a first for the academy? Two men named Brendan winning acting Oscars during the same ceremony?
Oscar for Best Supporting Actress
I don’t have a pick in this category. I was underwhelmed by all the nominated performances. The academy will award Jamie Lee Curtis for her role as the IRS agent in “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” In a career that has spanned at least 35 years, Curtis has never even been nominated. Furthermore, the academy likes Hollywood royalty, and lest we forget, Curtis’ parents were Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. She is probably a lock, although there’s an outside chance Angela Bassett could pull off an upset for her role as Queen Ramonda in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Typically, superhero and comic book performances don’t win, but she probably should have won for any number of films back in the ‘90s, and didn’t. So, she might pull off a win here.
On a side note, I’m surprised the academy nominted Hong Chau as the demanding nurse aid in “The Whale.” The logical choice in this film is Sadie Sink, who played Brendan Fraser’s temperamental estranged daughter. The interplay between these two characters is the meat of the film. Sink should have earned the nomination; not Chau.
In the Original Screenplay category, the academy will have to choose between the Daniels for “Everything Everywhere” and McDonagh for “Banshees.” I say they’ll give it to the Daniels, if for no other reason than they forced us to think outside the proverbial box. Again, I would have preferred they stay with their original story and develop it in a more traditional fashion. But at least they took a risk – a huge one at that – by taking their film in a direction nobody saw coming.
And I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but my pick for Original Screenplay is Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner for “The Fabelmans.” It’s smart, inspiring, and very intelligent in the way young Sammy develops his talent for directing motion pictures. It’s a surprisingly easy call for me.
In the Adapted Screenplay category, I’m picking my one and only agreement with the academy this year. We both pick Sarah Polley for “Women Talking.” This was another of the year’s best films, and it was nominated for Best Picture. But for some reason, Polley wasn’t nominated for Best Director, which means it probably won’t win Best Picture. Dare I broach the question of how a female writer/director could brilliantly adapt a difficult novel about oppressed women in a Mennonite colony – which incidentally is never boring – and NOT receive a Best Director nomination? Given that glaring omission, they almost have to award Polley for her screenwriting. They will. And she deserves it.
So, there you have it. It should be a big night for Steven Spielberg and “The Fabelmans.” But it will be a big night for “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” Again, I give “Everything Everywhere” kudos for being innovative, but it isn’t my cup of tea. I would have preferred a more traditional story. Something like… hmmm, I don’t know. “The Fabelmans?”
Andy Ray‘s reviews also appear on https://youarecurrent.com/category/nightandday/film-reviews/.