Hollywood’s annual big night is almost upon us, with organisers no doubt hoping all the attention this year will be on the Oscar winners – not any other onstage action.
After last year’s infamous slap overshadowed Apple TV+’s Coda’s surprise victory, security and scrutiny is likely to double down for the March 13 ceremony (New Zealand Time).
Predicting this year’s Best Picture could be difficult, thanks to The Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans picking up the main Golden Globes and All Quiet on the Western Front taking home the big Bafta.
There are also two big blockbusters in the form of Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water that have an army of admirers behind them.
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* Netflix’s All Quiet on the Western Front takes home Bafta’s top prize, Wētā FX wins award for Avatar 2
To assist you in your own decision-making, Stuff to Watch has coming up with this handy guide to the 10 nominees up for the Academy’s big gong (including where you can watch them right now).
All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)
What it’s about: German drama based on Erich Maria Remarque’s more than 90-year-old novel. While making a few changes, this is still very much the traumatising experiences of young soldier Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) during World War I.
What else it has been nominated for: International Feature, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design.
What we thought of it: “A heady combination of visceral horrors and disquieting, often dissonant, audio accompaniment is at the heart of this stunning new adaptation.” (*****, James Croot)
Avatar: The Way of Water (In Cinemas)
What it’s about: The first of allegedly four sequels to the 2009 action sci-fi box-office behemoth scheduled for release over the next six years, this continues the Pandora-set adventures of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), as an old threat forces them to leave home.
What else it has been nominated for: Sound, Visual Effects, Production Design.
What we thought of it: “Even if I occasionally tired of the storytelling in The Way Of Water, I could have stared at the screen – drinking in the design and craft of the film – for days.” (****½, Graeme Tuckett)
The Banshees of Inisherin (Still in select Cinemas)
What it’s about: Writer-director Martin McDonagh reunites his In Bruges stars Farrell and Gleeson for a blackly comedic tale of friendship gone awry that threatens to cast a pall over a whole village. When Farrell’s Padraic is rebuffed by his old pal Colm (Gleeson) for their daily drink, the resulting fallout escalates beyond what either of them could have imagined.
What else it has been nominated for: Actor (Farrell), Supporting Actor (Gleeson, Barry Keoghan), Supporting Actress (Kerry Condon), Original Score, Directing, Original Screenplay, Film Editing.
What we thought of it: “Shocking, heartrending, but also guaranteed to make you laugh out loud, Banshees is a thought-provoking and potentially unnerving meditation on male friendship, self-reflection and the consequences of being a stubborn ass.” (****, James Croot)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (Prime Video, Neon)
What it’s about: Michelle Yeoh stars in this action adventure-comedy about an ageing Chinese immigrant who finds herself having to explore multiple universes in order to save our own reality.
What else it has been nominated for: Original Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Directing, Actress (Yeoh), Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu), Costume Design, Film Editing.
What we thought of It: “Reminded me of everything from The Matrix to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, but with hot-dogs for hands, philosophising rocks and the sweetest mother-daughter reconciliation yarn in a decade.” (****½, Graeme Tuckett)
Elvis (Online Rentals)
What it’s about: Having previously tackled Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the history of his own homeland, Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann now takes on “the King” in this biopic of the legendary rock and roll star.
What it has been nominated for: Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound, Actor (Austin Butler), Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design.
What we thought of It: “Elvis is a flashy sideshow attraction, maybe even a theme-park ride, based on the life of an unrepeatable figure. But it is not a credible biopic. (***½, Graeme Tuckett)
The Fabelmans (Still in select Cinemas/Online Rentals)
What it’s about: Inspired by master director Steven Spielberg’s own childhood in Arizona, this mid-20th Century drama follows young Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) as he makes films with his friends and navigates a sometimes tempestuous home life.
What else it has been nominated for: Directing, Original Score, Actress (Michelle Williams), Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Original Screenplay, Production Design.
What we thought of it: “A deserved winner of the prestigious People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, The Fabelmans is a close encounter with Spielberg that will have you hooked from the opening frames.” (****½, James Croot)
Tár (In Cinemas)
What it’s about: Cate Blanchett stars in writer-director Todd Field’s psychological drama which follows the rise and fall of a renowned music composer and conductor.
What else it has been nominated for: Actress (Blanchett), Directing, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing.
What we thought of it: “Dense, scabrous, chilling, occasionally very, very funny and absolutely hypnotic. I strained forward towards every perfect frame, anxious not to miss a syllable or an inflection that might contain another clue to the unveiling of the paradox at the heart of the film.” (*****, Graeme Tuckett)
Top Gun: Maverick (Neon)
What it’s about: Some 35 years after he last essayed Navy aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Tom Cruise is back on the “highway to the danger zone”. This time, he’s training the latest crop of recruits, that includes his old mate Goose’s son Rooster (Miles Teller), for a special mission.
What else it has been nominated for: Film Editing, Original Song, Sound, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay.
What we thought of it: “By essentially remaking the 1986 Top Gun, with a few new characters and a genuinely poignant cameo from Val Kilmer, Maverick was the fan-service we all wanted. It hit every beat, made us gasp and laugh on cue and gave nostalgia a good name. (***½, Graeme Tuckett)
Triangle of Sadness (After previews in select cinemas from this weekend, it opens more widely on March 9)
What it’s about: Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund’s English language debut is a black comedy which focuses on Carl and Yaya, a couple of influencers, who are invited to a luxury cruise ship alongside a group of out of touch wealthy people. However, the situation takes an unexpected turn when a brutal storm hits the boat.
What else it has been nominated for: Directing, Original Screenplay.
What others have thought of it: “An absurd, iconoclastic riot. Östlund’s point may be blunt – yep, rich people are bad – but his telling of it is hilariously, breathlessly entertaining,” wrote Empire magazine’s John Nugent.
Women Talking (In Cinemas)
What it’s about: Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name, this drama focuses on a group of women (played a terrific ensemble who include Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy) in an isolated religious community who have gathered together to make a decision that will affect all their lives.
What else it has been nominated for: Adapted Screenplay.
What we thought of it: “A modern day answer to 12 Angry Men, this generation’s Dogville and/or a masterclass in making a seemingly simple premise become truly engrossing viewing.” (*****, James Croot)
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