Reviews of Oscar Nominated Movies


On February 8th, 2022, the best picture nominations were just announced. Before, I was certain that Spider-Man: No Way Home was destined to sweep the Oscars, and I was ready to write a whole thing about corporate conformity, and the death of art, and blah blah blah. But I can’t do that now. The Academy beat me.


Licorice Pizza – Watched 12/28/2021


I can confidently say that Licorice Pizza is the best film of the year. It follows a series of micro-stories set in the 70s’ centered around the romance between characters with an age gap. The lead actors, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, do a great job here, and Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) selected a fantastic ensemble cast. PTA’s writing is just as good as ever. The caricatures he can create can be both fun and deeply impactful, despite not being whole characters. The scenes feel so profoundly personal, and while the theme itself isn’t anything new, it’s the subtlety of its execution that elevates its central idea. In a lot of ways, this film is perfect. (It also has a really good score, but I was bound to like that anyway because it’s full of 70s’ tracks, and I’m a cool hipster guy that only listens to “real music.”)


Don’t Look Up – Watched 1/8/2022


Don’t Look Up is awful. It was written and directed by Adam McKay, who, if you don’t know, directed the Anchorman movies. For some reason, he’s shifted gears from dumb comedies to dumb political satires. The first act is okay, the second is beyond boring, and the third has some smart scenes, but is ultimately dumb. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character has his moments, but as a whole, he’s overacting and uninteresting. Jennifer Lawrence is just bad. I can count the number of good jokes on one hand. This film is toothless with its comparisons to Trump’s America, and the whole political message is too dumb for a movie that is marketed as “based on truly possible events.”


Power of the Dog – Watched 2/11/2022


Power of the Dog is pretentious and all-knowing. It seems to think that it’s very important. In reality, it’s obtuse and dumb. If you’re not paying close attention, this film is impossible to understand. I and several others had to look up what the twist was because it didn’t make any sense. Benedict Cumberbatch is a fine actor in a bad role. Kirsten Dunce’s performance matched the pacing of the film– boring. Jesse Plemons disappears in the second act, turning him into fat– fat being, in this case, a waste of time– instead of an integral part of the plot. Yeah, the scenery is pretty, but any fool can point a camera at a landscape. There’s nothing creatively innovative behind the camera. To make matters worse, The Power of the Dog isn’t even about a dog!


Belfast – Watched 2/11/2022


Belfast was a nice palette cleanser coming off Power of the Dog. It’s a wholesome movie about wholesome family things. Considering the conflict they create, the IRA feels underutilized, and the ending is emotionally manipulative. The characters are very charming, and the acting is solid, even if the lead weighs some scenes down. The cinematography is competent and, at times, brilliant. The original score is pleasant, probably the best on the list.


Dune – watched 2/16/2022


It already takes a lot of great writing to get me invested in fantasy storytelling because, in my opinion, fantasy is an excuse for self-absorbed writers to write overly complicated stories with the worst conventions compared to any other genre. The story is always about a kid with some magical power that the villains fear, want to take, or whatever. The genre is often bloated with long-winded descriptions about some obscure facet of the world that pertains no importance to the rest of the story. The designs of things are usually so stupid that you want to go, “Cool, but why is that like that when there’s already a solid substitute for that thing in the real world?” Sci-fi falls victim to the same problems, so when you get a writer that sucks at writing and tell him to do a fantasy/sci-fi story, it tends to end up on the inflated side because they waste their time on everything except the story. I know this doesn’t seem like a review of Dune, but it is.


King Richard – watched 3/3/2022 (written on 3/4/2022)


So, I finished King Richard last night, and I actually can’t remember what happened. I can remember small snippets, but not the whole thing. Will Smith played Will Smith again, which is fine, good for him. The child acting made me want to bite the curb. The message is so blatant– thinking is for nerds, anyway. The cinematography is not worth writing about. The original score sucks, and the licensed music is poorly picked, save for the use of Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler.” All I want is for Will Smith to take the best leading actor, not because he’s any good in this, but because that would be really funny.


West Side Story (2021) – watched 3/5/2022


I admire and despise Steven Speilberg. His style is consistently generic, yet he’s made some of the greatest films of all time. West Side Story is one of the bad ones. I don’t like musicals. I have a hard time suspending my disbelief when a violent gang starts dancing like your average ballerina, so there’s one bias. There’s also the fact that this is a remake, and in my opinion, remakes are proof that Hollywood is dead, so there’s another bias. The acting is fine, for the most part. They have good voices and can dance better than I ever could. To analyze something that I can claim to understand, the cinematography is not great. Every single shot, and I mean every single shot, has some form of lens flare. It becomes very obnoxious after a few scenes. But I’ll admit, I was impressed by the scale of some of the musical sequences, so kudos to Steven.


Nightmare Alley (2021) – Watched 3/6/2022


Nightmare Alley is conceptually the best picture of last year. It’s a film written back in the 40s’- a time in America when writers were people and not robots created by divine beings with mouse ears. The story is very compelling, and Bradley Cooper nails his performance. Despite not liking him, director Guillermo del Toro’s direction is beautiful. The film’s shortcomings manifest as pretentious symbolism, a poorly thought-out twist, and silly horror.


CODA – watched 3/7/2022


If I broke the plot of CODA into simpler terms, it’d sound like this: A loser high school girl with a passion foreign to her family struggles to maintain her home life and passion. An eccentric teacher coming from academic success uses his free time to teach her how to hone her talents. Her family is dependent on her, and in a time of crisis, she isn’t there. This further drives the family apart. After a touching display of her impressive abilities, the family decides to let her pursue her dream, and all is right in the end. Would I call CODA artistically stimulating? No. It is quite the opposite, in fact. The cinematography is bland. The romance is developed in one scene, broken in a second, and repaired in a sixth. Every character manages to be insufferable, robbing any emotional moment of impact. The ending can be expected from the beginning, rendering the entire film a waste of time. The acting is fine, I guess. That’s how I feel about the whole movie. Fine, I guess.


Drive My Car – watched 3/8/2022


Drive My Car is a test on the viewers’ nerves. Its runtime is chock-full of overly poetic dialogue and heavy-handed symbolism. Take a look at The Godfather, a movie at a similar length, and that is, coincidentally, turning fifty on March 24th. Why doesn’t that one feel like ten hours? Because the script packed every scene full of important plot moments and relatable characters with dynamic dialogue. What you’ll notice in Drive My Car is that ninety percent of it is full of emotionless acting, which I recognize might not appeal to me because I’m an American with American sensibilities. Still, it’s hard to relate to characters ripe with intricate personalities and detailed histories because they’re so emotionless and poetically spoken. The main appeal of this movie is the relationships, which is strange because they don’t start until an hour-and-a-half into the story. Condense this story into two hours, make the characters’ dialogue dynamic, and I’m all for it.


Power of the Dog will sweep the Oscars. It’s dominating the competition with twelve nominations, including best leading actor, best-adapted screenplay, best directing, and best picture. That is four of the “big five” awards. That is the same amount that Citizen Kane was nominated for.


Long story short, it was a bad year for the Oscars.


In my opinion, the best picture of the Oscar nominees is Licorice Pizza by a landslide. My second favorite on this list is Belfast, and that film isn’t anywhere near as good as Licorice Pizza. If we’re talking about the most incredible snub of the year, that award goes to The French Dispatch, which is almost as good as Licorice Pizza. Watch that instead of Power of the Dog or Don’t Look Up.


Anyway, if my captors here at The Prospector allow it, I’d love to return and give my thoughts about the awards ceremony as a whole. See you then, I hope.


P.S. (A History Lesson)

For those that don’t know obscure knowledge about 70s pop culture, Licorice Pizza was a record company in SoCal. The brand was named after a joke from the album Bud & Travis…In Concert. It was sold to Musicland in 1986 and rebranded as “Sam Goody.” They just reopened a new Licorice Pizza in Studio City, Los Angeles.