I have now seen all of the films nominated in the major categories. Here are my thoughts, predictions and how I would vote.
First up is Best Picture. For the 2021 films there are ten nominations. They are:
“Belfast”- This is an autobiographical film from Kenneth Branagh set in 1969 told through the eyes of a ten year old boy. Beautifully done and well acted, this is the best film of Branagh’s career. He is nominated for Best Director. I loved it.
“CODA” – It is a film about a deaf mother, father, son and a hearing daughter who wants to be a singer. A warm story with wonderful characters. It was very different. I loved this one too.
“Don’t Look Up” is the story of scientists trying to convince political leaders that a deadly meteor is heading toward earth with the former arguing against the science of it. This film from Adam McKay is not as good as his previous films “Veep” and “The Big Short”. It’s a little long. I would call it good, not great.
“Drive My Car” is a Japanese film about an actor/director who is working on a stage version of “Uncle Vanya”. During rehearsals he becomes close to his female driver. This film has received international critical acclaim. It was very good, but long. Like “Licorice Pizza” the director, Ryusek Hamaguchi who is nominated for Best Director, should have hired an editor.
“Dune” is part one of a remake of the science fiction novel. Epic and well cast it is quite good if a bit sanctimonious. The ending leaves you hanging, setting up for part two.
“King Richard” is the story of Venus and Serena Williams’s father and how he was driven to make his daughters tennis champions. Will Smith gives the performance of his career and the supporting cast matches him. I was impressed that Richard Williams was shown as not perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
“Licorice Pizza” is the story of a teenager coming of age in the 1970’s. This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s most intimate film since “Boogie Nights” but once again it is over long. Like the director of “Drive My Car” he should have hired an editor. Too long, but I liked it. Anderson is nominated for Best Director. He is an auteur who doesn’t know when to stop.
“Nightmare Alley” is Guillermo Del Toro’s remake of a film noir. Beautifully filmed, this is a dark look at humanity, but it is beautiful to watch. The acting is quite good, though none of the actors are nominated.
“The Power of the Dog” is loved by the critics and has won a number of awards already. This film, directed by Jane Campion who is nominated, is a western about two brothers set in the 1920’s. It is dark and depressing. Is it getting all of the acclaim because a woman directed a dark western? I hated it.
“West Side Story” is Steven Spielberg’s (nominated for Best Director) reimagining of the 1957 Broadway play and 1961 film. Spielberg gives it his own touch, opening up the story so that the New York neighborhood is a part of the story. The dance scenes, which I thought could not be topped versus the 1961 film, are sensational and imaginative. This is my favorite film of the bunch.
So which film do I think will win? “The Power of the Dog” has won the most awards and will probably be named Best Picture. Unfortunately. While it is technically well done, it is slow and none of the characters are sympathetic.
Which film deserves to win? Either “Belfast” or “West Side Story” deserve the Oscar. If I were voting it would be for the latter.