January 30th, 2023

Oscar nominations were just announced this past week on Tuesday. We learned that there are ten nominees for Best Picture. I, after this week, have seen all the nominees except for Women Talking. There were some notable stubs, as there always are for these awards. James Cameron was not nominated for Best Director. Cameron’s films use cutting edge technology and Avatar in particular was visually stunning. His ability to get these images on screen is quite remarkable. Tom Cruise was not nominated for Top Gun Maverick. Viola Davis was not nominated for Best Actress in Woman King. Everything Everywhere All At Once was nominated for the most awards with 11, and is reviewed by me below. The awards will be on March 12th!

Troll: This was released last year on Netflix. It is a Norwegian/European King Kong really if I had to do a comparison. It was actually decently done and I didn’t hate it. I watched in the original Norwegian with English subtitles. At it’s core, it is a father and daughter story with the surrounding issue of fairy tales and dealing with the unknown. It begins with a father and a young daughter, named Nora, looking at a mountain in Norway. The father implores the daughter that she “must believe” before she can see the images of the trolls in the mountain face. Nora grows and becomes a paleantologist searching for dinosaurs in the Norwegian swamp land, low country. There has been an incident at a nearby mine where they want to put a train, and they need some expert help with what has occurred. The Prime Minister requests someone with Nora’s skills.

Nora is no nonsense and provides straightforward, if unbelievable insight into the situation unfolding. Played by Ine Marie Wilmann she is effective. Part of the research into dealing with the phenomenon is for Nora to go back to her father, who is regarded as mentally challenged with his obsession with fantasy and fairy tales. They are estranged. But he explains more and they venture off together with the military and PM’s office to better understand what is taking place. Each of the actors is effective and believable in their roles. None are mainstream Hollywood, at least North American. Ultimately we see this massive troll, who is a mix between a Lord of the Rings Ent, covered in moss and rock and King Kong with a tail or Godzilla if you will. The troll seems to just get angrier at conventional weapons and the team looks then to the fairy tales about the trolls. The troll seems to be moving towards Oslo, the Capital, and the humans need to figure out what to do. The plot continues. Is this believable? Of course not. But it is escapism with a message. I enjoyed this and if you are wondering what you can watch that isn’t overly violent, and won’t tax your mental capacity too much, you can do worse than looking into this.

Everything Everywhere All At Once: If you want to tax yourself with looking to unravel a movie and its plot, look no further than this Michelle Yeoh, most Oscar nominated film of the year. Where to start? Yeoh plays a married middle aged woman, with a teenage daughter and an older father running a laundromat which is being audited by the IRS. It’s not going so well with the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis (almost unrecognizable) playing the IRS agent.

What starts as a pretty standard story with the family and its struggles amongst its members, turns into more of an adventure on different existential plains quickly. Not too unsurprisingly, we learn that frumpy, sad, downtrodden Yeoh, is leading a variety of different lives in these different plains that she gets to morph into from time to time. She wears a headset which seems to allow her this power to flip from one to the other, while still continuing in her drab current existence. She is married to Waymond, played by Ke Huy Quan, which older viewers will be interested to hear was the annoying young Asian boy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Yea, THAT guy!!

Without going too much further into the plot, because to explain it is to suggest that I fully understand it, it contines to tell the story of Yeoh’s character and how she is going to address her situation. I don’t fully understand all of it, and the sets that were brought forward to the viewer. What I will say that it is a very complex way of showing that this woman has issues with her family; all of them. From daughter, to husband, to father, to her IRS auditor, she has challenges with each of them. Some are funny. Some are fun. Some are more touching and others just strange (like a world consisting of people with fingers that are long floppy weiners! (Yea, I KNOW!). What layers get added on to the otherwise bland existence in the present plain include martial arts for which Yeoh has always been known and excellent, but also strange and bizarre. It all adds up to a visually stunning piece with different sets/ plains which are a wonder to someone’s imagination. I think that the acting nominations given here to all principal members of this cast are completely deserved. They each need to embody someone very different than their main character, while still remaining recognizable. They do it believably and with all the campy fun attached to it. Is this the Best Picture? Not sure. It is escapism with a message, certainly a different message than Troll above. I do think that the average movie goer, or my Mom trying to watch at home, wouldn’t have the patience for it. It demands quite a bit from the audience, and many simply don’t want to work that hard for it. We will see, as the Academy can like films like this with examples like Birdman, or The Artist.

Bardo False Chronicle and A Handful of Truths: This was another Best Picture nominee that I noted was already on Netflix. It certainly did not get a lot of fanfare in being listed there. After seeing this and Everything Everywhere, I am now down to only one movie for Best Picture that I haven’t seen which is Women Talking.

Speaking about Birdman, this movie is also from the same Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Set in Mexico, the Mexican director has a story that delves more deeply into the history of Mexico and its people, it’s relationship to the US, all through the story of this well-known filmmaker and his family. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, unknown to me, plays Silverio Gacho. He is a Mexican national, who makes films and lives in both Mexico and LA in the US. He has a wife and kids. He is about to get an award for his more recent film. Through all of the cast members we see and explore his experiences with being a Mexican man, who desired to leave Mexico, and who creates some satire/scathing commentary about his homeland. Some of his friends resent him for it. His family finds him focused too much on his work and not with the people who should matter most to him.

I have to admit that much like Everything Everywhere, I didn’t completely follow this plotline. It manages to jump all over the place. It is visually stunning. Some of the set design and production design is just incredible. The time and effort that would have gone in to set up these shots would have been remarkable as seen below.

What I do know is that I don’t know a lot of Mexican history. There is a sequence with a discussion with the explorer Cortez which is remarkable. Remarkable because it speaks to a country that seems to shun the person who “discovered” it, unlike Columbus in the US. Overall this is about this man’s life but deals with dreams and death and being displaced along with who can really claim to be a “native” of anywhere? What is a National? There are some confusing scenes, which seem out of place. There are dream sequences that are dropped in with different effectiveness for me. The final act was quite surprising and amazing to me. I liked this, and I say that hesitantly because I am not sure that I fully understood it. It’s hard to recommend and like what you don’t fully understand. But movies are there to entertain, but also to inform and shed light on things that the audience may not be aware. I think that this movie can do all of those things. Once again, like Everything Everywhere it demands much on its audience. It is more serious and less campy fun, but that doesn’t take away from it. Well worth watching and seeing how it can do for the Oscars.