Assuming Omicron doesn’t ruin the Oscar party, delaying the ceremony yet again, the Academy Awards are coming sooner rather than later. We know a handful of films are likely guaranteed nominations in Best Picture and elsewhere, including West Side Story, Dune, King Richard, Don’t Look Up, Power of the Dog, and Belfast. A few more are on the shortlist to fill out the rest of a 10-fold category, but are also looking to make waves in acting and below-the-line categories.
Being the Ricardos (AMAZON PRIME)
Aaron Sorkin’s best directorial effort, if not his best script. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are aces as Lucy and Ricky on and off set, with J.K. Simmons coming in to steal scenes as gruff and gabby Bill Frawley. The Red Scare backdrop effectively doubles as commentary on today’s Twitter mob witch hunts, and Jeff Cronenweth’s images lend Sorkin a hand in cinematography, making it his best-looking film by a mile. Like all Sorkins, Ricardos is at its best when letting characters argue discursively. Kidman is on the shortlist for Best Actress, with Simmons coveting an outside shot at Best Supporting Actor notices. Best Actor is likely too crowded to make way for Bardem. Elsewhere, look for it to pop up in Best Original Screenplay, though it’s certainly possible the Academy will regard Sorkin as having been rewarded well enough. As for the night’s top award, I expect the picture’s aura of showbiz history to nab it a nom among the back-patting pack (Hollywood loves to love itself) where others are snubbed.
Tick Tick Boom (NETFLIX)
It’s a shame Tick Tick Boom‘s many wonderful musical numbers won’t be eligible in Best Original Song. Outside of West Side Story and Annette, this is the best musical of the last twelve months, in a year chock-full of them. Andrew Garfield continues a 2021 hot streak on the heels of a powerhouse turn in Gia Coppola’s Mainstream. Between two lead performances and another iconic cameo-that-shall-not-be-named, he’s deserving of the big trophy this year. He’ll have to settle for a nomination, however, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Will Smith receiving a majority of the plaudits so far in precursor season. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s industry cache and likability oughta earn the film itself a final slot in Best Picture, though it’ll be battling it out with the likes of CODA and Nightmare Alley, both pictures with a greater number of possibilities in below-the-line categories. Tick Tick Boom may bear the hallmarks of a first-time feature filmmaker, but Garfield’s performance and memorable songs elevate it beyond what Miranda is capable of in his first outing as director.
The Tragedy of Macbeth (APPLE PLUS)
An admirable if somewhat flat re-telling of the iconic Shakespeare text, Joel Coen returns to the director’s chair absent his brother in an occasionally spellbinding effort which nonetheless brings nothing new to the play that hasn’t been seen or done previously. Denzel Washington shouts and pouts quite impressively, as is typical of him, but his stream-of-consciousness delivery of the Bard’s whispery dialogue often comes across as phoning it in, proving the naysayers right when they touted the possibility he might be miscast. Frances McDormand, on the other hand, is obviously well-suited to Lady Macbeth’s back-room wheeling and dealing, giving emphatic pomp and circumstance to the material’s flowery words. Overshadowing them both is Kathryn Hunter as the Weird Sisters, here shown to be three witches in one contortionist body, capable of all manner of wizardry. If there were justice in the world, she’d be guaranteed a Best Supporting Actress notice over Denzel’s Meryl-esque shoo-in for Best Actor. Below the line, Bruno Delbonnel’s stark, high-contrast black-and-white photography beautifully recalls the 20’s era of German Expressionism, so look for it in Best Cinematography. Ditto the minimalist production design, though I’d argue such aesthetics limit Joel’s adaptation from expanding upon the original text, sometimes rendering the movie as Broadway-on-film instead of a full-blooded picture. Given such problems, however minor, and the Academy’s reluctant nature when it comes to Shakespeare, expect it to miss in Best Picture.