The most accurate predictor of Best Picture is the Producers Guild Awards, usually held in January but delayed this week until March. Add to that the overpopulation of the species (there are now more awards parties in LA than there are hospitals) and declining TV viewership, and it’s shaping up to be awards season. the hardest in living memory. It’s the Oscars class of 2022.
Being the Ricardos (Amazon)
With: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda.
At first glance, he might seem like too divisive a candidate — some people seem to like him, some don’t — but he’s got a potent trump card in his hand: Oscar voters love stories from the hometown of Hollywood. Kidman plays Lucille Ball and Bardem her husband (and co-star of I love lucy) Desi Arnaz.
Belfast (Main Features)
Starring: Jude Hill, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds.
Set in 1969, at the height of tensions between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, director Kenneth Branagh delivers a powerful story, largely in black and white, about family life. The power of the film lies in its intimacy and the innocence of the 9-year-old protagonist, Buddy (Hill), who struggles to understand what is going on.
Cyrano (MGM/United Artists)
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn.
A thrilling musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic 19th century poetic drama Cyrano de Bergerac, with Dinklage as Cyrano and Ben Mendelsohn, who honed his sinister routine in the Star Wars movie thief one, like the villain of the story, the Comte de Guiche.
Do not seek (Netflix)
With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep.
Depending on who you ask, Do not seek is either the best film of the year or the worst. Lawrence and DiCaprio play a pair of scientists desperate to warn the world of impending doom, but must contend with everyone from a self-serving president (Streep) to a shallow news anchor (Blanchett) along the way.
Drive my car (Sideshow/Janus Films)
With: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Satoko Abe, Masaki Okada.
A beautiful character story about grief and understanding, in which director Yusuke Kafuku (Nishijima) helms a production of Uncle Vanya. Still grappling with the grief of his wife’s death, he befriends the young woman assigned to him as a driver, Misaki Watari (Miura), and has to contend with the production’s young star, Koji Takatsuki ( Okada), who has a connection to his late wife.
Dune (Warner Brothers)
With: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Momoa, Zendaya
A few brave souls tried to bring Frank Herbert’s epic book series about feudal empires, colonization and resource exploitation to the screen – all in space. Denis Villeneuve is perhaps the one who is doing the best. The film was widely acclaimed (despite a long run) and has both an immense scale and Hans Zimmer’s extraordinary score.
The French Dispatch (Projector images)
With: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Lea Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet
Located in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé, the newspaper’s editor The French Dispatch dies and his team is working on the final issue of the publication. It’s somewhat anthological – each story is presented as a vignette within the larger story – but it’s delightful, deeply crafty and very, very Wes Anderson.
Gucci House (MGM/United Artists)
Starring: Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Salma Hayek
A lavish fashion soap opera from the man who gave us Extraterrestrial? May be Gucci House won’t seem so anti-Ridley Scott if you imagine him as Gladiator with shoulder pads. It’s got an all-star cast, but make no mistake: All eyes are on Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, who married fashion heir Maurizio Gucci (Driver) and then hired an assassin for the to kill. Campy melodrama at the Oscars? Never say never.
king richard (Warner Brothers)
With: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton
A robust biopic in a year of biopics, Smith plays Richard Williams, father of tennis superstars Serena (Singleton) and Venus (Sidney) Williams. It’s Richard’s story, not Venus’ or Serena’s, but it’s an engaging and very illuminating portrait of the invisible side of a very high-profile family.
Licorice Pizza (MGM/United Artists)
Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Bradley Cooper
Director Paul Thomas Anderson tells the story of Alana Kane (Haim), a young woman from Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley who navigates romance, everyday life and, in the final third of the film, local politics. . Anderson has a clever way of finding texture in what seems ordinary. And how’s that for a fun fact: This is Haim and Hoffman’s first screen. And both are brilliant.
The lost girl (Netflix)
With: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard
Told in two interwoven layers, one starring Colman as Leda, an English teacher vacationing alone in Greece, the other with Buckley as her younger self, The lost girl is fascinating. And the material is solid: both Elena Ferrante’s novel and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s screenplay (she also directed) have great emotional intelligence.
Alley of nightmares (Projector images)
With: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn
Set in the dark, almost supernatural realm of a remote carnival, Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) is a talented student of the carnival’s resident clairvoyant (Collette), but then takes his skills to the big city, hoping to make fortune. Instead, he unleashes a more monstrous side of himself that, in the greatest Guillermo del Toro tradition, ultimately threatens to destroy him.
No time to die (MGM/United Artists)
With: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw
Cary Joji Fukunaga (the first American director of a Bond film) strikes the right balance in the genre and delivers perhaps the most nuanced Bond film, in terms of character and storytelling, in recent memory. You’d like to think it’s a strong Oscar contender, but it’s been a tough year.
The power of the dog (Netflix)
With: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Jane Campion’s extraordinary study of masculinity, set in 1925 Montana, centers on rancher brothers Phil (Cumberbatch) and George (Plemons) Burbank, inn owner Rose (Dunst) and her son Peter (Smit-McPhee). Cumberbatch’s cruel but complicated Phil is the film’s centerpiece, initially intimidating Peter, but later guiding him.
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, Jack Farthing
Princess Diana biopics are usually misinterpreted or poorly written. Spencer is set in 1991, during the Royal Family’s Christmas holiday stop at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. He has a whiff of “three days changing the monarchy” about it but, like The crown, struggles with the idea that “historical fiction” is not problematic, when it is.
Tick, tick… Boom! (Netflix)
With: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin De Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens, Judith Light
To rent composer Jonathan Larson’s near-autobiographical take on a composer, Jon, struggling to make his mark in New York. Brought to the screen by the director Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, he is a serious candidate for the Oscars. But does Oscar have room for two musicals in a year when West Side Story sucks all the oxygen out of voters?
West Side Story (20th century workshops)
With: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno.
Steven Spielberg directs a revamp of the 1957 musical. Tricky, as a 1961 film adaptation, starring a much younger Moreno, is still highly regarded. The updated choreography rattled some traditionalists, but the film was embraced by film critics and musical theater enthusiasts. The thorn in the side: it’s a bomb at the box office.
The 94th Academy Awards will take place on March 27 in Los Angeles.