June 6, 2023
Richard Brody on the Movies That Should’ve Been Nominated for Best Picture

Richard Brody on the Movies That Should’ve Been Nominated for Best Picture

I’m Richard Brody,

and I’m a film critic at The New Yorker.

These are the movies that should’ve been nominated

for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.

2022 was a terrific year for movies,

but you wouldn’t know it

judging from the 10 nominees for the Oscar for Best Picture.

In the wake of the pandemic,

movie viewership has not returned, except for blockbusters.

And to compensate, the membership of the Academy

has nominated several blockbusters,

several of the major commercial hits of the year,

among the Best Picture nominees.

Avatar: The Way of Water is the Club Med

of futuristic thrillers.

James Cameron obviously relished

the technical challenges of filming aquatically,

but the problem is that his aesthetic of water

seems borrowed from shopping mall gift shops of the 1980s.

Unfortunately, for the most part,

the other films that were nominated

aren’t among the year’s best either,

consensus art-house films such as Tar

or Triangle of Sadness, Stephen Spielberg’s film

of adolescent self-love, The Fabelmans.

Spielberg is at least telling a story he knows well.

It’s the story of his childhood and adolescence

in his family and in the beginnings of his relationship

with the movies.

He tells this story with vigor, with verve, with passion.

And at the same time,

it’s not so much a work of autobiography

as of autohagiography.

He’s clearly very much in love with his younger self.

And I kind of hate being negative

about everything like this.

I prefer dwelling, you know,

on the, you know, movies I liked.

All right.

Yeah, I think I have an idea.

One of the reasons why my list

of the 10 best films of the year is so drastically different

from the Academy’s list is that I didn’t at all

take into consideration the box office success

or failure of any of these films.

My feeling is that there’s already an award

for movies that sell a lot of tickets.

It’s called money.

The one real shock I had upon seeing the Oscar nominations

is that one really great film

that was also a big commercial success,

namely, Jordan Peele’s Nope, was completely ignored.

Nope is, of course, the story of a black family

of horse farmers who provide horses to Hollywood,

but they also have a long history

with Hollywood and with movie-making.

It’s also a story of exclusion and erasure.

I can’t help but feel that in repudiating Nope,

the Academy is also repudiating

what the movie is telling Hollywood about itself.

I think that the reason why critics

and the Academy spurned Amsterdam

is the wild disparity of its elements,

its blend of comedy and drama.

It’s simultaneously a subtle, complex,

and actually very moving love story

and an almost cartoonish political thriller,

because ultimately, it’s a stark warning

on the subject of what American fascists look like,

big pictures that should be very easy to recognize.

[upbeat jazz music]

The Cathedral is exactly the kind

of ultra-low-budget independent film

that the Oscars never pay attention to.

It’s directed by Ricky D’Ambrose, a New York-based director,

who is telling, on a very small scale,

a very large-scale story,

the intellectual autobiography of an artist.

It’s very much a sharply discerning family story

about the young filmmaker’s parents’ divorce

as well as about his burgeoning aesthetic sensibility.

It’s exactly the kind of movie

that The Fabelmans could and should have been.

The Iranian director Jafar Panahi,

who was arrested on political charges in 2010,

has been living under terrible pressure since then,

with a suspended prison sentence

as well as a ban on filmmaking, public appearances,

and international travel.

He nonetheless has been making films clandestinely.

In his new film, No Bears,

clandestine filmmaking is the very subject

and ultimately turns into a vortex of oppression

that makes manifest almost like a cinematic x-ray,

the structure of religious and traditional

and political repression to which he

and the country are subject.

[upbeat jazz music] [movie titles whooshing]

The best films of 2022 look candidly

at the filmmakers’ own lives, at the places and times

in which the filmmakers are living and working,

and also confront the historical and political forces

that are secretly at work all around them.

By contrast, most of the movies nominated for Oscars

this year, even when they address history,

turn their back on it.

For instance, Top Gun: Maverick

doesn’t even dare name the enemy.

But it doesn’t really matter.

I’m still gonna watch the Oscars, and it’s always a pleasure

to watch the broadcast, whatever its quality may be

and whatever the quality of the movies

that get awards may be,

because ultimately, when it comes to the movies themselves,

it’s the long judgment of history that matters.

[jazz music continues]

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