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.
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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