It's Oscars Week '23! Here is Part 3 of our preview.
Isaac: I'm a big believer in Glass Onion's excellence, and I couldn't be happier for Rian Johnson's nomination here for his writing! I think it's kind of funny that a sequel automatically puts you in the adapted category due to your story being adapted from an original film such as Glass Onion and Top Gun. Now I don't think those films would be any better off in the Original category, so I'm making more of an observation than a commentary on their chances. Overall, I think in terms of sheer adaptive effort of a preexisting manuscript I have to believe in my beloved All Quiet on the Western Front! A story that's almost 100 years old, going back to the original novel published in 1929 by Erich Maria Remarque, the film honors the source material perfectly, with Berger adding his own flair and layers without distractions. Within that little tidbit of information is where I think the hopes of it winning lies. The fact that this film is adapted from an incredibly old novel, and film for that matter, is brought into the new age of cinema yet is a true homage of the original is spectacular. Berger's vision is never blurred, the writing never strays from the original messaging, and the mix of adaptive writing along with fresh takes intertwines in a superb way. To me, All Quiet on the Western Front is an exposition on timeless adaptation.
Hopster: Women Talking, a Best Picture nominee written and directed by Sarah Polley, is based on the 2018 novel from Miriam Toews. Of the slate of films contending for Best Adapted Screenplay, Women Talking might be the most archetypal of the bunch. Though Polley's interpretation of the text does deviate in some deliberate and meaningful ways, it does so in keeping with the spirit of the source material and evolves in service of more legible, visual storytelling. While it may be the most overlooked tentpole nominee of this year's Oscar movies, it is no less deserving of some recognition. Polley's unique rendering of this story paves a new path forward for her as a creator while keeping true to Toews' book. While she is currently the slight favorite to win, a Polley victory would be a welcome choice for the Academy.1
Hopster: The word "genius" shouldn't be thrown around lightly, but I think it's safe to say that Martin McDonagh's note-perfect screenwriting for The Banshees of Inisherin certainly measures up to that sort of lofty praise. What McDonagh delivers is nothing short of a miracle. Banshees is a wolf in sheep's clothing -- it's a cutting, metaphorical-political commentary disguised as a slow burning melodrama, set on a fictional Irish isle, and has a cast of characters that are either too nice and dreadfully dull to handle or too self-aware and glumly cynical for their own good. Juggling tonal shifts and balancing intense malaise with razor-sharp wit proves to be effortless for McDonagh, and he's more than willing to test his subjects' limits and search for darker, realer truths that lurk just under the happy-go-lucky naiveté of our everyday lives. Banshees is gutting, bittersweet, and almost too much to reckon with in real time -- it's a story meant to seep into your subconscience and torment your soul. With superb performances all around, there is not a false note to be found. This is an extremely competitive category -- there are five Best Picture nominees in contention for this award -- and though Everything Everywhere All at Once could run away with several of the major awards by ceremony's end on Sunday night, I think McDonagh is deserving and has a chance to win in this category.
Isaac: For most of the year I was ready to throw my entire weight behind Everything Everywhere All at Once and its exciting, fun, and emotionally intact screenplay. However, as I've had time to sit back and think about some of the other nominees there's one movie that has gotten better and better the more I ruminate on it, Todd Field's Tár. Being the massive underdog that it is I can't help but stir up some classic underdog story hype for its success. Tár amplifies its screenplay on a number of levels. Cate Blanchett is undeniably in her bag, Field's direction is laser focused, and Florian Hoffmeister's cinematography combines the two in an effortlessly fluid way. The only thing is, these aspects of the film would merely be disjointed artistic waves if the screenplay was reduced to a squabbling trough. However, that's not the case. Field's screenplay is designed perfectly and elevates the other elements of the film. Instead of being an up-and-down ebb and flow oceanic wasteland of a movie, a vast expanse with little to no substance, Field's screenplay creates a fully-formed unique tidal wave of cinematic presence. I loved Banshees of Inisherin and Everything Everywhere All at Once, but I think Tár has sat with me the longest, is not only unique but artistically powerful and impactful. Not to mention I think its chances are right in that sweet spot of the top two contenders splitting enough votes for it to emerge as the dark horse surprise winner. But seriously I just need this movie to win something.
Isaac: The real reason Everything Everywhere All at Once works so well, acting aside, is the unbelievable direction from the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). Much like their previous film Swiss Army Man the weirdness and ubiquitous oddities that have become their calling cards are only thematically relevant with sound direction. A vision that is even remotely distracted or lackadaisical would result in this movie being a colossal train-wreck. Lucky for us, the Daniels didn't come to play games, they came to win the whole damn thing. A tell-tale sign of great direction is being able to get the most out of your cast. Well, the Daniels have Michelle Yeoh in Best Actress, Ke Huy Quan in Supporting Actor, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis both in Supporting Actress, and if there was a lead actor in the film they'd probably be in the mix too! The widespread precursor success is certainly attributed to how well crafted of a film they made, at a director level. Speaking of precursors, the Daniels as directors won the Directors Guild Award not too long ago which has often been the bellwether for who wins the Oscar. Here's a small sample of past DGA winners and who won the Oscar for Best Director:
|2021||Jane Campion||Jane Campion|
|2020||Chloé Zhao||Chloé Zhao|
|2019||Sam Mendes||Bong Joon-ho|
|2018||Alfonso Cuarón||Alfonso Cuarón|
|2017||Guillermo del Toro||Guillermo del Toro|
|2016||Damien Chazelle||Damien Chazelle|
The last DGA winner who didn't win the Best Director Oscar in the past sox-ish years is Sam Mendes whose 1917 had a rather colossal meltdown at the Oscars, paving the way for Parasite and its historic win. Thus, I'm inclined to believe the trend will continue given the odds and the Daniels will win the Best Director Oscar for a much deserving effort on Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Hopster: Isaac is right -- this is the Daniels' award to win, there is no disputing that. For the sake of variety, I'm going to turn my attention to a little-known director, a real up-and-comer who might someday make a splash in Hollywood and grow up to be the next big thing. That's right -- I'm talking about Steven Spielberg -- ever heard of him?! Ya know, the guy who has directed some of the most important films of the last fifty years -- Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.,Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan -- EVER HEARD OF THOSE?! The legend, who at 76 years old, is still cranking out top-shelf material and remains as relevant and vital to mainstream movie culture as he was decades ago. With The Fabelmans, Spielberg digs deeper into his own psyche than ever before; this is an oddly specific and endearingly personal memoir, an unflinching character study of self that reckons with his genius as a creative visionary and his humanity as a man with a boy's heart and soul. He still has all the tricks in the bag, and The Fabelmans is his most inspired work in years. It's possible that Academy voters want to give him another moment on stage to celebrate one of our greatest living filmmakers -- could you really blame them?