“This year is weird.”
That’s what Oscar-centric people– the press, the voters, etc — say every year. Because, let’s face it, every year is weird. There’s always too much or too little of something: actors, actresses, POC, white people. you name it. At this point, all anyone remembers about last year is the Will Smith slap when in reality, the big story was “CODA” winning Best Picture. No one saw it coming, or everyone saw it coming. Me? I didn’t see it coming exactly, but when I watched “CODA” via the virtual Sundance in January 2021, I loved it and it stayed with me.
This year, from the beginning, there was an early push for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Why? I’m not sure. Some people swear by it. Many do not understand it. Some say that once they explain it to you, it’s terrific. I’m old school. If I don’t get it upfront, a movie hasn’t worked. Years ago a publicist came out of a screening and explained to the audience, which was puzzled, what they’d just seen. Are you going to do that every screening, I wondered? That didn’t seem feasible. The movie fizzled.
But “Everything” has not fizzled. It made $70 million at the box office. It’s won every single award this season. Actor Ke Huy Quan is the Roberto Benigni of 2023. He’s ubiquitous, but in a good way. Everyone involved in this year’s Oscars proceedings feels worn down at this point. What happened to “The Fabelmans,” a magical film that should have gotten all the attention? Why did it turn into “Quiz Show”? Why have so few people seen it, as well as “Tar,” and “Till,” and “The Banshees of Inisherin”? Why is Jamie Lee Curtis, of “Halloween” fame, the face of this season’s awards?
In the end, cinematically, the best movie of the year was Edward Berger’s breathtaking “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Problem: it’s in German. Netflix concentrated initially on another foreign language film, “Bardo,” that few people watched or liked. So “All Quiet” got pushed to the back of the pack until, finally, looking for something worthwhile this season, movie fans began to discover it. “All Quiet” was a late bloomer. But unlike “CODA,” it was hard to peddle because it was in German, it was very gritty, and there wasn’t one actor who could be nominated for anything.
And then we have the whole “commercial hits should/should not be” included in the Oscars. Those were “Top Gun Maverick” — which Steven Spielberg said saved the business — as well as “Avatar 2” and “Black Panther 2.” They were all sequels. They were all unique, too, but their ideas had long been introduced into the public consciousness. Maybe one day “The Fabelmans 2” or “Tar 2” will be big hits as well. You never know.
Today is the last day of voting. Ballots must be in by 5pm tonight. At this point I’d pick “All Quiet for Best Picture, Spielberg for Best Director, Blanchett for Actress, Butler for Actor, Bassett for Supporting Actress, Quan for Supporting Actor. My guess is Michelle Yeoh, whose spirit has risen above the whole enterprise, will win. And that’s just fine. I’ll stick with the others. And you know what? It doesn’t matter in the end who wins. We all do. And so do they.
Bring on the show!