A Guide to Oscar Prep

As a committed Oscar movie viewer, I’m happy to say that the chore of seeing every nominated movie this year has actually left me deeply satisfied. Most of my favorite movies of the last year (plus the last two months) have been nominated. I want to mention the one movie that has zero nominations and encourage you to go see it as part of this movie frenzy: Patterson (Adam Driver, bus driver, poetry, Jim Jarmusch).

The Oscars are going to break my heart and award La La Land everything, but the speeches will be great this year. A preview:

  1. Hidden Figures– it’s entertaining and political. I was surprised to find it is not secretly conservative on racial issues (it is not at all like The Help). It also presents you with the most vivid and counterintuitive encapsulation of racialized labor: the “colored computer.”
  2. Lion– I am shocked at how much I love this movie. Like Hidden Figures I thought it would be schlock designed to make old people feel uplifted. Instead it kind of breaks you open so far that you can’t ever fully repair the rupture. So even in the moment of resolution (that you know is coming, because this is a true story), I felt so raw and the aware of all the pain that led up to that moment, that I couldn’t neatly fold it away in my brain. Also INDIA. Any movie that makes you think about how big India is for two hours is doing important work.
  3. Manchester By the Sea–See this even if you are concerned about Casey Affleck’s crimes. For those of you who have read A Little Life, I think there is a very similar kind of aesthetic project going on here, and I want to talk to you about it. As with A Little Life, critics are concerned with the similarity to melodrama. I think there is something about our moment that is cultivating “excess emotion” masterpieces. It freaks people out because there is something unapologetically satisfying about the proxy-pain, but that’s the thing, it is deeply satisfying. It rejects the boring emotional minimalism associated with high art.
  4. Captain Fantastic–I also want to talk to you about this movie. Like the others it is fun and tragic, and Viggo is very worthy. But it is hitting on a fantasy we are all flirting with these days: retreating from the fascist dumbness of the world. Its reflections on the ethics of this kind of retreat are fascinating.
  5. Moonlight–JUST GO SEE IT ALREADY. If you feel like it is going to traumatize you, it won’t.
  6. I’ve already suggested it, so this is redundant, but I’m so excited that Hell or Highwater  was nominated because now people might see it!
  7. Arrival–Lucky you! This is on your homework list and it’s not homework. It has so many interesting things to say about communication and its soundscape of weird sounds deserves all the Oscars. I would happily see this movie again. I’m also really sad that Amy wasn’t nominated. I’d take her performance over Natalie Portman’s Jackie any day.
  8. Jackie–This is the exception to my general thesis about this year’s movies. Not just bad aesthetically, but potentially morally suspect.
  9. I’m pretending I’ve seen Fences–can I just keep pretending?
  10. I am also pretending that Hacksaw Ridge is not nominated.
  11. Nocturnal Animals, Elle, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Loving are left on my list. If you would like to coerce me into watching any of them, let me know!


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