Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Oscars for the Films of 2022

The pandemic has certainly changed movie-going, at least for me. I used to see 20 to 30 films a year in the theater (more in earlier decades), but in 2022, didn't see any. I did catch several Oscar nominees via streaming services or on disc.

This year's Oscar recipients included at least two comeback winners and another two long-time stalwarts finally getting recognized, making for a pleasant night.

Jimmy Kimmel delivered a decent opening monologue. Despite a hoarse voice, Elizabeth Banks was funny copresenting the Visual Effects award with an actor in a bear costume, a nod to her recent film, Cocaine Bear.

Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud were charming and Britishly self-effacing while accepting their win for Best Animated Short, "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse." (I haven't seen it yet, but it's got a cool, lovely style in the clips.) Freud started by saying, "I know the protocol is to say 'thank you' a lot, but I'm British, so I'm more comfortable saying 'sorry.' "

Ke Huy Quan opened the night on a strong note with an emotional, grateful speech for winning Best Supporting Actor. Viewers of a certain age may remember Quan fondly from 80s films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, and he gives a memorable, affecting performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once. It makes for a nice comeback story. Meanwhile, one of his costars, Jamie Lee Curtis, who's been working and good for ages, gave a gracious speech thanking her crew and everyone with the refrain, "We won an Oscar."

Rounding out the acting categories, Brendan Fraser gave a moving, emotional speech about his career and how thankful he was for its resurgence. Fraser's acting chops were probably somewhat overlooked in his earlier, bohunk days, but he's always been solid, and particularly memorable in Gods and Monsters, the fun and eminently watchable The Mummy and a great episode arc on the TV show Scrubs. I was happy to see him win. As a long-time fan of Michelle Yeoh, I was likewise glad to see her win and hear her speech, thanking parents, speaking to "all the little boys and girls who look like me," and saying, "Ladies, don't let anyone tell you you are ever past your prime."

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert ("the Daniels") took the stage three times, first for Best Original Screenplay , giving a warm shout-out to teachers. The second time was for Directing, and the speeches thanked parents, film crews, and expressed support for LGBT kids and immigrants. The third time was with the rest of the cast and crew for Everything Everywhere All at Once winning Best Picture. I need to see the film again, but I liked it overall. I thought it went on a bit long and became somewhat repetitive, but I appreciated its originality, energy, and willingness to be silly, bizarre and sometimes flat-out bonkers. It was also enjoyable to see 94-year-old cast member James Hong making the awards circuit, getting a Hollywood star, and talking about how much things have changed for the better for Asian actors in Hollywood.

Sarah Polley gave an eloquent speech accepting the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Besides thanking her cast, crew, and loved ones, she said, "Miriam Toews wrote an essential novel about a radical act of democracy in which people who don’t agree on every single issue manage to sit together in a room and carve out a way forward together free of violence. They do so not just by talking but also by listening." I've liked Polley since her days as a child actress in the The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, liked her performances as a young adult in Go and The Sweet Hereafter (also her singing in that one), and I've been glad to see her become successful as a writer and director.

The Oscars' montage game is typically strong, and this year featured a nice one celebrating Warner Brothers 100th anniversary. Disney was celebrating 100 years, too, but unfortunately chose to use its time to hawk its live-action remake of The Little Mermaid instead.

Musically, David Byrne and Lady Gaga both started surprisingly off during their best nominated song performances, with Byrne being off-key and Gaga sounding pretty rough, although both seemed to recover. I thought the best nominated song was "Lift Me Up" from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, cowritten and performed by Rihanna, and Danai Gurai gave the song a nice introduction honoring Chadwick Boseman, gone too soon. Still, it was neat to see a Bollywood nominee win, "Naatu Naatu," and its team gave a rousing performance during the Oscars. Meanwhile, Lenny Kravitz did a lovely job performing "Calling All Angels" during the Montage of Death.

All in all, it was one of the more enjoyable Oscar ceremonies of recent years. I like seeing good work recognized and people whose work I like getting awards. This year, I was particularly pleased to see that one of the honorary Oscars went to Australian director Peter Weir. It's well worth checking out Jeff Bridges' introduction and Peter Weir's speech, because they can speak for 10 to 15 minutes and tell some great stories. You could also check out some of Weir's superb movies, including Galipoli, Witness, The Year of Living Dangerously, Dead Poets Society, Fearless, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

No epic film roundup this year, but I might post some film reviews later and link them here. It can be harder to see more independent fare on streaming services, and I still order discs, but the 2022 films I saw were Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Women Talking, All Quiet on the Western Front, Death on the Nile, Glass Onion, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, Prey, and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. I'll be seeing Living later this year and probably Triangle of Sadness. Feel free to pass on any film recommendations.