The world of cinema and the Oscars is not the same since the beginning of the pandemic: movie theatres have been closed most of the time. Even if in some cities they are open, people are justifiably worried about possible contagion. Of course, no assurances that the audience will keep their masks on all the time during the show. Streaming, a way of watching films already gaining popularity before the pandemic, has become a prevalent method by which people can access movies. Such a new scenario is reflected in some of the films now competing for an Oscar. A few competing films have been produced by Netflix, the most popular online movie platform in North America.
The Oscar ceremony will take place this Sunday, April 25, at 8 p.m. EST. In Montreal, you can watch it on CTV.
“I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was that all actors should be treated like cattle” is a famous and not very glamourous quote by Alfred Hitchcock. I don’t think the great director meant any disrespect for the acting profession. Instead, he merely wanted to emphasize that, contrary to the popular perception—amplified by media exposure of celebrities—the main elements in cinema as an art form are others. The story, the cinematography, the narrative, and the director’s role as the creator who puts all those elements together. Actors, in his view, are not the defining element of a movie. Although, he certainly made good use of talented stars in his films.
I underline this aspect because once more, when it comes to the Oscars, the most important category is, of course, that of Best Movie, precisely set for last, near the end of the ceremony. It is expected that the movie chosen encompasses all the elements mentioned above, including good acting, of course.
As a critic, considering the capacity to build a drama and engage the audience in a very clever way, the prize for Best Movie should go to the U.K. film “The Father,” directed by Florian Zeller. The choice is not easy: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” by Aaron Sorkin, “Mank” by David Fincher, “Minari” by Lee Isaac Chung, and “Nomadland” by Chloé Zhao are also powerful contenders.
In the Best Director category, I would choose David Fincher. He does an outstanding job in re-creating that atmosphere of the 1930s and 1940s in Hollywood. He succeeds in bringing on the screen his particular interpretation of the behind-the-scene aspects in the making of “Citizen Kane.” Chloé Zhao, however, could be a strong candidate as well.
And then, those who Hitchcock wanted to treat “like cattle” but, in fact, are literally the visible face of the film: actors and actresses. Anthony Hopkins, no doubt a great gentleman of the screen, should get the Oscar in the Actor in Leading Role category for his impeccable performance as Anthony, the father in a slow process of descent into dementia in Zeller’s “The Father.” Steven Yeun also delivered an emotional and determined Korean father searching for his American dream in “Minari”, and Gary Oldman made a convincing Herman Mankiewicz in “Mank.” My choice would be Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) in the Supporting Role category.
In the Actress in a Leading Role category, the statuette should go to another great lady of the screen, Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), while in the Supporting Role category, I would give it to Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”).
Cinematography, that is, the elements of creativity involved in conveying the film’s atmosphere through the images—the essence of the film, after all—the Oscar should go to Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”).
These are my picks of some of the categories. Now I should wait until Sunday to see if the member of the Academy shared this critic’s preferences.
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