Inside the Mind of a Movie Lover: inside Oscar Best Picture Nominees

Photo+Editor+Annabella+Ferraiuolo+writes+about+film+Minari%3A+a+beautiful+story%2C+told+with+outstanding+cinematics%2C+of+a+Korean+family%27s+journey+search+of+the+American+dream.+

Courtesy Amazon

Photo Editor Annabella Ferraiuolo writes about film Minari: a beautiful story, told with outstanding cinematics, of a Korean family’s journey search of the American dream.

Annabella Ferraiuolo, Photo Editor

I absolutely love awards shows. Especially the Oscars. While enjoying a night filled with movies and celebrities on TV is incredibly fun, I’ve never seen more than one of the nominated movies. I feel this is something most people experience. You sit down to watch the Oscars and realize you have never even heard of half the movies. This year, I decided to change that. Since it would be quite a lot to watch every single movie nominated, I decided to tackle the movies in the Best Picture category, and in order to keep me motivated to watch them all, I decided to review them as well.

“The Father”

Where do I even start? Writer and director Florian Zeller has easily made the best confusing movie of the century. No, that isn’t a bad thing. In the case of this movie’s plot, it is extremely perfect. “The Father” revolves around Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) who is suffering from dementia. The movie is filmed from Anthony’s point of view. It is confusing and frustrating and every emotion in between. It truly puts the audience into the place of someone with dementia, which is something many of us could never imagine. It makes this illness feel like reality, which is incredibly important.

While it was the shortest of all the Oscar nominees at an hour and 36 minutes, it did not hold back in quality. The movie is shot through the eyes of dementia, so the story makes no sense at all. The only constant is that we know he has two daughters—one was taking care of him, and the other died in some accident. Everything else is a cloudy mystery. In all honesty, the first half of the movie was just plain confusing. However, once I realized what was happening, I realized the greatness this movie holds. Different actors play the same characters, which makes it confusing. As Anthony grows frustrated over not understanding who these people are in his life, so does the audience. If you take a close look, you will also notice the apartment set changes: objects move, furniture is replaced—all to enhance the vision of dementia. 

*SPOILER ALERT* I hate to give spoilers, but this was one of my favorite parts. After the many perplexing scenes in his apartment, Anthony is suddenly in a nursing home room. If you look closely, the furniture in the room is the same as the furniture from his bedroom at his daughter’s apartment (which is where the majority of the film is shot). It makes you wonder: was any of what the audience sees through Anthony is real, or was it all dreamed up by Anthony’s dementia? 

I personally feel that this movie has done something many have not. It went deep inside the mind of someone with dementia. Ageism is definitely real in the film industry, and the majority of films are centered around younger people. Just look at the other films nominated: the oldest characters from those films would probably be Mankiewicz from “Mank” or Fern from “Nomadland,” and they are both middle-aged. This view on the world is so valuable and interesting, and I think Zeller used the perfect formula to show this on the big screen. This is a movie that everyone should watch at some point in their life.

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

I’m really annoyed because this film is not available to watch anywhere except in the theatres right now; it doesn’t even have an at-home premiere option anymore. I think this is sort of lame, especially because many theaters are closed down. Because of this, I was unable to watch the film. 

“Mank”

This movie appropriately salutes and mocks the “Golden Age” of Hollywood while following the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), who wrote the iconic film “Citizen Kane.” 

What makes this movie stand out—in addition to its legendary director David Fincher—is its cinematography and the manner through which the story is told. Here is where the slight mockery comes into play. Ever watch an old movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age and see the stiff, uptight acting and the helpless young ladies? What about the actors and actresses showing over-the-top emotion? The movie harks on those elements throughout the film. For example, everyone is extremely proper. When Mankiewicz goes to a movie set, a movie is being filmed. However, there is a drastic difference between the emotions of the actresses on the movie set and the real life emotions of Mankiewicz and the rest of the crew. The movie’s cinematography piggybacks on the acting to bring the audience right to the 1930s. It is shot in black and white, which immediately gives it that classic story vibe. The common still shots in the movie also remind me of Golden Age films, where they didn’t move the camera much. Whether that lack of camera movement was intention or not, I think it subtly helps to keep this “old movie” vibe going. 

It’s definitely a movie that’s going to take some focus to understand fully—especially if you don’t know much about the era. Regardless, I think the film is rightly nominated, as it is beautifully shot in the most interesting way possible. I think this movie also comes out at an important time. The movie shows how the industry is dominated by white males, and while this took place just under 100 years ago, it was not that long ago that award nominees were nearly all white males. I think this movie is making a powerful statement about the time we are living in. It is definitely more than just a film about writing “Citizen Kane.”

“Minari”

This film is beautiful in its quality and content. It is appropriate in length both as a whole and within individual scenes. How it is sewn together is exquisite. The film is about a Korean family living in America that is in search of the “American dream”: the characters long for success, family and acceptance. The family moves to Arkansas to begin a farm, but health issues and differing opinions amongst the family cause them to lose themselves in search of an unattainable life. 

I thought the cinematography of this film was stunning. I feel like I always comment on cinematography, but this film held great composition and artistry in every scene; it was so pleasing to see. I don’t think there were any scenes where I was left wanting more. The storyline isn’t action packed like “Sound of Metal” or “Promising Young Woman.” It is calm. By this, I don’t mean that it was boring. While watching, I quite honestly felt that I was with this family and on this journey in pursuit of the American dream with them. There are ups and downs, but no violence, no incredibly successful triumphs with some cheesy music playing in the background. It was real life. I fell in love with the children, David (Alan S. Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), and I felt that the grandmother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) was my eccentric Koren grandmother fresh from her homeland. Movies that can invite the audience into a sliver of a character’s life and show them the actual realities, not the movie realities, are the best movies in my opinion. Too many films fall into the pattern of a person having a problem, meeting another person, falling in love and battling situations that aren’t necessarily common in everyday life. This movie avoids that and rather shows the power of family, its obligations and its shortcomings. 

I don’t want to give away the end, but I loved it. Let’s just say there’s some symbolism (my favorite part of movies!) involving the minari plant, which the movie is named after. I encourage everyone to watch it. This movie is incredibly versatile in the sense that many different age groups could watch this film and enjoy it. To truly understand it is another thing, but I think with a little bit of listening and reading the subtitles, anyone can find meaning within this stunning film.

Annabella Ferraiuolo writes how although initially boring and a little slow, The Trial of the Chicago 7 lives up to its popularity as a courtroom drama. (Courtesy Amazon)

“The Trial of the Chicago Seven”

I originally started this movie a few months ago when it was all the rage, but after 10 minutes of confusion, I shut it off. When I saw this movie on the Best Picture list, I groaned, as I had already decided I was going to write this blog, and I didn’t want to watch the movie. However, after making myself sit through this incredibly long movie, I can confirm it is definitely worth the hype. While it is a serious courtroom drama, the snarky and well-developed characters give this movie about social injustice a positive touch. Based on real events, the film gives the audience into what an American courtroom at a turning point in civil and social injustice looks like. Those on trial are known as the “Chicago Seven.” These seven people were accused of organizing a violent protest, but despite telling the truth, they are constantly met with defeat. 

While the movie was great, its length is what got me. Since it is a courtroom drama, it is of course long and drawn out. I think its slowness is where I got to deduct points in my rating. It was only two hours and 10 minutes, but it felt like double that. However, the length is almost a benefit to the film: I personally felt as though I was becoming more connected and attached to the characters during what felt like a lifetime. I grew to love and care for this abstract cast of characters in the courtroom, and it was sad to have to say goodbye when the movie ended. Additionally, the movie was almost funny at times. The characters frequently bantered with each other, resulting in lots of sarcasm that made the audience laugh

I found this movie to be carefully crafted to make an important historical event (which has since not been publicized much) feel relevant, interesting and important. I think it is an important movie for all to watch at some point in their life, as it shows so many important cultural aspects of America during the 60s and 70s.

“Promising Young Woman”

I’m not going to lie. At first, I was shocked this movie was nominated for BEST PICTURE out of all the Oscar awards it could’ve been nominated for. I say this because “Promising Young Woman” is extremely quirky. Oscar Best Picture nominees are typically serious with many  long pauses in speech and an odd yet incredibly-specific color palette. This movie really had none of that. It gave me the vibes of a rom-com, yet it wasn’t one, yet it was? Before this gets too confusing, let me recap this odd movie. The story follows Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) determined to seemingly avenge her dead best friend, Nina, who was a victim of a harrowing sexual assault in college. Cassandra is incredibly intelligent in her planning, which is where the story starts to get odd for me. 

Right off the bat, I figured Cassandra would accomplish whatever her goal was (as it was unclear in the beginning). So, when the typical confrontational scenes came (you know the ones in every crime show where the victim becomes the bigger person and faces the enemy?), I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It was great in theory but kind of cringey in real life. I could never see this happening in real life, and when it is something so serious like sexual assault, it makes me wonder, is this really what the Academy thinks is good portrayal of standing up to sexual assault? Don’t get me wrong; the movie was released only a few months ago and is coming amidst a resurgance in the sexual assault awareness movements. Perfect timing. However, it was almost too cheesy and too unrealistic. The vibe of this movie reminds me of previous Oscar award nominee “Knives Out”: it’s clever and kind of goofy in its portrayal, but it also states a message as important as those in more traditional drama movies. 

My review was pretty in-between, so you’re probably wondering where I stand on this movie. When I decide if it’s worth recommending, I always ask myself two questions: would I watch this movie again, and were there parts of the movie that absolutely need to be changed (for example, did they use bad cinematography or awful audio)? I think I would watch it again if I were with a friend, and they wanted to see it. Personally, I found some of the popular modern music to be off-putting in some scenes, but do I know what I would change it to? Nope. Therefore, I’d recommend it, but it wouldn’t be my first recommendation to you. It was good, but it didn’t blow me away, and I don’t think it was a movie that really struck any chords with me.

“Sound of Metal”

The interesting filming style of this movie makes it an outstanding contestant in this year’s nominees. In the movie, heavy metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) suddenly loses his hearing and struggles to find happiness. What’s remarkable about this movie is that it makes the audience realize how much we take our hearing for granted. Quite honestly, after watching this movie, I feel that hearing is probably one of the most taken-for-granted senses that many of us have. 

The set up and execution of the film in order to invoke feeling is perfect. Throughout the movie, we hear things through Ruben’s point of view, which is frustrating. However, unlike how “The Father” uses frustration to make the audience utterly confused, “Sound of Metal” makes sure that the audience at least can comprehend what is happening. It makes the story easier to follow, and I thought it had a great balance between Ruben’s hearing perspective and the normal hearing perspective. *SPOILER ALERT* One of my favorite scenes is again a bit of a spoiler. Ruben receives ear implants to be able to hear, which he was wanting throughout the entire movie, but the sound is extremely distorted. He is at a party, and the awful sound of screeching guests talking is insane. My dad turned to me during this scene and said “Jesus Christ! I’d rather be deaf!” This moment made me very sympathetic towards the deaf community. I feel like society has not done enough to accomodate the hard-of-hearing individuals. The school I will be attending next year is a very popular school for deaf studies, which I initially thought was an odd major. However, after watching this movie, I’ve come to realize that it is actually an incredibly important major since there is definitely not enough sympathy for the hard of hearing. As able-hearing people, it is hard for us to understand what it could be like without our hearing, and this movie did a stellar job of communicating that message to the audience.

Now, as for the ending. It was almost the ending I wanted, but not quite. I don’t want to give more away, but I will say that there were things he began that I felt I would’ve wanted to see him continue—particularly with the connections he makes in the deaf community. What I wanted was for Ruben to realize that working with deaf people was his calling and that being deaf was not an issue. However, the movie just ended with him simply looking contentedly at his silent world (there’s more to it than that, but no spoilers). I was happy he came to terms with his condition, but I would have loved just one more scene. 

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“Nomadland”

I thought this movie was a fresh take on nomad life in America. When I say nomad life, I’m referring to the people who live their lives on the road, in trailers and jumping from job to job. You know the type: the ones everyone always seems to look down upon and dehumanize? This movie puts the audience in a nomad’s place and gets everyone to understand the emotions of these rather intelligent people. 

It follows Fern (Frances McDormand) as she dives head first into nomad life while trying to cope with the emotional weight of her past and the over-analytical views of her non-nomad friends and family. I thought it was so interesting to see the story of what is traditionally considered a “low life” or “homeless” person. Rather, Fern and others are referred to as nomads, a much more appropriate term for who they are. I think we are accustomed to seeing people living in vehicles as dumb and most likely addicted to drugs, alcohol or another addiction. This movie brought the audience into life as a nomad and how life really is for a person like this. Throughout the movie, we just see Fern on the road, and it isn’t until towards the end that she reconnects with friends and family in “normal” society. At this point in the movie, I felt deeply connected to Fern’s life, so when they were all trashing her way of life, it saddened me. This moment made me feel sympathy for a person I’m  usually not sympathetic for. Through little talking and lots of natural sound, the movie creates an emotional connection between the characters and the audience. 

This movie was the second shortest of the Best Picture nominees at one hour and 50 minutes. I thought it maximized the amount of time to the fullest, and every scene was just as valuable as the last. This movie gave me a new look on the many different lifestyles there are in our country, and how it doesn’t always have to be about a perfect family with the two-story house and a white picket fence. I highly encourage everyone to watch this movie. It is extremely worth your time and will broaden your views on the world—something we all need every now and then. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this post. I watched seven great movies in the two weeks before the awards show, which is something I didn’t think I’d actually accomplish. I feel I had takeaways from each of the movies I watched, whether it be technical aspects I admire and will take inspiration from, or moments that made me come to realizations or that taught me something new in my understanding of society and culture. I feel that this line up of Best Picture nominees was a great one. For anyone wanting a good movie to watch, head to this line up and choose one at random. You won’t go wrong with whichever you pick.