January 30, 2023

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Oscar Ballot 2023: RRR, Austin Butler on Nominee Wish List

5 min read

We are at a crossroads in cinema.

A global pandemic has accelerated the conversation in the industry between film and television and how streaming and movie theaters co-exist. If you talk to people you “know”, they are worried about the future. I remain optimistic.

The glass is half full. The industry and the way we consume content has changed dramatically, as it has over the past few decades. Does that mean fewer movie houses? Perhaps this does not mean the end of my most cherished sanctuary, my church, where I go to praise the gods of celluloid.

After closing my first personal appearance of 94m The Oscar ceremony, the slapstick and history-making moments, were full steam ahead.

I was blessed to have my first trip to Europe, where I navigated a red carpet of gorgeous scenery and a few absurd stops to wear the “wrong color” tuxedo, but most importantly, saw a few films that impressed me, notably, Ruben Ostlund’s Palme d’ Gold-winning black comedy “Triangle of Sorrows” with the discovery of breakout Filipina actor Dolly de Leon.

It was also in France that Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” descended on festivalgoers, cementing former Nickelodeon and Disney Channel star Austin Butler’s place in Hollywood’s future, among the top-tier acts to watch in 2022.

The summer blockbuster season came into the fold with the dominance of Joseph Kosinski’s high-flying sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” proving that there’s no movie star quite like Tom Cruise.

Marvel Studios wraps up the fourth season slate with the visual sensations of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Ragnarok,” and ends with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” with Chadwick Boseman’s yet-to-be emotional farewell. ” creating new appreciation for his other castmates, especially the legendary Angela Bassett.

We graduated to Telluride with the world premiere of Sarah Polley’s momentous “Women Talking” with its enthralling companion and the world premiere of “Empire of Light,” resonating with another knockout turn from Olivia Colman and Toby Jones.

After a stop in Venice before heading to the Colorado mountains, Todd Field returns to the writing and directing chair with the long-awaited 16-year-old psychological thriller “Tár,” featuring two riveting turns from Cate Blanchett and the criminally underrated Nina Hoss.

TIFF was back in full force, desperately trying to navigate an Emmys-filled weekend, but brought the goods with the premiere of Steven Spielberg’s personal childhood story, “The Fablemans,” and (lead or supporting?) Michelle Williams and two dynamite outings. Veteran actor Judd Hirsch.

It’s nice to realize that before director Gina Prince-Bythewood released her historical epic “The Woman King,” she’s long been one of the best in the game as cinephiles revisit classics like “Love and Basketball” (2000). Embedded within the story of the Dahomey Empire, the filmmaker brings to the fore an onslaught of talented black women – both in front of and behind the camera – such as Thuso Mbedu and editor Terrilyn A. Shropshire

The comeback stories were high points, such as Brendan Fraser skyrocketing to a new stratosphere of fame and appreciation with his turn in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.”

The New York Film Festival has given an overarching voice to Mammy Till-Mobley’s harrowing story in the form of Daniel Deadwiler’s violence in the horror drama Chinoni Chukwue. “Duration” reminded us that Whoopi Goldberg is still an incredible actress when carrying the right car.

The Hollywood industry had to look in the mirror of its guilt for enabling a monster like Harvey Weinstein with Maria Schrader’s influential “she said.”

It turned into a game of “will they” or “will they not” during the release of Antoine Fuqua’s “Emancipation” with Will Smith. Although divided by critics, I was able to take away the genius of cinematographer Robert Richardson and the memorable roles played by Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa.

And then there’s “Everything Everything,” and Ke Hui Kwan’s triumphant comeback story is the soul of the season, along with Michelle Yeoh’s long-awaited Adoration Tour.

I will always continue to champion the medium of animation, which has seen great outings with “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and the ever-delightful, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.”

Documentaries continue to thrive with innovation, most notably the craftsmanship of Ryan White’s “Good Night Op,” which will go down as one of the most egregious snubs from the shortlist in recent memory.

I’m not sure I’ve cried more with films like Matthew Heineman’s “Retrograde” and Chris Smith’s “Senior” than found more love in the musical space with Daniel Geller and Diana Goldfine’s “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song.” and Brett Morgen’s “Munez Daydream.”

Some of the best moments in filmmaking this year came with international and non-English language features like Belgium’s “Close” and Denmark’s “Holy Spider,” both of which ranked very high on my list and were represented in various categories. I’m not sure there’s a better three-hour time spent with my wife than watching India’s Tollywood breakout “RRR,” which gave her two new leading men to admire from afar in Ram Charan and NT Rama Rao Jr.

I ended the year with a handful of visual effects-driven spectacles like Roland Emmerich’s “Moonfall,” which was as funny as it was incredible, and James Cameron’s billion-dollar “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Regarding the latter, as the evolution of the animation medium continues with discussions about undeniable beauties like “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”, I choose to recognize the motion-capture creations of Cameron’s sequel to the animated feature, which should not be taken lightly. I strongly support animation and its recognition in various technical categories. If people support things like “The Adventures of Tintin,” “Avatar 2” can be seen in the same place.

Finally, although they’re still not Oscar categories, I’ve included two additional nods for Best Casting and Stunts, which are unnecessary for the Academy to accept. Casting directors and stunt coordinators are credited for them.

With final Oscar voting starting on January 12 before the announcements on January 24, it’s always great to encourage industry voters to watch as many movies as possible. Most importantly, a reminder that the list below is not absolute. If a film or act isn’t listed, it doesn’t mean I hate it. Naming the best in any industry is subjective, and tastes change over time.

As of today, and looking forward to 2023, it’s mine.

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