The Academy Awards 2022 are upon us. While there were hundreds of films to watch in 2021, these few set themselves apart with their powerful performances, strong messages and just how beautiful the films were to watch.
Before the awards set the stage, I’m reviewing all the Oscars 2022 nominated films (that I’ve watched).
(Here are my predictions of what’ll win in which categories – link)
CODA has been one of the standout films of 2021, so unique and emotional, sweet and powerful, it speaks volumes and also shows the power of silence. Each member of the family plays an important arc in the story, how their lives are lived individually vs when tangled with each other is another aspect that’s shown wonderfully.
There are problems, there are challenges, there are hardships, but what happens when each voice is heard and how do you move forward from there… the film has some beautiful lessons along with its progress, mixed with some emotional moments, that are quite relatable too. The core aspect of communication is its emotion, not the language, not the words, and when you realize that while watching CODA, it just hits you differently.
Every cast member could be named here, but all of them have done such a brilliant job in the film. Sian Heder, the director has approached the film quite well, making it into quite a complete package of a film. I won’t be surprised if CODA takes home the Oscar for the Best Picture category, just saying!
– King Richard
How can a film be so emotional and motivational simultaneously? Sure, the film is shown through a certain perspective, and there are a few flaws and misses here and there, but one cannot deny how powerful King Richard, the film is.
Right from the moment it begins, it’s got you hooked, and with all the ups and downs happening throughout, you’re constantly invested in the storyline and the characters. Speaking of which, Will Smith is a powerhouse in this one, I’m not sure which was his last role that turned out to be this fantastic… Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton both of them portraying Venus Williams and Serena Williams are equally great, smashing their performances of those two iconic legends. Jon Bernthal is another one who can be not mentioned, this is going to stand out as one of his best performances.
King Richard quite brilliantly portrays the vision of this one individual, the constant push and strictness and positivity that was needed to see through his vision, simultaneously the extremely hard work and efforts that had to be put in by the kids at that age. The film shows what it takes to reach that level, the resilience that is needed, and how to tackle ahead even you’re face down in the ground. Hard-hitting!
Belfast speaks so much, but with so much love and kindness, and overall, it’s such a raw and emotional film. With the semi-autobiographical approach, Sir Kenneth Branagh has captured the essence of the film so beautifully and the output is just brilliant to watch.
(Here’s the official synopsis of the film: A semi-autobiographical film which chronicles the life of a working class family and their young son’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capital.)
While the entire cast is so good with their performances, and their relationships in the film are so heartwarming, the center point of the film remains Jude Hill’s performance. He’s so natural with his role, you’d confuse it for a documentary.
You’re seeing the film with his eyes, and how he sees the world. And that perspective from the eyes of a child is what makes this such a great thing to watch.
Belfast is beautiful, the essence of the relationships amongst the kind of environment around is enthralling to watch and truly stands out as something quite unique.
– Don’t Look Up
Those familiar with Adam McKay’s works know the subtleties in his storyline and the volume they speak, and Don’t Look Up is no exception to that.
(Here’s the official synopsis: Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.)
How he has approached the film is simply excellent, the satire is impeccable. The film talks about climate change without even referring to it, whilst also quietly taking a dig on the left-wing vs right-wing of politics, and how people are so easily manipulated… I mean the film touches upon so many points and can be applied to so many categories, it’s just brilliant.
It’s quite interesting right from the get-go, freaking hilarious, and you simultaneously feel the underlying disappointment beneath the laughter too, something you understand when you watch it.
What else makes this film such a great watch? THE CAST. You’re seeing these faces after such a long time and all of them together is just applaud-worthy. Leonardo DiCaprio with another excellent performance, Jennifer Lawrence does what she does best, Meryl Streep just killed it in her role… And Jonah Hill’s comic timing is everything, whilst it’s difficult to single out one individual performance in this collective effort, Jonah Hill was just too good in his role.
The takeaway from the film, the perspective, speaks a lot, especially when compared to the reality we live in. The meta approach was another plus point, and well, there’s only so much you can appreciate about a film… in my personal opinion, well done.
The world of Dune is so mesmerizing… Having been a stranger to that universe altogether, Denis Villeneuve has done a remarkable job presenting this film, wrapping up every aspect of it quite well for the audience.
There’s more to appreciate about this film, than to focus on any of its flaws… The cinematography and the sound, both of those elements are some of the best I’ve come across while watching a film, and with Dune, its cinematography is simply perfect, and that sound by Hans Zimmer is just the best, no debate on it.
It’s a power-packed cast, with all these huge names appearing on the screen, delivering brilliant performances… Oscar Isaac’s role was top-notch amongst all, and being the central character in the film, Timothee Chalamet has performed his role fantastically, with all the ups and downs, every emotion that his character is facing, shown quite beautifully on the screen.
Yes, there are future parts to this universe, but does that take away from how amazing Dune Part 1 is, absolutely not… The film has the capability to stand out on its own and it does too. While I cannot wait for that Part 2 to release soon and to know more about what more does this universe hold… I’m back to listening to those Hans Zimmer tracks.
– Drive My Car
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room, shall we? Drive My Car is 2 hours 58 minutes long, and while it would turn people away from watching this, here’s an honest take on it… The pace of the film has been handled so well, especially with how the storyline is progressing and everything that you, as an audience must take away from it, you never know how the time flies by while watching it.
Drive My Car has quite a unique perspective on addressing love, loss, acceptance, and peace and it’s brilliant to see the role of the powerful catalyst in the film, the red Saab 900 Turbo. For a second, it may feel like there’s too much dialogue in the film… But, on the contrary, it’s the exact opposite scenario, because it shows you the power of communication, and not just in two-person dialogue, but you understand more of that when you watch the film.
The film has quite a few layers to it, and not everything is just black and white. It’s only with the progress of the storyline that everything uncovers, keeping an eye on each element that occurs throughout, with a power-packed third act that is equivalent to an emotional punch in the face. There are a lot of emotions to feel, or rather even understand throughout the film, and that’s the entire point of it too. Speaking of emotions, the film wouldn’t have stood just on its storyline or its takeaway, but there’s an equally important element, i.e the cast (Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tôko Miura, amongst others) who have delivered a stellar performance here. Drive My Car has a different approach to it, and it’s also brilliant to see a Japanese film being nominated for the Oscars Best Picture category, so that says a lot too.
– Nightmare Alley
When you notice the standout films of 2021, there’s a certain similar approach to those films, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but when something comes out with a totally different approach, it’s quite noticeable, i.e. the Nightmare Alley.
Guillermo del Toro has a pattern of approaching his films in his own unique manner, and this time is no different with Nightmare Alley. Just from an outer perspective itself, the film has a very interesting storyline, that we don’t get to watch usually… but, take a deep dive into it, and you notice the special del Toro perspective to it.
It’s actually quite fun to watch this one, with a keen interest to know how the story evolves, so even if someone misses the underlying layers to it, it’d still be a great watch. Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, and Rooney Mara keep the film and the storyline gripping with their performances.
At first, I was surprised to see Nightmare Alley get nominated in the Best Picture category, especially with all the ones that were snubbed… But, as difficult as those snubs were to bear, it’s understandable why this got nominated amongst its other nominees.
– West Side Story
Musicals are not everyone’s cup of tea, and sometimes they turn out to be a good watch and sometimes, not. To see a musical approach from Steven Spielberg was quite interesting in the first place, so irrespective of how it turned out to be, West Side Story had to be given a watch.
When it’s a musical, it’s not just about the songs or the dance, but how those songs are adding to the storyline, and what do the songs represent. While some felt a bit overstretched in this film, some were quite exceptional, and also were a core aspect of the storyline. Speaking of which, one could say that the story arc is quite serious and one that has a lot of history, and with this musical approach, they could dial down the tone, and yet keep it extremely powerful.
The film, overall, felt a bit longer than usual, especially with more songs than one could imagine, but as a film that’s a one-time watch, it can be digested. West Side Story is different from the usual, it speaks to you differently, with its tone and cinematography and its dialogues and a new cast, watch it for a different perspective.
– Licorice Pizza
Back in November 2021, there was all this hype around Licorice Pizza and how it was considered “the best film of 2021”, with all these over-the-top reviews coming for it. I’m not sure whether it was the weightage of those expectations or just the film in general, but Licorice Pizza didn’t deliver for me.
While it is said that the film is adapted from real events/ has a semi-autographical take to it, as the film progresses, it simply wears you out and confuses you with why are you even watching it in the first place.
Paul Thomas Anderson brings out a different identity to this film, the tone of it is quite unusual, and the cast performances are actually good to watch, Bradley Cooper’s performance, even though a cameo, was phenomenal. But irrespective of all of that, where is the film leading you to? Not that every film needs to have some kind of takeaway to it, but in general the storyline needs to work too, which it doesn’t in this case.
I was really hoping for this film to work, or to try and understand it from a different/ deeper lens, but Licorice Pizza is quite skippable.
– The Power of the Dog
Every year there’s a Western genre film that makes its way towards the top frontrunners of the year, and with 2021, it turned out to be The Power of the Dog. But things are not always the way they seem to be, because this one isn’t just a simple Western genre film, but has quite a few powerful punches that come with its exceptional storyline.
While the film seems to have a slow pace, it is a deliberate move from Jane Campion, just to let that particular emotion seep in, or for you to truly get in the character’s shoes and understand their perspective. The entire duration of the film wasn’t the issue, but its pace sometimes did, but something that can be overlooked with what the film is trying to say and along with it, its commendable storyline. Some of these particular films, in particular, The Power of the Dog, have these underlying psychological arcs that, once understood, make the film elevate to a higher level, and if not, you may completely miss the whole point of the film itself.
Making the storyline powerful are those performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirsten Dunst, and Jesse Plemons. Kodi Smit-McPhee, in particular, has been the central point of the film, with quite an exceptional stand-out performance. While the film may not be for all film enthusiasts, it has its own individual identity, and some may like it for what it is and some may have preferred it to be better.
– tick, tick… BOOM
How can a film be so powerful, so mesmerizing, and so moving as well? tick, tick… BOOM is all of that. Lin-Manuel Miranda has created a musical masterpiece here, and of course, the one on whom the film is adapted, Jonathan Larson, whose story is so moving and simultaneously inspiring as depicted in the film.
Andrew Garfield plays the role of Jonathan Larson, and what a power-packed performance that was. Right from the start to the end, you can see the character he’s playing, and not him as the actor, and that says a lot about the kind of work and effort he has put into the role. So much so, that I’m predicting an Academy nomination for him (written at the time of the film release).
Speaking of the film (musical), it touches upon Larson’s life and his journey to writing his musicals, whilst touching upon the areas of love and relationships and work and passion, and how it all intersected. As the film progresses, it touches upon a lot of emotions, especially towards the latter half, it does leave you teary-eyed upon a number of occasions.
Not only that, but as it touches upon those subjects of his life, it’s not just a depiction of his life, but there are multiple takeaways that can be looked upon in one’s own life and that’s one of those powerful aspects of this film.
(Here’s the official synopsis: Based on the autobiographical musical by playwright Jonathan Larson. It’s the story of an aspiring composer in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice, whilst navigating the pressures of love and friendship.)
The film’s fast-paced, the songs are quite wonderful, and you do have to keep an eye because as a musical, the storyline revolves around them. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield have done a stellar job with this one and I’m actually glad I watched this one. I’m a fan.
– Being the Ricardos
Aaron Sorkin has a pattern of choosing quite unique topics/ subjects for his films and this time is no different with Being The Ricardos.
The show ‘I Love Lucy’ has so much history and culture, but with that also comes the behind-the-scenes, the drama, the problems that are not visible in the front… And this film does quite a good job of showcasing that.
Right from the history of the characters to their relationships to tackling the norms at the time, how the show came into place and the problems it faced, Being the Ricardos does a good job at addressing all of that.
Not knowing the original show or having watched it either, this also served as a great introductory platform to that entire world and you end up wanting to know more.
What made it deliver on the screen was not just the writing, but the fiery performances from Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, their chemistry, their individuality, their flair was all quite noticeable and made the difference in making this a good watch.
– The Tragedy of Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is certainly one of those films which people who connect with the Shakespearean works would love, and have an opposite effect if they don’t.
Right from the style to the tone and the language, everything was captured perfectly… But it’s not for everyone. It was difficult to stay patient with the Shakespearean language and to always understand the dialogues or the happenings throughout.
What is commendable about The Tragedy of Macbeth are two things… One, the cinematography was brilliant. Right from the movement of the characters, to the camera angles that bring out the tension on the screen, to those black and white visuals, everything about how the film was captured was truly brilliant. Second, Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Macbeth was oozing magnificence. What can this man not do… Every emotion is expressed through his performance so beautifully, he ends up being the reason why you stay with the film and watch till the end (if the Shakespearean stuff wasn’t capturing your attention).
Right off the bat, I’m not aware of the “Royal history” or everything that has taken place, except maybe heard a few things here and there. Knowing that I felt Spencer was a great film, dramatizing a few things maybe… But also because they had to highlight years of perspective and experiences and emotions and mix it all up into a film of 111 minutes.
Kristen Stewart was quite amazing portraying the role of Princess Diana, the look, the talk, the mannerisms, and moreover the troubles she was experiencing, and everything else that she was going through.
The film captures the emotions well because as the audience, you end up feeling exactly what the character is feeling, and you can empathize with every step she takes thereafter.
Maybe, there’s a lot of dramatization in the film, I’m not sure how much is it relatable to the real-life story… But if what we’ve heard/ read is right, then the portrayal of emotions did come out right, and for that Spencer and Kristen Stewart need some applause.
– The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Adapted from a true story, The Eyes of Tammy Faye was a brilliant film to watch, to know such a story exists and to watch it from this perspective was a spectacle in itself. It’s quite gripping, and as it progresses, there’s a tense atmosphere you can feel wanting to know how the story is going to evolve (for someone who doesn’t know what happened in reality).
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is going to be one of Jessica Chastain’s masterpieces, she was fabulous in her performance right from the first frame to how her character evolved throughout, she was absolutely the focal point of this film.
What can you say about Andrew Garfield, that man is knocking his roles off the charts, and this time is no different either.
This turned out to be a great one-time watch, a definite front-runner in the Oscars Best Costume category and Jessica Chastain as the front-runner in the Best Actress category.
– Parallel Mothers
There’s no denying that there’s a lot going on in Parallel Mothers, but someone said it right that life is messy and maybe the director, Pedro Almodóvar was approaching it with that motive.
Parallel Mothers hits upon a number of topics, motherhood, love, loss, connection, relationships, closure, respect, support, family, history, and culture. While it may seem like a lot, Almodóvar has tied up those aspects quite beautifully with the storyline. The film isn’t perfect, for sure, but you got to appreciate those elements that did go right.
Speaking of which, Penélope Cruz has been phenomenal with her performance, right through and through, she’s the glue holding the film together, as the storyline is revolving around her and she delivers. Parallel Mothers turns out to be a great watch because of a number of factors, including her, and sometimes the pros outweigh the cons.
– The Lost Daughter
There’s so much that’s visible in front of you, and so much that isn’t… What isn’t makes so difference that you don’t even realize it, that’s the beauty of The Lost Daughter.
So much is said and so much is unsaid, there’s so much going on and yet on the brim, everything seems normal. To be particular, the tension in the film has been depicted so well, it almost feels real. The Lost Daughter is quite a beautiful film in itself with an amazing story to tell, backed by brilliant performances from the ever-so-great Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, and Dakota Johnson amongst others.
There are questions to be asked, probable scenarios that are debatable, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal has done a fantastic job with her directorial debut here.
– The Mitchells vs the Machines
The Mitchells vs the Machines is such an uber-cool, feel-good film, that serves good on the story, the message, the character traits, the emotions and ultimately becomes a really good watch.
The film touches upon a number of subjects, including technology (there’s a fun dialogue that summarizes the film quite well, “Who would have thought a tech company wouldn’t have our best interest at heart?”), family dynamics and the essence of relationships.
The Mitchells vs the Machines is fun, quirky, teary-eyed at moments, and along with the few takeaways here and there, you’re able to relate with the characters, their traits and that makes it the most fun to watch.
Luca is a heart-warming, feel-good film that hits the right emotions, sends the right message and just makes you glad you watched it.
What’s the film about?
“Luca is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.”
Luca is discovering his identity in this film, who he really is, what does he want, how others would perceive him and irrespective of that, to own his identity when others don’t. Somewhere in that storyline, you get absorbed by his character, relating with him and finding yourself in that character and that’s the most epic thing about this film.
The character, Luca is full of curiosity, is innocent towards most things, and at the same time constantly discovering new things. You just tend to connect this with how every child is at this age, and how, with adulthood, much of those things change with time, but watching this film also shows the essence of those character traits that is somewhere deep down hidden inside us.
Moreover, amongst all his characteristics and the storyline, another inspirational aspect of the film was the determination shown by the character towards his dream. And not just that, but as he learns new things, how that dream changes, yet the determination remains the same.
His friends are a constant support in his life, helping him learn new things, right there by his side, and even when they aren’t on the same side, the aspect of friendship deep within still remains the same.
Point after point, if there is one thing to notice, it’s that there is so much to learn from the film and the character, Luca. It’s just a brilliant film to watch, with a number of takeaways, and moreover, the time is well-spent and well-invested.
One-line Review: Pixar hitting it on target yet again with Luca!
It always surprises me when an animated film has so much to offer, and yet it’s so much fun to watch at the same time. Lest we forget it’s the season of musicals, this one’s Encanto – focusing ever so beautifully on the concept of family, the bonds between them, the expectations and the constant pressure, and many more tiny nuances that you get to notice when you watch the film.
The thing about musicals is they have to be done right or it’s no fun at all. But when it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, you can always expect the best and that goes for the songs of Encanto as well. They not only gel well with the storyline but have their own individuality to them too.
Encanto is one of those complete package films, it’s got a little bit of everything and it all checks off in the right manner. It’s a beautiful watch which cannot be recommended enough, for its story, for its takeaway, for its songs, for its emotions… we won’t talk about Bruno in this review.
– The Worst Person in the World
Sometimes life makes decisions for us, some turn out to be right, some we realize later that they aren’t, sometimes our choices are confusing and sometimes come with extreme clarity. Do we really need to have everything figured out or do we experiment and go with the flow and see what happens? How do our decisions affect us and others?
The Worst Person in the World hits upon all of that and more with a storyline that some may or may not connect with, but its hidden layers are certainly relatable.
What is the film about? The chronicles of four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is.
Renate Reinsve, portraying the central character in the film, has performed quite well because you’re watching the entire film from her perspective and her lens, the confusion or the decisiveness before making a decision make her character so much better and more relatable, and that says a lot about the actor performing the role.
The Worst Person in the World is a Norwegian film written and directed by Joachim Trier and is certainly something different to watch.