Cinema Parandemic

It has been a Year. With a capital Y. It’s hard to believe the last movie I watched in theaters was Emma with the incomparable Anya Taylor-Joy. I mean honestly, we should have known when Parasite won Best Picture last year that things were too good to be true.

Little did we know the entire world would be shut down just a few short weeks later. And that the movie industry would come to at an unprecedented, historic halt. Bringing it to the precipice of one of the most monumental shifts in media consumption in the modern age.

Yeah. It has been a Year.

But I haven’t stopped watching movies. And though I couldn’t do my usual monthly roundups this past year, I’m beyond excited for life to get back to normal and fully embrace Moira Rose’s favorite season the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

So in that spirit, with the Globes behind us and Oscar noms out and SAG tonight, let’s get right into this year’s Pandemic Pictures.

Disclaimer up front that this is not even close to an exhaustive list of all the movies that have been nominated slash that I have watched this past year because otherwise the post would be interminable and while I may abandon y’all for months I’m not THAT evil. Also the list order is alphabetical because I have a hard enough time putting them in categories let alone ranking them individually. Yes I know I’m the worst.


The Best of the Best

ANOTHER ROUND
Oscar Noms: Best Director (Thomas Vinterberg), Best International Feature Film
Globe Noms: Best Foreign Language Film

“What a life, what a night, what a beautiful, beautiful ride.”

Honestly I don’t know how this film missed out on a Best Picture nomination because it is really something special. Starring our eternal fave Mads Mikkelsen, it follows a group of middle-aged high school teachers who decide to conduct an “experiment” on daytime alcohol use, testing a theory that human beings perform better in perpetual states of intoxication. Aka they came up with a way to day drink in the name of science. It is warm, darkly comic, and cathartic with euphoric highs and sobering lows. Highly recommend this journey. Plus… it’s Mads Mikkelsen. Enough said.

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Daniel Kaluuya)
Globe Nom: Best Original Song
Globe Win: Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Daniel Kaluuya)

“Anywhere there is people, there is power.”

Come for Daniel Kaluyya’s powerhouse performance. Stay for the bold, uncompromising, critically necessary story of Fred Hampton that every American should know (and doesn’t). It’s hard to put into words how impactful and striking this film is but the timing couldn’t be better. My only qualm is that I wish they had cast younger actors to portray Hampton and Bill O’Neal — the former was 21 years old and the latter was 17 at the time of the film’s events. It would have been even more staggering to see that age reflected, to really bring home the ugliness of what occurred. That said, it’s hard to hang on to that criticism after watching Kaluyaa and Lakeith Stanfield’s career-best performances (don’t get me started on why tf they are both nominated for supporting — like who is supposed to be the lead then?!). Regardless, this is thrilling, intense, gritty and 100% a must-see.

MINARI
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Director (Lee Isaac Chung), Best Actor (Steven Yeun), Best Supporting Actress (Yuh-Jung Youn), Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Steven Yeun), Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Yuh-Jung Youn)
Globe Win: Best Foreign Language Film

“Minari, minari, wonderful, wonderful.”

Just stab me through the heart with these immigrant stories why don’t you. One of the most beautiful, intimate, tender, familiar movies of the year (and honestly from the past few years). It is a crime that the Globes put this in the Foreign Language category and made it ineligible for Best Motion Picture, Drama. This is a story about an immigrant family, living in America and pursuing the American dream. A portrayal of assimilation and straddling two cultures, heartfelt and moving and even humorous thanks to the absolutely joyous duo performances of Yuh-Jung Youn and Alan Kim. The whole cast is a standout honestly. Watch it and bring your tissues.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
Oscar Noms: Best Supporting Actor (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Leslie Odom, Jr.)
Globe Noms: Best Director (Regina King), Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Original Song

“Everybody talks about wanting a piece of the pie. Well I don’t. I want the goddamn recipe!”

An absolute knockout of a debut film from Regina “Literal Royalty” King. It is not easy to portray an icon on film, let alone be portraying one of four legends acting alongside each other. This film depicts a fictional night in 1964 where Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown meet and debate and clash and come together and discuss their places in the civil rights movement. It is extremely dialogue-driven — you can easily tell it’s a stage-to-screen adaptation — but it has an energy that is hard to ignore, driven by intoxicating performances by the four leads, confidently directed by King, seamlessly pulling it all together behind the camera. Well worth your time.

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Director (Emerald Fennell), Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actress in a Leading Role (Carey Mulligan)
Globe Noms: Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Director (Emerald Fennell), Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (Carey Mulligan), Best Screenplay

“Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?”

(Minor spoilers ahead) This was one of my most anticipated movies of the year and it didn’t disappoint. It’s an interesting one though — I can 100% understand and agree with a lot of the criticisms. In fact, the one part of the film that was not what I expected was that Cassie doesn’t actually do anything to her “victims”. In retrospect, it made the story a bit unbelievable that a woman goes home with strange men every night, tricks them, tells them off, and goes home safe. But Carey Mulligan is so captivating, and the casting of all the male actors is so brilliant, and Emerald Fennell’s directing is so confident, I can look past that and appreciate it for what it is. I like films that are a bit ambiguous in this sense, with valid criticisms that make people dislike it. I just happened to love it in spite of those criticisms.

SOUL
Oscar Noms: Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Score, Best Sound
Globe Wins: Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Score

Life is full of possibilities. You just need to know where to look. Don’t miss out on the joys of life.

Pixar does it again. The perfect final addition to the thematic trilogy of Inside Out and Coco (though out of the three, I have to admit it would be number three). That said, I loved everything about this one. So creative, humorous, therapeutic, fresh, and heartwarming. Enough gags for the adults (the montage of 22’s past mentors? inspired) and still captivating enough for the kids. Also that score. Of COURSE it’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. This year’s animated feature film category is pretty strong but I would be surprised if Pixar doesn’t bring home the gold yet again.

THE FATHER
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Supporting Actress (Olivia Colman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Anthony Hopkins), Outstanding Performance by a Female Actress in a Supporting Role (Olivia Colman)
Globe Noms: Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama (Anthony Hopkins), Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Olivia Colman), Best Screenplay

“What about me? Who exactly am I?”

Honestly I just watched this last night and I’m still a little raw from it so I will keep this brief. I went in expecting a sad albeit typical Oscar bait movie. Instead, this broke me. This is the kind of “Oscar bait” that is so ridiculously good, it’s almost an insult to call it so. Anthony Hopkins is 83 and still acting circles around everyone. And the direction. Christopher Nolan could never. So many movies have told the heartbreaking experience of dementia but never has it been done so spectacularly from the disorienting and devastating perspective of the person suffering themselves. Anyways I’m still not okay about any of it so I will leave it here but please watch it if you can.

Honorable Mentions

DA 5 BLOODS
Oscar Nom: Best Original Score
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Chadwick Boseman), Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

“Five bloods don’t die. We multiply.”

I don’t quite understand why this didn’t get more love from the Academy. Spike Lee’s latest is a profound, messy, funny, traumatic, powerhouse of an experience. Providing a new and untold perspective of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a group of Black veterans, it tries (like all of Lee’s films) to do a million things at once to varying degrees of success. But that doesn’t make it any less worth your time. Especially, essentially, to see the late Chadwick Boseman shine in an outstanding performance. The entire cast, though, is worth watching (really it is shameful that Delroy Lindo got no award love). If you’re a fan of Spike Lee, this has to be on your watchlist.

MANK
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
SAG Nom: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Oldman)
Globe Noms: Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Director Motion Picture (David Fincher), Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Amanda Seyfried), Best Screenplay, Best Original Score

“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.

Hollywood really loves movies about itself so it’s no surprise to see the extensive list of nominations it has received this season. That’s not to say the love is undeserving but this is also a movie I wouldn’t recommend to everyone. The first and foremost reason being of course is that if you haven’t seen Citizen Kane, it will probably end up being pretty forgettable. And sadly, most people nowadays haven’t. So I guess I would say if you’re interested in this one, watch Citizen Kane first (I mean watch Citizen Kane anyway but you know). I’ve always been a Fincher fan so I appreciated and quite enjoyed this one. I just don’t know if I would have showered it with so much love but that’s Hollywood for ya.

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Oscar Noms: Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman), Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Chadwick Boseman), Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role (Viola Davis)
Globe Nom: Best Actress (Viola Davis)
Globe Win: Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman)

“I know what I’m doing. Let me handle them my way.”

There’s no other way to start this blurb than by saying… Chadwick Boseman. The entire time I was watching this, all I could think about was the immense loss the world has suffered. The years of art and inspiration this man still had to give. It is just unspeakably cruel. I rarely think one performance is worth watching a whole movie for but this is one of those times. The movie is otherwise fine — another stage-to-screen adaptation (and you can tell). But Chadwick, along with an equally electrifying lead performance in Viola Davis, is worth the ticket.

TENET
Oscar Noms: Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects
Globe Nom: Best Original Score

“I’ll see you in the beginning, friend.”

Yeah I know, it’s another mindfuck Christopher Nolan movie. But whatever I freaking loved it. I didn’t expect to as the pandemic has drastically reduced my attention span for long movies. But I was into this from beginning to end. Or end to beginning? Whatever. Did I understand it? Not totally? Did I still enjoy the hell out of it? Oh yeah. It’s hard to comment more without spoiling and really it’s best to go in blind so I’ll leave it here with my earnest plea and recommendation.

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song
SAG Noms: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
Globe Noms: Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Director (Aaron Sorkin), Best Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen), Best Original Song
Globe Win: Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin)

“It’s almost hard to believe the seven of us weren’t able to end a war.

Sucks that this film came out the same year as Judas and the Black Messiah because there is just no comparison in superiority. But both are important stories to tell, intricately related in a way that still feels contemporary. Basically, when it works, it really works. And when it doesn’t, well… That’s Sorkin for ya I guess. Better written than directed (again no Sorkin surprise there) and a star-studded ensemble really elevates it. Worth watching because again, it tells an important story that is just as, if not more, relevant today.

TIGERTAIL

“Be strong, never let anyone see you cry.”

I’m really sad at the lack of attention and love for this one as I found it profoundly moving and deeply captivating. Honestly the perfect double feature to Minari, and I just had to include it in these recaps despite no nominations anywhere. Another immigrant love story that goes straight for the heart, this time with the perspective of what it feels to be a second-generation adult and the magnitude of that kind of weight on your shoulders. Director Alan Yang makes an earnest and heartfelt debut, not perfect but the story is emotional enough to carry it through. It makes an impression upon first watch, and then doubles it as time goes on. It has certainly stayed with me.

SOUND OF METAL
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Actor (Riz Ahmed), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound
SAG Nom: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Riz Ahmed)
Globe Nom: Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama (Riz Ahmed)

“Serenity is no longer wishing you had a different past.

I love movies like this, that tell unique, untold stories in a sensitive, real, thoughtful way. This one took me by surprise as I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by Riz Ahmed’s performance (really it’s on me for being so surprised because he’s always been phenomenal) and the quiet, lived-in style of the filmmaking. While I enjoyed it immensely, I would also recommend reading more about the criticisms from some in the deaf community who take issue with the negative portrayal of cochlear implants.

The Disappointments

NOMADLAND
Oscar Noms: Best Picture, Best Director (Chloé Zhao), Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
SAG Nom: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand)
Globe Noms: Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (Frances McDormand), Best Screenplay
Globe Wins: Best Director (Chloé Zhao)

“I’ll see you down the road.”

Okay I really struggled with this one. On one hand, Frances McDormand is one of the best actresses working today, and she knocks it out of the park yet again. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. The story is necessary. On the other hand… I couldn’t shake the ick feeling throughout the entire thing. The documentary-style felt off to me from the start. And it wasn’t until afterwards that I read that most of the actors are actually real-life nomads telling real stories about their real lives… alongside Frances McDormand acting out a fictionalized sob story to fit in? And that supposedly in some cases many extras didn’t even know she was an actress playing a part? I don’t know. I recognize that I’m in the minority on this but I guess I would have just rather this had been an actual documentary with McDormand as the host. Just my unpopular opinion.

THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY
Oscar Nom: Best Actress (Andra Day)
Globe Nom: Best Original Song
Globe Win: Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (Andra Day)

“I’ll sing whatever the fuck I want.”

This one isn’t as difficult because wowowow what a bad movie. Honestly Andra Day deserves so much better. And while yes her performance is incredible, it’s not enough to save the movie or even make it worth watching (to my earlier point). The story was all over the place, with weird pacing and whiplash genre-shifting. There are glimmers of what it could have been, especially with Andra Day being the powerhouse she is, but woof. Sit this one out friends. Trust me.


Aaaaand that’s it for now folks. This is already incredibly long and doesn’t even come close to covering all the nominated (and even non-nominated yet still incredible) movies from the past year. Serves me right for not writing for a whole year (and here I yet again pull out the pandemic card).

This was a weird year, guaranteed to change the trajectory of the moviemaking industry in long-lasting and even permanent ways. And that includes awards. But the excitement of new releases, the joy of discovering new favorites, the intimate yet global connectedness that comes from these shared movie-watching experiences… I don’t think that will ever go away.

One month until the big night. Happy watching!

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