Entertainment

Here’s What We Would Nominate for Best Picture

heres-what-we-would-nominate-for-best-picture

Just like you, New York Times film critics, reporters, and editors have opinions about the Oscars and what should be nominated. This year some of us share our wishlist for the best picture. (Except for the featured selection, the panels are in alphabetical order with 10 or fewer entries, as in the official nominations.) If only we could really vote.

The word “epic” when applied to films usually suggests momentum and size, earth-shattering events, and a cast of thousands. But for Ezra Pound, an epic was “a poem that contains history,” and by that standard Kelly Reichardt’s quietly ambitious, mischievously profound film certainly does. It’s a calm, lyrical tale of friendship and entrepreneurship set in the Oregon Territory before the Civil War, with John Magaro and Orion Lee as tender comrades and unlikely business partners. But the story is there if you pay attention – the great, terrible story of global capitalism and territorial conquest. The cow is pretty great too. (Read our review; rent or buy the film on most major platforms.)

Beanstalk”(Kantemir Balagov)

Borat Subsequent movie film“(Jason Woliner)

“First Cow” (Kelly Reichardt)

The forty year version“(Radha Blank)

Ma Rainey’s black bottom”(George C. Wolfe)

Martin Eden“(Pietro Marcello)

Threatening”(Lee Isaac Chung)

One night in Miami”(Regina King)

Hallucinogen-fueled war dances, gender-specific gangsters and evil, gun-crazy Americans: The Brazilian film “Bacurau” may be a little too far out for Oscar voters, but after the groundbreaking win of “Parasite” last year a girl can dream! Like Bong Joon Ho’s film, “Bacurau” transforms genre tropes – taken from science fiction of the 1970s, exploitation films, war films, Hollywood westerns and much more – into a boisterous screed against inequalities of capital and power. Past, present and future collide in Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ crazy story about a city defending itself against bloodthirsty Western tourists. With the movie’s mercenary politicians and racist villains mirroring the headlines, its dystopian premise warns of what will come if the tyranny goes unchecked. But it’s the story that gives the film its intoxicating power: based on the legacy of the Brazilian slave uprisings, “Bacurau” paints a portrait of collective resistance that is bursting with both hope and anger. (Read our review and watch the Criterion Channel or Kanopy.)

“Bacurau” (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelle)

collective”(Alexander Nanau)

Dick Johnson is dead“(Kirsten Johnson)

First cow”(Kelly Reichardt)

Judas and the black messiah“(Shaka King)

Martin Eden“(Pietro Marcello)

Tesla”(Michael Almereyda)

The forty year version“(Radha Blank)

time“(Garrett Bradley)

Vitalina Varela”(Pedro Costa)

Let’s face it, the odds of this humble sci-fi romantic comedy scooping a Best Picture nomination roughly match your chances of falling into an endlessly repeating time warp that resets itself every morning. Nevertheless, “Palm Springs”, in which Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti can be seen as two wedding guests who are trapped in this ontological riddle, deserves a certain recognition for the understanding that its viewers – like its world-weary main characters – are already doing well – vice versa in the “Groundhog Day” dynamic of its premise and plunges straight into the fun and terrifying consequences that ensue. At a time when so many of us found it difficult to tell one day from the next and sought refuge in mundane and routine joys, Palm Springs was the movie for what seemed like an endless year. (Read our review and check out Hulu.)

Because 5 Bloods ” (Spike Lee)

First cow”(Kelly Reichardt)

The invisible man”(Leigh Whannell)

Ma Rainey’s black bottom”(George C. Wolfe)

Threatening”(Lee Isaac Chung)

Never seldom sometimes always”(Eliza Hittman)

Nomad land”(Chloe Zhao)

“Palm Springs” (Max Barbakow)

One night in Miami”(Regina King)

Red, white and blue”(Steve McQueen)

Here’s an entry in one of the academy’s favorite genres – films about the movie business – that goes beyond the usual glorification of the transformative power of storytelling or the “craft” or whatever serves to balance ego Erewhon. The story of writer and director Kitty Green about a day in the life of a female entry-level assistant to a major film manager dramatizes bitter lessons from the industry’s recent #MeToo settlement in a brilliantly constructed microcosm. His shrewd conspiracy takes place almost exclusively in an acutely observed, insidiously banal office environment, in which a number of disempowered and morally endangered foot soldiers are busy cleaning up their boss’s predatory rituals or staying away from them. But the narrative events, driven by a fascinating Julia Garner (with a knockout cameo by Matthew Macfadyen), lead to a haunting investigation of a form of malevolence that has been allowed to fester in all its clarity. (Read our review and check out Hulu.)

“The assistant” (Kitty Green)

The forty year version“(Radha Blank)

I am thinking of ending things”(Charlie Kaufman)

Never seldom sometimes always”(Eliza Hittman)

soul”(Pete Docter and Kemp Powers)

Somehow Radha Blank, the star writer-director of this gem of a film, created a feature that is at the same time an ode from the writer to creating art outside of your day-to-day job, a romantic comedy about an unexpected relationship, a slice of life about not centered New York, a funny fish-out-of-water story about hip-hop, a sharp satire of the largely white theater scene, a sad elegy for a mother, and a deeply moving story of growing up. Yes, although the title character, also called Radha, is well past her teenage years, like any heroine who influences growing up, she learns about herself as she seeks her place in the world. If anything, the film should receive a special award: best pictures, plural. (Read our review and watch Netflix.)

Another round“(Thomas Vinterberg)

Crip Camp”(James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham)

David Byrne’s American utopia“(Spike Lee)

“The forty year version” (Radha Blank)

Ma Rainey’s black bottom”(George C. Wolfe)

Palm Springs”(Max Barbakow)

Promising young woman“(Emerald Fennell)

Sound of metal(Darius Marder)

The vastness of the night”(Andrew Patterson)

Wolf Wanderer”(Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart)

This past year I took stock of my life again. I had to think about what I value, how important each of my relationships are, what things I hold onto and what I can let go of. That jazzy little Pixar movie in which Jamie Foxx voiced a musician caught between life and death hit me hard for the way he looks at those issues too. Both the depth and the comfort of “Soul” were what my heart needed to wrap up 2020. That the film manages to also be inventive and have fun amid the exploration of the meaning of life is a bonus. (Read our review and watch Disney +.)

I am thinking of ending things. “ (Charlie Kaufman)

mangrove”(Steve McQueen)

Deficiency”(David Fincher)

Threatening”(Lee Isaac Chung)

Never seldom sometimes always”(Eliza Hittman)

Nomad land”(Chloe Zhao)

One night in Miami”(Regina King)

Promising young woman“(Emerald Fennell)

“Soul” (Pete Docter and Kemp Powers)

Sound of metal(Darius Marder)

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Robert Dunfee