oscarThe Oscars are coming up! According to the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences website, the story of why their most coveted trophy is called the Oscar comes from Academy librarian and event executive director Margaret Herrick who thought the statue resembled her Uncle Oscar. The name stuck. The Academy Awards are the most prestigious honor given during the year of Filmmaking with the first awards given in 1929. Best Picture has always been the top prize. Here are this year’s nominees and my favorites.

AMERICAN FICTION starring Jeffery Wright, Sterling K Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross and Erika Alexander tells the story of Monk (Wright), a frustrated novelist who is fed up with the establishment that profits from Black entertainment. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish book of his own which propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain. This film is hilarious and powerful. I’m so glad that it is nominated so that it gets noticed by more audiences.

ANATOMY OF A FALL is directed by French filmmaker Justine Triet, the only female nominated for Best Director this year. The film centers around a woman who is suspected of her husband's murder and their blind son who faces a moral dilemma as the sole witness. This is not just a courtroom drama. It is a powerful story about the legal system itself and the mystery that follows a relationship and family. With its twists and turns through storytelling, it’s no surprise that it is nominated as well as its talented director.

BARBIE, directed beautifully by Greta Gerwig. Beautifully. Margot Robbie plays Barbie while Ryan Gosling plays her Ken. Barbie and Ken get a chance to go to the real world where they soon discover the joys and perils of living among humans. Many people I have talked to who haven't seen the film are surprised when I tell them that this film is not a children’s film, it is for an older generation that grew up with Barbie as a symbol.

Barbie learns what it means to be a person and not just a perfect plastic doll. This film honors women and I love that for women all over. To add, the business side of me knows that this was a great move on Mattel, the maker of Barbie, in showing their new stances on womanhood.

THE HOLDOVERS stars Paul Giamatti and Da'Vine Joy Randolph. Giamatti plays a curmudgeonly instructor at a prep school who remains on campus during Christmas break to sit with a handful of adventurous students with nowhere to go. He soon forms a bond with a smart but damaged boy, and with the school's head cook (Randolph) who has her own recent tragedy. The film is sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Giamatti and Randolph make this film worth watching with their award-winning performances. Do not be surprised if there is a trophy in Randolph’s hand come Oscar night.

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, joins the list of many masterpieces directed by Martin Scorsese. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro. Love crosses paths with the worst betrayal in this story of Mollie Burkhart (Gladstone) and her husband (DiCaprio). Based on the best-selling novel, Bukhart is a member of the Osage Nation, who tries to save her community from a spree of murders fueled by oil and greed. This is an important American film that centers around the formation of the FBI. Lily Gladstone gives a “sure to win” performance.

Bradley Cooper follows up his directing debut of A Star Is Born with the masterfully done MAESTRO. The film stars Cooper and Carey Mulligan. On the verge of securing a golden opportunity, American conductor Leonard Bernstein begins a rollercoaster-like relationship with actress Felicia Montealegre, upturning their lives. Maestro touches on who we think we are meant to be professionally and privately and who we really are.

This film is beautiful and a must-see for any musical theatre fan. This is one of my personal favorites of the year. Up until seeing Oppenheimer, I believed that Maestro would take most of the awards. Steven Speilberg, Martin Scorese and Cooper produced the film.

OPPENHEIMER, Christopher Nolan's masterpiece, centers around J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and his struggles of working on the top-secret Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer and a team of scientists spend years developing and designing the atomic bomb. Their work comes to fruition on July 16, 1945, as they witness the world's first nuclear explosion, forever changing the course of history. With stunning visual effects, photography and sound, Nolan doesn’t hold back. Nolan’s previous films including Batman trilogy, Inception and Interstellar have prepared him for this mature part of his career.
Murphy, Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr all give close to perfect performances. Murphy and Downey will win Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor as well as Nolan for Best Director. Nolan gives us his best both in storytelling and visual effects. This is his year.

Celine Song’s PAST LIVES tells the story of Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends, who are wrest apart after Nora's family emigrates from South Korea. Decades later, they are reunited for one fateful week as they confront destiny, love and the choices that make a life. Song shows us the struggle of relationships that are separated by forces not in our control. Past Lives is a great lesson of humanity in a small independent film. This film is an important one, but was not one of my favorites on the Oscar list. Speaking of favorites…

Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Favourite, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer brings us POOR THINGS starring Emma Stone as a woman brought back to life by a scientist played by Willem Dafoe. Stone’s character runs off with a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) on a whirlwind adventure across the continents of the Old World. Free from the prejudices of her times, she grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.

I love Poor Things. It gives us a glimpse of the realization of how hard the world is through the eyes of a misunderstood, childlike creature. It is our generation's Frankenstein. But please don’t think for one second that it is scary. It is rather hilarious. Stone is amazing in this picture. I am rooting for her to win Best Actress every time she is nominated.

Lanthimos is such an original and bold filmmaker, using fish-eye lenses and mixing a few modern-futuristic elements in a period piece. I love his use of black and white while also using bright colors.

THE ZONE OF INTEREST. This is the most important film of the year with Oppenheimer very close. From English director Jonathan Glazer, the film centers around Rudolf Höss, the head of the horrid Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, and his wife, Hedwig. As they strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp, we can only see the horrors of the camp from the top of the walls. Most films we see of the Holocaust period are shot black & white or gloomy. Glazer shows us the irony of bright colors.

The Nazis are living the perfect life on the backs of slaves right next door and it's disturbing. Another element very noticeable is the use of sound. This film should win for Best Sound because without it, much like the music in Jaws, you don’t “see” the full effect. The sound makes this film even more powerful and heartbreaking than it already is. This film shows us how easily we can normalize our lives when there is suffering happening right under our noses. The Zone of Interest will win Best International Picture, an award given to films not made in the United States.

Even though this writer feels that Zone of Interest should win Best Picture of the year for its global importance, historical warning and above all its original filmmaking, Oppenheimer will more than likely win for many of the same reasons. As said before, Oppenheimer is Nolan’s masterpiece and has won every other major picture award this year. The film has a very defining story of America.

The 96th Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, March 10th at 7 p.m. on ABC. Check your streaming apps and check Cameo Art House Theatre movie listings for possible reshowings
of the nominees.

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