It’s time for the Oscars 2024 review! Nominations have been released in my favorite categories. I’ll continue to watch as films become available for streaming, and will update this until the awards show takes place on Sunday, March 10, 2024. Films available online for free will have hyperlinks in their titles. I will note next to the title where other films are available, or not, as the case may be. The ones I watch, I will review. Please comment below what you’ve seen, what you enjoyed, and what you would like to see win!
I find that the nominees for Academy Awards are often quite different than what the American public enjoys seeing at the movie theater. As such, it becomes more difficult for me to discuss the Oscars 2024 with coworkers and friends who are not specifically watching for awards season. And for myself, the nominees are often bleak or challenging to watch. I’ve had to break my viewing into small segments, interspersed with palate-cleansers (the 1980s mini-series North and South for this year). Of the movies I’ve seen over this past year, my favorite viewing was Asteroid City and it wasn’t nominated. As I do not go to theaters to watch movies, the ones I’ve seen are the ones I can stream.
- “American Fiction” – In theaters
- “Anatomy of a Fall” – Rent on Amazon. I rated Anatomy of a Fall 3/5 stars in my bullet journal. This film is in French and English, and is one of the shorter films nominated at 2 hours, 31 minutes (which is still a long film). It is a courtroom drama that somehow reminds me of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton’s plight in being judged by foreigners who don’t necessarily share the same showing of emotions and actions. The bleakness of the scenery and color of the surroundings help to demonstrate the situation at hand. There is a dog scene in there, though the dog does not die, in case you worry about that sort of thing. This film is also nominated for best original screenplay and film editing. Sandra Hüller is nominated for best actress, and Justine Triet for best director.
- “Barbie” – Stream on Max. I mentioned above that I really loved Asteroid City. Barbie World in the beginning of this film is the same visual delight. The rest of it? Meh. It just didn’t do it for me. I was pretty successful in the box office, and it obviously got a lot of nominations. Ryan Gosling was nominated for best supporting actor as was America Ferrera for best supporting actress. The film was nominated for best adapted screenplay, and songs “I’m Just Ken” and “What Was I Made For?” as well as costume design and production design. Still, I rated it 2/5 stars.
- “The Holdovers” – Peacock. For most of the Oscars, I can’t say that I really enjoyed watching them for the sake of a good movie. They are noteworthy or thought-provoking or whatever. But The Holdovers, I enjoyed. It made me laugh. Not like last year’s Triangle of Sadness, but still, laughter. There is also a poignant kindness that reaches into your soul. The characters are genuinely likeable. Paul Giamatti is up for best actor and Da’Vine Joy Randolph for best supporting actress. The film is also up for best original screenplay and film editing. It’s not as seemingly destined for Oscar wins, and yet I hope sincerely it wins for each nomination.
- “Killers of the Flower Moon” – Apple TV. A number of years ago, I attempted to read the book this film was based on. I stopped part way through as I found it just too depressing. The movie is, not surprisingly, just as depressing but it is an important part of American history and good to know the background on. I think the movie is more accessible than the book. It is long, though. Three hours and 26 minutes long. Lily Gladstone was nominated for best actress, and I think she was just amazing in it and absolutely deserves to win. I’d love to see her in future films as well. Robert De Niro is nominated for best supporting actor and Martin Scorsese for best director. It is nominated for best original score and best song for “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” as well as for cinematography, costume design, film editing, and production design. I loved the cinematography, but I also enjoyed Oppenheimer for the same category so I’m not sure which should win. But yes, Lily Gladstone is absolutely amazing. For the overall movie, I rated this 3/5 stars.
- “Maestro” – Netflix. Goodness. I started this movie and got about 20 minutes in. I will likely go back and finish it? Maybe? Tell me if you enjoyed it and if it’s worth giving it another chance.
- “Oppenheimer” – Rent on Amazon, stream on Peacock Feb. 16. Bob and I watched Oppenheimer together. It is long. Three hours long, which is shorter than Killers of the Flower Moon. But still really very long. It’s a period piece that goes back and forth in time. Some of it is shot in black and white, some in color. A lot of the actors look a lot the same and I found that it was difficult to keep everyone straight in the beginning. I think this film could be helped out a lot by watching it through a few times, but for me it’s too long to give it that much attention. Cillian Murphy is nominated for best actor and I think he was quite good. Robert Downey Jr. is nominated for best supporting actor and I think he was outstanding. Emily Blunt was nominated for best supporting actress and I just don’t see it. Christopher Nolan is nominated for best director. The film is nominated for best adapted screenplay, best original score, cinematography, film editing, sound, production design, and makeup and hair styling. I think the score is not bad. When I compare it to last year’s All Quiet on the Western Front, it’s not that good, but it may be good enough to win in this year’s grouping of nominees. Anyhow, I rated this 3/5 stars.
- “Past Lives” – Rent on Amazon. This film is subtitled. The cinematography gets me on this film. It is like another character, one you can fall in love with. The soundscape is similar. It’s an interesting question, of who was meant to be in your life. I found some parts of it uncomfortable to watch. The storyline did remind me of the “Before” trilogy directed by Richard Linklater, so if you enjoyed those I think you will love Past Lives.
- “Poor Things” – In theaters
- “The Zone of Interest” – In theaters
Documentary feature film
Second to my love for short docs, I adore full length documentaries.
- “20 Days in Mariupol” – this film is created by Frontline PBS and the Associated Press. It runs 1:35 and is about Russia’s siege of Mariupol, a coastal resort city in Ukraine. I think if you watch this film, you will have two thoughts. First, Putin and members of the Russian military are barbarians, removed from any humanity. Second, the United States needs to support – financially and militarily – Ukraine. Watch it, and tell me it isn’t more frightening than the worst horror movie you can think of. It’s worse than my nightmares. But watch it, please watch it.
- “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” – Hulu, Disney
- “The Eternal Memory” – Paramount
- “Four Daughters” – Kino Film Collection or purchase through Amazon. One hour, 47 minutes. This is a documentary, but told in a most unusual way. It tells of a family of four daughters who endured a challenging childhood. Two of them became radicalized at a young age and are in prison. The family has difficulty telling the difficult parts of their story, so actors are brought in to help. Together, the actors and family form a bond. In the end, I believe everyone is a bit traumatized. This film has subtitles.
- “To Kill a Tiger” – not available
Live action short film
Live action short films go hand in hand with animated short films. These small beauties, often foreign-created, leave you feeling fundamentally different than you did before you started viewing.
- “The After” – Netflix
- “Invincible” – Not available
- “Knight of Fortune” – Two older gentlemen happen to meet at a morgue to view their wives. this short film is subtitled into English and runs 25 minutes. It is about making connections in life when you have no one else, but you leave yourself open enough to share a moment or two.
- “Red, White and Blue” – Not available
- “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” – Netflix
Documentary short film
Documentary short films are perhaps my favorite category for the Oscars. Getting an entire important story out in a short time frame has got to be one of the biggest challenges of filmmaking. Editors have to be ruthless, while providing enough in the final cut to move us.
- “The ABCs of Book Banning” – Paramount. I really enjoyed this film, from MTV. It starts with an impassioned plea to stop book burning by a 100 year old woman, who remembered the book burning of the Nazis. Then it moves to a surprising group of interviewees – children. These kids are smart. Smarter than adults. They speak of racism and LGBTQ+ issues like it’s no big deal. It is simply part of their world, to be different. These kids love learning and love reading, and can’t understand why adults in this country would want to stop that. These kids are caring about others. Watching this film gave me hope for the future, because of the kids. Highly recommend.
- “The Barber of Little Rock” – Another New Yorker documentary, this 35 minute piece explores the racial wealth gap. The film follows Arlo Washington, who opened the Washington Barber College and a nonprofit loan fund. The film discusses ‘banking while black’, something white individuals never have to consider. This is a great documentary, exploring how a group of people can make a real difference in a community to improve equity and create justice.
- “Island in Between” – The islands of Kinmen, Taiwan are very close, within visual range, of mainland China. This short doc, 19 minutes long, is a reflection on a Taiwanese resident’s growing up and exploring the desire for Taiwan, with the support of the United States, retaking over China from the communists. This early exposure to Taiwanese life is then compared to life after the pandemic when China may be taking a more direct route to retake Taiwan under the One China principle. Through it, you view a beautiful, peaceful island in between two super powers and their desire to remain their own country.
- “The Last Repair Shop” – Los Angeles schools provides musical instruments to their students. This repair shop repairs them as needed. This fantastic documentary, 39 minutes long, highlights the importance of music in the lives of the repair workers and the students who use the instruments. Make sure you watch the full credits as well. I absolutely loved this film, and encourage everyone to watch it.
- “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó” – Disney+
Animated short film
I’m often torn by the animated short film category. If you’re not familiar, these are not generally animated films like Disney would make, only shorter. No, they are animated versions of the live action short films and often have very unsettling, adult themes. You may remember Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar speech about animation as more than just children’s movies.
- “Letter to a Pig” – not available
- “Ninety-Five Senses” – This is a very short animated film, noting the order in which the senses shut down when you die. It is thought-provoking and worth a watch.
- “Our Uniform” – not available
- “Pachyderme” – This movie clocks in at 11 minutes. It is in French, with subtitles. A nine-year old is afraid of sleeping at her grandparents’ house. There is a dark undertone in this film, which makes you feel unsettled and uncomfortable. The color palette and framing are integral parts of this story. If you watch it, you will be unlikely to let it slip from your mind again.
- “War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko” – not available