This week I watched a trio of movies all nominated for this year’s Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I plan on getting through the others before the trophy is handed out April 25th so stay tuned for more. For now let’s get into this week’s three.
Nomadland — Directed by: Chloe Zhao
Premise: After her town financially collapses from the Great Recession, a woman becomes a van-dwelling nomad traveling through the American West.
Nomadland effectively portrays the lives of modern-day nomads in an honest and unfiltered manner. The film follows Fern (Frances McDormand) very closely as the viewer is clearly shown both the perks and trade-offs from living in a van. It’s almost to the point where it feels like a documentary, especially given that much of the movie is spent with her interacting with characters who are real nomads.
The cinematography, while not impressive often, carries some incredible landscape and sunset shots. The movie carries a gloomy tone that’s reflected well through a strong presence of pale blue and purple colours.
Perhaps what I loved most though is how honest this film is about the lifestyle it portrays. People who become nomads have many practical reasons for adopting their lifestyle, but it’s not to say that they’re right about everything. This film accurately reflects that by not being too preachy or overly political that “everyone should be a nomad” and “houses are for dummies”. I feel like it’s very easy to fall into that trap with someone who has such an exaggerated way of living, so kudos to director Chloe Zhao for her vision of this film.
Frances McDormand is great but I feel like that should be assumed. However, it’s her character where I have the issues I do with this film. See, I really just didn’t connect that much with her character. While I did really like her ending, I just wasn’t as invested in her as I was with the side characters she meets along the way. She has a sad past that we’re told when the movie starts which helps you connect, but I feel like if I was shown at least some of it, I’d have a better time liking her. Aside from that, for most of the film she’s very closed off, emotionally and socially, so there’s not much to really go off of.
If you loved this film, I totally understand why. It just didn’t connect with me the way I hoped it would.
Score: 3/5 / Available on Disney+
Minari — Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung
Premise: A Korean-American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their American dream.
I’m not going to lie, out of all the movies that were piling up Oscar nominations, I was most excited to watch Minari. So yes, there was a lofty bar for this film to reach. While I can definitely say I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. BUT, sometimes movies, much like minari itself, just grow on you without you really noticing. It’s only been two days since watching it, and it’s already having that effect on me.
Partially based off of director Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood, Minari is undeniably cute and intimate — a feeling that is only amplified by its incredible cinematography and score. There is a very strong presence of handheld camera in this film, particularly with the children, and it creates a very personal and intimate space for the characters within the frame. Also, there is one shot in particular that was definitely unplanned for what happens in the background, but oh my was it incredibly fitting.
Given the rollercoaster of emotions that this film puts you on, the score is beautiful in the way it can capture both positive and negative emotions into a single song. I’m listening to it as I’m writing this and it induces a smile while making me tear up simultaneously. It’s great.
Truthfully, I feel like the acting as an ensemble was great. My favourite dynamic was the development between David and his grandma. Their time together was touching and lead to a very satisfying conclusion.
Minari’s message on immigrants finding the American dream is resonating and powerful, but the movie’s strength provides is its collection of small moments between family members that are heartwarming and soul soothing. Unfortunately for me, it just wasn’t enough to carry the film. In my opinion, there was just a lack of dramatic impact throughout for the film to really hit hard for me. Over time I feel like that will change, but for now this is how I feel.
From this year’s Best Picture nominees (still haven’t seen the other half), Sound of Metal would be my vote today, but if I had to pick something else it would be this film and I’d be very happy if it did win.
Side note: I found a FREE recipe book online that’s all Korean recipes from the cast and crew’s families. HOW F’KN WHOLESOME IS THAT?
Promising Young Woman — Directed by: Emerald Fennell
Premise: A woman — still suffering from a traumatic event from her past, embarks on a revenge path to take matters into her own hands and right the wrongs from the past.
The award for biggest #MeToo yes queen award goes to Carey Mulligan. A very polarizing film for me, I came away from Promising Young Woman both impressed by the bold filmmaking, but frustrated by some of its parts.
First, the good. Carey Mulligan — mentioned above, is terrific in this, especially with the way she shifts between a timid and psychotic persona. The colour palette is very vibrant and pops off the screen. The cinematography was also a standout with some incredible shots, including this one.
The film’s soundtrack is also pretty amazing. It adds even more life to a lot of scenes whether emotional or uplifting. There is a particular rendition of Britney Spear’s Toxic that was comically terrifying if that makes any sense.
It also does well to cut some of the tension that its serious subject matter explores by providing humour through satire of rape culture. This is executed in scenes by paralleling a character’s denial of their wrongdoing with that of how rape victims are consoled.
Now, for the not so good. On a smaller scale of complaints, there was a lot of well-known actors that pop up in this film which normally I’m a fan of, but does become a little distracting for a movie that’s depicting a very serious issue. However, Alfred Molina is one “cameo” in particular that I really loved and his inclusion gave one of my favourite scenes in the film.
On a larger scale, the film suffers from tonal inconsistency to a point where I couldn’t begin to describe the genre. The movie takes a lot of twists and turns which often shift the genre. While on the first watch it has some shock value, it really hurts the rewatch appeal and also is often the cause of its inconsistency. I feel like if there were certain changes made in the script, the movie would maintain a much more consistent tone.
This issue is especially present in the last fifteen minutes of this film and because of that, the ending left a rather sour taste in my mouth. While I promise not to spoil anything, it just left me disappointed. I feel like it will be a divisive ending for a lot of people, and will make or break the film for many. It’s hard not to explain why without spoiling anything, but it’s just important I express my feelings toward the ending in a general sense.
Score: 3. 5/5