By: Henry J. Fromage –
For the first year ever, I did it. I actually watched every single one of the Oscar nominees, even after a few curveballs come nominations day. This is the rest of them.
43. Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animated
It’s probably no surprise to hear that Pixar’s Bao is the hands-down favorite to win this category once again, but it may be a surprise to hear that I don’t feel like any of its competition superseded it. Animal Behavior is extremely slight, Weekends is the arthouse pick and not a bad example of it, Late Afternoon builds to a First Minutes of Up-like emotional crescendo, and One Small Step sure as hell tries to. But on a rewatch Bao is definitely the one. Three Beers.
44. Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action
This is a weaker slate than normal, and has a bizarre running theme- murder and young boys. Detainment is disturbing directly about a real case of children murdering a younger child, Fauve and Mother arguably feature one apiece (I liked the former, more naturalistic film far better), and the more star-driven, has a kid with a gun and a not-so-surprise ending Skin. That leaves us with the no child murder whatsoever featuring Marguerite, which features a nice reversal of expectations but not a lot more than that. Kind of impossible to pick a winner, honestly. Three Beers.
45. Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary
This slate looks a hell of a lot like your typical slate- mind-numbingly sad Mediterranean migrant rescue doc? Check. Mind-numbingly sad Palliative Care doc? Check. Mind-numbingly angering 20,000-strong historical Nazi rally in America doc? Check. Mind-numbingly angering black skinhead doc? Check. Heart-lifting Indian women-owned sanitary pad business doc? Thank God, Check. We’re only missing a mind-numbingly sad and angry Syrian War documentary to complete the set. They’re all quite well done and affecting, but, man, I need a drink or some Chuck Lorre comedy. Two Beers.
46. Hale County This Morning, This Evening + While I Yet Live
This elegiac documentary barely clears the hurdle from short to documentary itself at a scant 76 minutes with credits. However, RaMell Ross’s stunningly photographed portrait of black life in the deep South, a life not many moviegoers outside of the South have seen any representation of despite Georgia and Louisiana’s outsized film production capacities, is nothing short of gorgeous and transporting. When paired with Maris Curran’s While I Yet Live, a documentary short about Gee’s Bend, AL’s museum-featured quilters, as PBS did in its Independent Lens series last week, your heart soars. A Toast.
47. Never Look Away
I was not terribly happy to find out how long this behemoth runs (189 minutes), but Florian Henkel von Donnersmark’s simultaneous return to the Best Foreign Language Film category and quality moviemaking is miraculously paced and I was actually left wanting more. The plotting is predictable and often melodramatic, the perspective is exclusively male, and you’ll hate the protagonist’s face as soon as you see him all growed up, but there’s an accumulating power and drive to this exploration of an artistic awakening that mostly overcomes those setbacks. Three Beers.
You have not seen another movie like Border, about a literally crime-sniffing border guard who encounters someone else who looks like her, who turns out to be the same separate species as her- a troll. Torn between her human upbringing and the inhuman urges and actions of her partner (and a sex scene you’ll never forget), she has a choice. Overall, bizarre and maybe even beautiful. Three Beers.
Mamoru Hosoda’s filmmaking style and preoccupation with muddling the fantastical and the mundane may look a little like Studio Ghibli’s, but he’s no Miyazaki despite this year’s Best Animated Feature nomination. The story of a very young child somehow coming to terms with his ancestors and family and dog’s interior life via a magic time-traveling portal or something is told primarily through shrieking and anti-comedic hijinks despite hitting on some evocative imagery here and there. How this ran at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and secured a nomination blows my mind. Four Beers.
50. Of Fathers and Sons
The access that documentarian Talal Derki has in this film is absolutely stunning. Posing as a sympathetic war photographer, he embeds himself in an ISIS group and finds an perhaps surprising angle in one terrorist and his bevy of sons and their friends. What emerges is a stunningly casual portrait of an enemy who we’ve never seen humanized- but this humanizing also confirms the toxicity of their worldview and aims, delivered casually and bone-deep. The young boys growing up in this world, beheading birds like their father beheads infidels, are the true tragedy and shock of this film- this war is indeed begotten of fathers and sons. Two Beers.