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Film Talk: Oscars 2022 – Six films set to scoop up the gongs

It's Oscars night tomorrow night, and with movies aplenty in the nominations list this year, we drill down into the ‘big six’ and take a look at some of the flicks tipped to take this year's awards by storm – including in the much-coveted Best Picture category.

power of the dog
power of the dog

Film writer Dan Morris takes a look at the magical musical, emotional rollercoaster, and sci-fi sensation that are vying for a lion’s share of the statuettes...

West Side Story

West Side Story

That’s right ladies and gentlemen. For the many reasons it shall be remembered, 2021 will always be the year that three-time Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg (the man who brought Jurassic Park to the screen, gave us E.T, Lincoln and Schindler’s List) finally dipped his toe in the genre-pool known as ‘musical’. And what a classic the Hollywood leviathan would choose to adapt...

Admittedly, this one has split critics down the middle, though for me, Spielberg’s West Side Story brought all of the best elements of the iconic stage show and the treasured 1961 cinema adaptation together to create something magical. Amplified yet not overpowered with stunning cinematography, this tale of 1950s gangland tragedy is told with feeling and showmanship, and is well-deserving of a chance to follow in its 1961 predecessor’s footsteps and lift the Best Picture award.

While Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler do a fine job as switchblade-crossed lovers Tony and Maria, Ariana DeBose almost steals the show in the role of Anita, and it is only justice that she is up for her own gong as a supporting actress.

Tonight, tonight, the world is full of light... We’ll see what tomorrow evening brings...

Drive My Car

Drive My Car

The most lauded international flick under the spotlight at this year’s Oscars, Drive My Car has been nominated in four categories including Best Picture. A deep and utterly compelling piece of work from Ryusuke Hamaguchi (nominated himself for Best Director), this one is an intriguing exploration of betrayal and grief against the backdrop (literally) of the world of theatre. Based on the short story by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, Hamaguchi’s adaptation makes use of striking visuals and the true star power of the titular Saab 900 to bring an emotive tale of adultery, loss and personal rebirth to intoxicating life. Hidetoshi Nishijima delivers his turn as key protagonist and theatre don Yusuke Kafuku with a deft hand, and his chemistry with co-star Tôko Miura – Kafuku’s chauffeur – is sublime; nothing less in fact than the glue that seals this fantastic flick together.

With the Best Picture gong no stranger to being lifted by non-English language movies (who could forget the incredible Parasite à la two years ago), Drive My Car could well – and deservedly – pick up the big one tomorrow night.

Yet as the first Japanese film ever to be nominated in this category, it has already proved beyond doubt that it is something rather special.

Dune

Dune

The sci-fi smash of the last 12 months, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the first half of Frank Herbert’s sublime 1965 novel is hotly-tipped to take tomorrow night’s ceremony by storm. Up for a total of 10 gongs including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects, Dune has already been named by the American Film Institute as one of the top 10 films of 2021, and (though as a consummate sci-fi nerd, I am biased) it’s easy to see why.

While the 1984 film adaptation of Herbert’s masterpiece fell, shall we say, a little flat, Villeneuve’s reboot is emotionally charged, action-packed, and a thrill ride until the curtain closes.

Star Wars alumnus Oscar Isaac shines in another trip to the sci-fi genre’s delectable buffet table, while leading man Timothée Chalamet delivers just the sort of hypnotic and captivating turn we have come to expect from the gifted young star.

A tale of political game playing, abuse of power and devious institutions with industrial interests, Dune rides on themes that audience members will have found starkly relevant to the times in which we live – despite the intergalactic backdrop against which the story is played out.

With the pieces set ready on the board for a sequel, fans can only hope that success tomorrow night would lead this to be even more spectacular than the first instalment. Could Dune be the second ever sci-fi flick to lift Best Picture? Come on true believers – it’s a ‘yes’ from me.

BBC Radio Shropshire’s film critic Carl Jones shines a spotlight on the hard-hitter, the tale of The Troubles, and the piece of pizza perfection looking to claim their dues...

Power of the Dog

Power of the Dog

After its success at the Baftas, Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, you’d think this must be the front-runner to lift the big one. And it would be hard to begrudge it, if it did. It’s a slow-burner of a drama for sure, but patient audiences are richly rewarded with superb performances, a sinister volcano of pent-up emotion and tension, and some stunning cinematography. Benedict Cumberbatch is getting all the plaudits for his career-best performance as a raw and bitter rancher who can’t come to terms with his inner regret and turmoil, but Jesse Plemons is equally terrific as the other half of the polar-opposite brothers who are trying to keep their father’s ranch in Montana alive.

A word too for Kirsten Dunst, who is gifted one of her best roles in years by Oscar-winning director Jane Campion, who doesn’t make movies very often, but certainly knows how to pick ‘em. Despite its 1920s setting, this film feels strangely contemporary at the same time, wrestling with issues which are very much of today.

Released on Netflix rather than at the cinemas, it’s a slight shame that such a visually powerful drama hasn’t had the full big screen treatment.

Belfast

Belfast

Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical story of day-to-day life on the streets of Northern Ireland during the start of the ‘troubles’ in 1969 has a really honest fly-on-the-wall feel about it. The film is anchored by three powerhouse performances – Outlander’s Catriona Balfe as the angst-ridden mum trying to keep her family together, wide-eyed newcomer Jude Hill as the nine-year-old youngster in the main Protestant family, and Ciaran Hinds – best of all – as the impish grandfather who is both mischievous and stubborn in equal measure. Not entirely sure I was convinced by Judi Dench’s Irish accent as his wife, to be honest, but like the rest of the cast, she’s never anything short of thoroughly watchable. Van Morrison’s score is nicely integrated, and although some directorial flourishes feel a bit try-hard and the last five minutes goes a bit Dirty Dancing-esque, this is a film which takes you into the heart of a totally believable monochrome maelstrom. In an era of movies which are far too long and need an editor’s scalpel (or at least an intermission for a toilet break!), this one left me wanting more. Sentimental, emotional, and clearly a really personal project for Branagh.

Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza

If you pushed me to name my favourite film screened at local cinemas so far this year, I’d probably go for this one. Truth be told, it’s a bit of a Marmite movie, though. There’s something strangely hypnotic about Paul Thomas Anderson’s story of teenage growing pains in some of the seedier corners of California during the summer of 1973. You never really know where it’s going to take you, such is its rather shabby, shambolic structure, but that’s also part of its charm. It’s a romantic comedy which throws convention out of the window, with two square pegs in round holes as the main players. Singer-turned-actress Alana Haim is a revelation, trying to hide her innocence and insecurity in a world of exploitation. Cooper Hoffman, on the other hand (son of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a kid with the confidence of a seasoned wheeler-dealer. The ‘will they won’t they?’ relationship between the leads could have felt contrived in another director’s hands, but feels totally natural here.

And the magical mix is topped off by a brilliantly oddball and energetic cameo from Bradley Cooper as Barbra Streisand’s deluded boyfriend, looking like a demented cross between a dishevelled Bee Gee and Greek crooner Demis Roussos. Great stuff.

You can hear Carl’s movie reviews every Monday on BBC Shropshire’s Films At Four show.

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