The Oscar Nominees: The Ones I Liked*

I may have aged another year, but I remain in the same state of arrested development that holds dear a decade-long obsession with the Academy Awards. This year, at least, has been an uncharacteristically good year for the kind of prestige awards fodder that ends up nominated, and though (as always) I didn’t like everything, I found a lot of really enjoyable bits in almost all the best picture nominees, even the bad ones. I’ve already reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon, The Zone of Interest and Barbie/Oppenheimer for The Sun (not to mention the excellent reviews of the last two from other Staff Writers), but there are six more Best Picture nominees that are worth talking about. Although the distinction is arbitrary, I’ve split them into two articles, one covering the ones I liked (or reservedly recommend) and another the ones I liked less (or think might merit a skip). Without further ado, here are the ones I liked: 

American Fiction 

Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction, adapted from the 2001 novel Erasure, attempts to simultaneously satire the current state of Black literature and backdoor a compelling family drama in the space of two hours.

TEBBUTT |  Now We Are Become Death: Oppenheimer (et al.) In the Age of Co-authorship

Like you, I did not expect to walk out of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and into the library with renewed inspiration to crunch my dissertation data. Like you, I couldn’t begin to justify such a feeling in the face of the actual results of the Manhattan project. Yet, while acknowledging the impossibility of putting aside the destruction wrought by the inventions at Los Alamos, those of us outside the business of weapons development have plenty to envy in J. Robert’s research setup.

How often do scientists find themselves with 2 billion dollars, a private ranch in New Mexico[1] and unstoppable self-belief? Not to mention definitive knowledge of who exactly constitute the world’s best minds, and the ability to assemble them all in one place under their direction. Dr. Oppenheimer never had to question his work’s relevance or applicability; of all the things that kept the father of the atomic bomb up at night, lack of “real-world impact” was surely not one of them (restricting that impact to the “right” part of the real world was the central concern).

Notes on a Summer Movie Season

After a long and cold two semesters in Ithaca, where the closest non-arthouse theater is a semi-abandoned mall Regal that always felt just a couple bus stops too far away, I arrived home ready, more than anything else, for the summer movie season. And from the vantage point of a return to campus life (albeit a non-Ithaca campus due to study abroad), the season and its hits didn’t disappoint. Granted, I skipped the digitally de-aged grotesqueries of the new Indiana Jones and the child-purchasing sting operation grotesqueries of Sound of Freedom, but I still managed to keep a weekly AMC Lincoln Square appointment and enjoy more than my fair share of blockbusters. And so, here goes my flash thoughts on a whole host of summer releases: 

Asteroid City

For many film fans, myself included, Wes Anderson is how we learned about auterism: The man whose visual, narrative and comedic stamp is so distinctive that it’s impossible not to feel his hands on every single frame. Thus, it becomes a bit funny when, as has been happening recently, Anderson turns his eyes to the artifice and the authorship within his films. The Grand Budapest Hotel contained within its nesting doll structure a story of an author with writer’s block hearing a true story, and The French Dispatch framed its sequences around long-form magazine pieces, each written by characters whose relationships to the story became clear as the sequence went on.

‘Oppenheimer’

This is the incoherency of a noncommittal Nolan who juggles ideas with little concern for where they land. He abuses Göransson’s score to foster some mirage of thematic cohesion.