*This is a follow up from A Martinez after his previous piece on the Academy Awards and the Best Picture Nominees.
As per the Vegas line, Nomadland did indeed win, and if we consider that Chloe Zhao also won for Best Director and Francis McDormand for Best Actress, it’s probably fair to call the picture’s victory a rout.
Anthony Hopkins And The Father
Anthony Hopkins, the very definition of the lion in winter, was honored as Best Actor. He is now the oldest person to ever win an Oscar at the age of 83. Like the class act that he is, he pays tribute to fellow nominee Chadwick Boseman.
Other Worthy Mentions From The 2021 Academy Awards
In addition to the eight Best Picture nominees, several other of this year’s victorious projects are well worthy of our time…
My Octopus Teacher
My Octopus Teacher, a winner for Best Documentary, is a stunning achievement, both in its sheer beauty and in the emotional power of the exceedingly unlikely inter–species friendship it illuminates. It feels like a privilege to witness the resilient courage and strategic genius of the mollusk who stars in this movie, as she manages a life fraught with danger and loss. In her encounter with a huge new being who doesn’t seem to want to harm her, we watch her caution give way to curiosity, and eventually to trust. And finally, to something that looks a lot like love. Some of the very best feels of the year, guaranteed.
Being a man of a certain age, Another Round (Best International Feature, out of Denmark) landed particularly deep in me. Director Thomas Vinterburg has delivered a deeply knowing, hilarious meditation on the diminishments of aging that eventually afflict the vast majority of us. The four life–long male friends who propel this story convince themselves that the secret to reversing time’s ravages is to throw off the chains of sobriety. They vow to lift the level of their blood alcohol to 0.05% –– and keep it there! The victories and defeats implicit in such a stand are a poignant joy to behold.
Two Distant Strangers
Two Distant Strangers (Best Live Action Short) takes the hook of Groundhog Day and spins it on its head, building a breathtaking dreamworld fantasy around a black man’s recurring nightmare with a police officer. But wait! Is this dude really stuck in his own dream? Or is he merely the guest in a dream that belongs to the officer?
As a person of color who’s looked down the barrel of a gun more times than life should require, I found this movie mesmerizing. But given the irresistibly light touch of its structure and performances, I think it will prove unforgettable to all of us. Joey Bada$$, Andrew Howard and Zaria find both the humor and the horror in this ‘what if?’ take on a real–life nightmare of our times.
And finally, Soul (Best Animated Feature) extends Pixar’s blessed streak of exploring life’s deepest mysteries in amazing grown–up cartoon after amazing grown–up cartoon. Is there no limit to the company’s audacity?!? By congregating the magical voice work of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, the heart and vision of directors Pete Docter, Kemp Powers and writer Mike Jones, and the transcendently inspiring music of Jon Batiste and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Soul delivers us to a state of grace.
“Why are we here?” “Where are we going?” And even, “where were we before?” are not the easiest questions to entertain. It’s a fine satisfaction to simply kick back and bask, as this exquisite little movie does all that heavy lifting for us –– and then some…
In its own way, each entry in 2021’s wonderful slate of nominated work speaks wisely to these questions. Truly rewarding, they are, when offered our time.