Matt at the Movies: The Oscars Exchange
Y'all Weekly's Matt Cramer and guest contributor Dana Gillis discuss the Academy Awards, coming this Sunday.
Hello fellow readers, cinephiles, and casual movie fans! We have reached the apex of awards season: The 95th Academy Awards. Jimmy Kimmel will be this year’s host and the show will broadcast live from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles starting at 8:00 PM EDT/5:00 PM PDT Sunday, March 12th on ABC.
As always, the Oscars are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) awards last month, there is a clearer vision of where the Academy is heading. Entertainment Weekly compiled a list of the films with the most awards up to this point, and Rotten Tomatoes has accounted for the top nominees through the SAG Awards on February 26th. Let’s see who is leading the pack so far:
… and Introducing Dana Gillis
Dana Gillis is a fellow cinephile, Anglophile (as you’ll see later), and educator. I have found a partner in crime and our love of film and teaching has kept us in close circles for almost fifteen years.
Our texts mainly revolve around new films we checked out or giving each other recommendations and where to view them. We cherish independent films, directors with distinct vision, period pieces, English dramas where protagonists suffer in silence over being fulfilled, and big cinematic swings. This thorn in my side has spent years on our championship winning trivia squad and even blessed us with her lovely Kentucky drawl as a reader at my wedding.
Dana and I will be attending the Oscar Viewing & Fundraiser Red Carpet event at the Independent Picture House on March 12th together. This should be hilarious as Dana is nearly a foot taller than me and we’ll be dressed to the nines. If she forgets to wear flats I’ll make her carry me around master blaster style like in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. However, we don’t always agree or get along and have no problem calling out each other’s off-putting movie takes.
As always, I like to provide movie pie charts to explain a film through other popular titles that share similar plot points. This is so the casual film fan can get an idea of what they are getting into or if they should spend their money and time to view. I thought my pie chart niche would be the best way to understand Dana and my chemistry. Before today’s email exchange on the Oscars, I’d like to present you with the Matt & Dana “cinefriends” pie chart. These films are the culmination of our fifteen years of an ongoing original screenplay friendship.
The Oscars Exchange
Editor’s Note: The following email exchanges took place from February 22nd to the 24th. They are slightly edited for clarity and style.
Matt at the Movies: Hello my cinematic muse. Topic of the day is the Oscar ceremonies. I am Lydia Tár at the podium with baton in hand, waiting for my first chair to wow me on Mahler’s fifth symphony. The Iceman to my Maverick, let’s get into this exchange with the first question. To give the people a look into your taste, could you use rank voting for the best pic nominees just as the Oscar voting branch of over 9,000 people will be doing in a few days please.
Dana Gillis: I'm going with the Palme D'or winner as my personal favorite for the year.
#1 - Triangle of Sadness was my kind of movie. A total clusterfuck-of-the-mind where you weren't quite sure where everything is going to land. The social commentary was spot on and touched my little socialist heart.
#2 - Women Talking. Give me some Frances McDormand (my girl crush) and Claire Foy (God Save the Queen!) any day of the week. All-female cast and director, yes please.
#3 - All Quiet on the Western Front. I love a good war movie and this one hit the spot with just enough gore to freak me out a little bit. Was a little long for my taste, but you can't have everything.
#4 - Top Gun: Maverick. Tom Cruise is, let's face it, a weirdo (Team Katie and Suri forever!) to the point where he's almost painful to watch. However, it wouldn't be Top Gun without him and that big Hollywood smile. I quite enjoyed it.
#5 - The Banshees of Inisherin. My first watch of this ended with me literally saying, "What the hell?!?" out loud in the movie theater. My second watch was much more enjoyable. Every actor in this movie was brilliant and deserving of their nominations.
#6 - Tár. I know, I know. I should be cerebral enough to appreciate this movie… but I don't. Aside from an appreciation of Cate Blanchett's performance, it was just blah and didn’t resonate. After reading some other reviews, I don't think I was alone.
#7 - Everything Everywhere All at Once was just ok for me. I didn't love it and I felt like I should. Too weird for my liking with jump cuts, multiverses, and hot dog fingers.
#8 - The Fabelmans. This movie was just bland for me. I never really got into it, but I didn't hate it. It was just a non-factor.
#9 - Elvis. Absolutely loathe this movie with all my heart and seriously considered walking out, which I never do. I can not believe it got a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. Did we watch the same movie?
#10 - Avatar: The Way of Water. I was never going to give this movie a fighting chance. Hated the first one, hated the second one, will probably hate every sequel until then. Is he really going to keep making these until he dies? Big Jim is wasting his twilight years.
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Matt at the Movies: Best Picture Power Rankings
Matt: In my Oscar nominations piece, I was heartbroken that Babylon wasn’t recognized for the big swing it took. By the way, Babylon is streaming on Paramount+ so please clear three hours from your life and watch with a stiff beverage. Overall my biggest gripe was South Korea’s selection for best foreign film Decision to Leave being left out. It was head and shoulders above all the other foreign cinema I’ve watched this year. What snub in an otherwise very diverse year of selections (Riseborough controversy aside) were you most surprised didn’t make the final cut?
Dana: You have a fellow Babylonian here, so you’re preaching to the choir on that one. However messy it was in terms of storyline, it was art and should be received as such. Margot Robbie was electric and she got robbed. I’d also have to go with the crowd and say I was disappointed that more women of color were not represented. Woman King and Till were both powerful and overlooked.
On a personal level, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris was my favorite movie this year. It was visually beautiful and relatable. It was one of those movies I could watch over and over just because it makes me happy. Leslie Manville was wonderful and deserves some recognition.
Matt: Team #BabylonHive unite! The misses and myself had a wonderful time at the Independent Picture House watching Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. I was glad she was nominated for a Golden Globe at least. Leslie Manville could be in Olivia Colman territory if she had more meaty roles in my opinion, though both are wonderful.
So we move onto the next question of category locks. Who do you think is a shoe in for an award come March 15th? Feel free to mention any below the line or technical winners such as Justin Hurwitz who's Babylon original score is an all-timer. So much so for me that "Coke Room" is my alarm wakeup in the morning (seriously).
Dana: No "My Girl's Pussy" (track #5 after “Coke Room”)? What a missed opportunity to start your day the right way. I'm going to have to dig deep to get any shoe-ins. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said Cate Blanchett was a lock for best actress. However with Michelle Yeoh coming on strong, I can't say that with any kind of conviction. I feel the same with every other acting category. Here are choices I will stand by - Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio for Animated Feature Film and The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse for Short Film (Animated). If the Academy picks anything other than those two, they are straight up wrong.
“All Quiet on the Western Front will be this year's Best Picture winner.” - Dana
“It’s starting to feel inevitable that Everything Everywhere All at Once is taking this home … I can’t deny the mound of hardware that this movie has accumulated.” - Matt
Matt: I think all things are pointed toward Angela Bassett for Wakanda Forever but man I really loved Kerry Condon in Banshees. I've been hearing lots of hustle and bustle for Ice Merchants in animated shorts so we'll see what plays out. We can't not talk about what's next... the slap. When Will Smith tarnished a beautiful culmination of a life's work by slapping comedian Chris Rock for his tacky and lazy jab at his wife's alopecia, the world stood still for a few minutes. Rating may have been low but it was all the news around virtual water coolers for the next several weeks.
This year we ABC next in the rotation and always reliable Jimmy Kimmel taking the hosting duty reins for the third time. Also back are full speeches from all the main categories after the guilds doth protest too much. Besides the fact that you and I will be looking fabulous at the Independent Picture House's red carpet Oscar viewing party, what are you looking forward to most with this year's ceremony?
Dana: Did you hear that they hired a crisis team to be able to deal with “any situations that may arise?” How the hell do you anticipate a scenario where Will Smith slaps the shit out of Chris Rock? There’s no way you can prepare for that! I can’t wait to see who they tap to give the Best Actor award in Will Smith’s place. How awkward would that job be? I am most looking forward to seeing Rhianna and Lady Gaga perform! All Hail the Queens!
Matt: I hope Kimmel pokes fun at the crisis squad. Also crises in my head is the idea of you being a foot taller than me on the red carpet. I don’t think dress shoes with lifts are going to cover the gap! Also you are aware that the last two years I've bested you with overall predictions in our Oscar voting battle royale? Is the third year the charm for you? I'm vamping now, but I believe it's time. Dana along with the overall picks that will be posted here as well, I need your final input. Who is taking home the bacon for best picture at this year's Oscar ceremony?
Dana: You are Danny DeVito to my Schwarzenegger. Paul Simon to my Chevy Chase. Feel free to “Call me Al” throughout the evening. Speaking of which, Betty, I believe it was myself who chose Coda last year and Nomadland the year before. Not to mention Parasite in 2019 (Matt had Nomadland and Parasite also). In fact, I do believe I'm batting close to .1000 in the Best Picture category. So even though you got a few more technical categories than me, I pull through when it counts.
That said, in the three previous years, each of those winning films stood out to me as clearly the best of the year. They had a strong story line, were visually beautiful, and had actors that knew their craft. This year could go so many different ways. Everything Everywhere has a strong case for its storyline and artistic merit, Banshees of Inisherin for its brilliant acting, and Tár because it's just weird enough for the Academy to make a late run. However, I'm going to go with my gut and choose the movie that is holding strong at a respectable third in Vegas odds right now. It has all the qualities of a Best Picture film and should be high enough in most Academy voters rankings to have a good showing. All Quiet on the Western Front will be this year's Best Picture winner. Your turn, Betty.
Matt: It was a very compelling speech all the way until your final pick. All Quiet on the Western Front suffers from the same European hit you over the head with “theme” storytelling that is even more prevalent in Triangle of Sadness. Them adding in the train sequences not in the original novel to have to tell you that the Germans were given terrible terms of the Treaty of Versailles is akin to literal feces covering the wealthy in the Triangle of Sadness. I am much more subtle and nuanced than you apparently because each subsequent viewing of Tár makes me notice things I’ve never seen. I’m transfixed by Blanchett’s presence on screen the same way Daniel Day-Lewis mesmerized me as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. I hope very much that Tár wins but it’s starting to feel inevitable that Everything Everywhere All at Once (EEAAO) is taking this home. The heart and head are at odds but I can’t deny the mound of hardware that this movie has accumulated.
Well I can’t thank Dana enough for this exchange and I look forward to the Independent Picture House’s viewing party and fundraiser coming up soon. We’ll attach our official picks below and see if I can make it a three-peat over my good friend. Win or lose Dana, we’ll always have Babylon. Cinema baby! See you on the red carpet next time with Matt at the Movies.
Dana’s Oscar Ballot
Matt’s Oscar Ballot
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This was such fun to read! And made me feel like not such a weirdo for not liking certain films. Kudos!