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Best Picture Movie Quote – From Here to Eternity

The Oscars are a week away! Between now and then we will be posting a movie quote from a Best Picture winner from each decade that the Oscars have been awarded. Today’s quote is from 1953’s winner, From Here to Eternity, screenplay by Daniel Taradash.

“Rose, do you know why I like to have you serve me beer? So as I can watch you when you walk away.”

Best Picture Movie Quote – The Best Years of Our Lives

The Oscars are just over a week away. Between now and then we will be posting a movie quote from each decade that the Oscars have been handed out. Today’s quote is from 1946’s winner, The Best Years of Our Lives, screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood.

“Give ’em time, kid; they’ll catch on. You know your folks’ll get used to you, and you’ll get used to them. Then everything’ll settle down nicely. Unless we have another war. Then none of us have to worry because we’ll all be blown to bits the first day. So cheer up, huh?”

2022 Best Picture Nominees Ranked from Worst to Best

It’s that time of year again, and I’m sure the thing you’re thinking is the last thing you want is another list ranking Best Picture nominees. Well, I’m giving you one anyway. The order of this list doesn’t reflect who I think will win but is simply my objective opinion on my favorites and least favorites of this year’s nominees.

The order is also not a reflection of my thought of the quality of the individual films. I enjoyed all of the films that were nominated to one degree or another. Each of these films is outstanding in its own way, and each film accomplished what it set out to do. That said, some of these films were more impressive in accomplishing their goals than others.

In my mind, what this list reflects is how well each film spoke to me and how effective each film was in making me feel something. The list is also a reflection of how entertained I was by each film because when it comes right down to it, the number one goal of the movies is to entertain us.

10. Drive My Car

There are a lot of long movies on this list, and this movie was the longest, coming in at a whopping two hours fifty-nine minutes. I don’t mind when movies push the three-hour timeline so long as it’s necessary, and it was not necessary in this film. Director Ryuusuke Hamaguchi could have shaved an hour off this film and still gotten the point across that he was trying to make. The problem for me was that the story was so long that the emotional impact was lost on me. This is a story of the two broken people who find an opportunity to heal through each other. It should have been a powerful story from an emotional standpoint, but there were just too many long periods where nothing was happening and I was taken out of the story emotionally. The case could be made that this is less of a movie and more of a piece of art, and that’s great if that’s what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, this film was trying to get an emotional reaction, and its length caused it to come up wanting.

9. Licorice Pizza

This was perhaps the most disappointing movie of the year for me. I am a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, and I had been looking forward to this film for a long time. You can read some more in-depth thought from me about it here, but as I said in that blog, this was, perhaps, the most un-Paul Thomas Anderson film of any of his efforts. To a degree, that’s what made it disappointing. PTA never misses an opportunity to put his characters in difficult and dramatic situations, but he missed almost every opportunity in this film. It was almost as though he got too close to them and never wanted them to be truly uncomfortable. Even so, I was still entertained by it. I liked all the characters and their adventures were fun to follow. However, there was little to no drama in this film, and the film would have been much better if any of the situations that PTA had set up had been paid off with genuine drama.

8. West Side Story

If you have followed this blog in the past, you will know that I am not a huge fan of the original. It won Best Picture for 1961, and that post can be found here. I ultimately determined that the original won based on default because it was a relatively weak year of nominees. I felt the original was less than the sum of its parts, and I feel the same way about Steven Spielberg’s remake. It’s a fine film. It was entertaining. The musical numbers were spectacular. But for whatever reason, I never found myself caring for the characters. Their stories to me always felt forced, and I always felt myself wanting more. I enjoyed the remake more than I thought I would, but I didn’t enjoy it enough to consider it to be the best picture of the year.

7. Belfast

Belfast suffers from many of the same issues as Licorice Pizza. One would think that a story taking place in the city of Belfast during the height of the unrest between protestants and Catholics would be dripping with drama and heartbreak. Director Kenneth Branagh did an amazing job of setting up these dramatic situations, but just like PTA in Licorice Pizza, they were rarely paid off. By the time we got to the climax, I was not worried at all because Branagh had already made clear that nothing bad was going to happen to any of the main characters. Again, I liked all of the characters in the film, but I never had to make a deeper connection with them because any time they were put in danger, it was clear that nothing bad was going to befall them. There was no tension or fretting or worry. The best thing that Branagh could have done was give them some tragedy to overcome, but it just never happened.

6. The Power of the Dog

This is the toughest one for me. The Power of the Dog is, to me, this year’s Nomadland. It’s another film that’s more piece of art than movie. Its entertainment value is low while you’re watching it but increases on reflection. It’s stunningly beautiful to watch, and it’s pacing makes it feel like you’re watching a painting, hence the feeling that it’s more of a work of art than a film. Also like Nomadland, The Power of the Dog has a ton of subtext so you really have to pay attention to it in order to absorb the full breadth of what is happening. Director Jane Campion showed remarkable patience as a filmmaker in how she crafted this film, and she would certainly be worthy of winning Best Director. This film is favored to do very well on Oscar night, and it will likely be named Best Picture, and it will deserve it if it does. It just wasn’t my favorite movie of the year.

5. Dune

I was pleasantly surprised that Dune was nominated. The consensus was that it outdid the 80’s adaptation of the classic Science Fiction novel, and I agree. This adaptation only covers roughly the first half of the book, which was a wise decision because the source material is so dense that it would be impossible to cram it all into one 2–3-hour movie and do it justice, as David Lynch’s version showed. In this version, director Denis Villeneuve was able to explore the details of the book and he gave us that rare Science Fiction film that has a compelling story to go with the exciting action and stunning special effects. From a pure production standpoint, Dune takes a backseat to no other film this year.

4. Don’t Look Up

For sheer entertainment value, there might not have been a more entertaining film this year than the Don’t Look Up with its dark humor and piranha-like biting satire. Using an approaching comet as a metaphor for the climate crisis, director Adam McKay gave us a modern-day Dr. Strangelove. This film is at once hilarious, frustrating, entertaining, and terrifying. It also has a who’s who of some of the most talented actors of this generation giving powerful performances that rank right near the top of any of the best performances of their careers. Like the issues it’s exploring, Don’t Look Up has been a polarizing film this year, but I loved it and found it to be perhaps the most entertaining film of the year.

3. Nightmare Alley

I love Film Noir and Guillermo del Toro’s remake of the 1947 Tyrone Power cult classic uses all the great classic Film Noir tropes and gives it a modern edge. Aside from The Power of the Dog, this might be the most beautiful film of the year. The lighting is stunning and the muted use of color makes this film feel like it’s right out of the 1940s, but it gives us the edge that films of the 40s could not have due to the Hayes Code. It’s unfortunate that this film didn’t do better at the box office because it deserved to have a wider audience than it did. That lack of audience will likely doom its chances with the Academy, which is too bad. This is a film that would deserve to win Best Picture.

2. King Richard

This biopic about Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, and his unlikely path that guided them to be two of the best players the sport of tennis has ever seen, is entertaining and packed with emotion. Will Smith gives an Oscar-worthy performance in the title role as a man who refuses to allow himself to be victimized by his circumstances of racism and violence and proactively provides a better life for himself and his family. Is it a perfect film? No, it is not. There are some holes in the story that I wish director Reinaldo Marcus Green had taken the time to fill. But this movie could be this year’s Rocky. I don’t think it will win, but betting against it could be as foolish as betting against Richard Williams and his daughters.

  1. CODA

I loved this film. In my humble opinion, CODA was the one film this year that most successfully combined all the attributes of a great film. It was one of the most entertaining films of the year. It had a main character who was witty and charming, but also flawed and broken due to the circumstances of her family. The story gave her a character arc that showed her growth and healing over the course of the film. The film also made you think. It showed how important it is to make your own mark on the world, but how challenging it can be to leave your current world behind, even when that would be the best thing for you. It was also the most emotionally compelling film of the year. I connected emotionally to this film in a way that I did not connect with any of the other films nominated. I know that CODA has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning Best Picture, but to me, no picture was more successful this year. CODA is my best picture of the year.

The Batman is Badass

First off, The Batman was long. It was two hours and fifty minutes, and to be honest with you, it left me wanting more. I would have been happy if it came in at three hours, and I will explain why shortly. The old cliché that it didn’t feel like it was three hours long certainly applies here. For as long as it was, it was paced well with outstanding action sequences, a compelling story and characters that were rich and deep. It took a long time, but it finally feels like DC is finding its voice. They were trying to copy Marvel for a long time, but now they’re taking their films in a completely different direction and it is refreshing as hell.

The Batman is no mere superhero movie. It’s much more than that. It is a detective story. It is a crime drama. It is a mystery.  It is a redemption story. It is nuvo noir. It is all of those together to create a cinematic experience that is more than just a Marvel carnival ride. This is a film that is the complete package. It has incredible action and a compelling story. Imagine such a thing!

Thankfully, director Matt Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig opted to forego the origin story route. We’ve seen that many times, and do not need to see it again. We meet Batman (Robert Pattinson) in this film as a veteran of the night and his vigilantism holds fear over some, but sadly turns into motivation for the Riddler (Paul Dano), who, as the hero of his own story, is terrifying Gotham by systematically killing the corrupt politicians that have been driving Gotham into the ground. With every new murder he commits, he leaves behind a clue for Batman, as though inviting him to find him.

This is where the film becomes a detective story. Batman works with Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to sift through the clues and try to solve the mystery of who is behind the murders. From this point, Reeves and Craig did a wonderful job of constructing a narrative that wasn’t built on car chases, but on characters having to solve a puzzle to chase the truth. The story is constructed in a way that everything is built on what came before it, and you actually have to pay attention to what’s going on in the story in order to get the most out of the experience.

That is one of the ways they made the narrative so strong over such a long timeline. Because the story was so compelling, it didn’t drag. It was never uninteresting. I was never looking at my watch wondering how much longer we had to go. The mystery that they were trying to solve held my attention and held my interest in what was admittedly a long film.

Then there were the action sequences, and they were great. Like all Batman movies since Tim Burton took over the franchise in the late 1980’s, this film is dark. Most of it happens at night or in dark spaces. Even daytime shots are gray and monotone. Other than the Adam West Batman series and film in the 1960’ where technicolor reigned supreme, Batman’s palette is limited and the lighting is almost always muted to dark. This often works against action sequences because it can make it difficult to see what’s going on. But Reeves and Director of Photography Greig Fraser played with light in just the right way to allow us to see and enjoy the stellar action sequences that they created.

The hand-to-hand combat scenes where well-choreographed and added to the intensity of the film. What’s more, there were quite a few of them, but they didn’t feel repetitive. And the lighting was subtle enough as not to draw attention to itself, but to allow us to see and enjoy the action.

Then there was the car chase. At one point in the film, Batman is chasing the Penguin (Colin Ferrel in what should be an Oscar nomination Kat Ali for the stunning makeup job she did) that ends with the climax that many of us saw in the trailer. I would like to say that, in my humble opinion, The Batman might have the most badass Batmobile of any movie in the franchise. Just like most of the film, there is nothing flashy about this Batmobile. It is a solid muscle car through and through, and the scene in which Penguin thinks it’s blown up only to see it burst through the flames to run him off the road is one of my favorite shots from any movie in a long time. Ultimately for me, that’s what makes this film so enjoyable. It’s badass all around.

That leads me to the casting. I seem to recall a lot of backlash around Robert Pattinson being cast as the caped crusader when it happened. I will say this about his performance. I liked him a lot better as Batman than as Bruce Wayne. I didn’t dislike him as Bruce Wayne, but he brought a brooding and sullen aspect to the character that I think did him a bit of a disservice. The best Bruce Wayne’s to me are Michael Keaton and Christian Bale. They brought a debonair style to the billionaire that served as an archetypal mask for the pain and trauma he was feeling behind it. There was no such mask for Pattinson’s Wayne. His emotions were on his sleeve, and those emotions were mostly bordering on depression. It made Bruce Wayne come off as a flat character lacking depth, and that is the opposite of what Bruce Wyne should be.

But as Batman, Pattinson absolutely brought it. He was simmering when he needed to be and explosive when he needed to be. It was the kind of portrayal in which, if you didn’t know any better, you might be unsure of which side of the law the Batman was on. He was constantly walking a razor’s edge and you never knew when he might cross the line. That type of performance helped establish and carry the intensity of the film and was one more element that kept it from feeling like it was as long as it was.

Zoe Kravitz was very solid as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, although I feel like they missed an opportunity with her. Catwoman is traditionally a villain in the Batman franchise, but there is always a not-so-subtle sexual tension between the two of them. There were a lot of film noir elements to this film and making Selina a traditional femme fatale would have been something that could have added a lot of depth to her character and added tension to the story. There needed to be more nuance to her character. We understand that she’ll do anything to avenge her friend, and she’s also still a cat burglar, but she should have been a character that could have tempted Batman to fully commit to being on the wrong side of the law. There was never any doubt that she was an ally to Batman in this film. She could have been more of a seductress who was attempting to seduce Batman to cross over to the other side. I liked what they went with her character development. She was certainly sympathetic, but she could have been a lot more.

The other characters were also very solid. Colin Ferrel, John Turturro, and Andy Serkis all gave solid performances in their limited screen time. Paul Dano as the Riddler was psychotic and scary and gave a performance of a character who was just over the edge far enough that there was no coming back. The scene between him and Batman in the jail is as intense of a dialogue scene as you will ever see.

Was this a perfect film? No, it was not. There were a couple of McGuffins that I would have liked to have seen get paid off. Early in the film, Alfred (Serkis) tells Bruce that the accountants are coming over because he could be on the verge of losing his fortune. We also find out that his father had started a Renew Gotham fund that criminals like Falcone (Turturro) had been pilfering from for years with no oversight. I think Reeves missed opportunities to tie both of those loose ends up at the end in a way that would have redeemed Bruce and his father from a flaw that had been tied to them over the course of the film.

Otherwise, though, this was a thoroughly entertaining film. If you haven’t seen it yet, do not let the long run time scare you away. This is a superhero movie that goes way beyond the superhero genre and gives us a thoughtful film that is thematically strong and has a compelling story to go along with all the action. It might not be a perfect film, but it sure is a terrific one.

Licorice Pizza – An Almost Great Film

I have seen all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films and it’s fair to say that he has a certain kind of voice through his filmmaking, and that voice is a dark one. There are exceptions, of course, but his films tend to be serious, deliberate, and artistic. Licorice Pizza goes against type more than any of his other films. It’s still artistic and, at times, deliberate, but it’s also a witty, charming, and (dare I say) spunky film about falling in love with someone despite the world telling you that you shouldn’t love that person.

The main character, Alana (Alana Haim), is one of my favorite characters from any PTA film. She’s an enigmatic free-spirit who has found herself as the target of the affections of a 15-year old boy, and she herself is 25. Like many of his other lead characters, she’s a lost soul who is trying to find herself in the world. However, what separates Alana from almost any other character in the PTA cannon is that she always manages to find the good in any situation. No matter what happens to her, she somehow ends up on the positive end of it. I would love to give examples, but you really need to see the film in order to know what I mean. The best example of it to watch for is when she’s asked to go out for a drink with City Councilman Joel Wachs.

PTA is a filmmaker for me who is generally hit or miss. I loved Punch Drunk Love, Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, and Phantom Thread. I really disliked Magnolia, The Master, and Inherent Vice. However, Licorice Pizza falls somewhere in between. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I found it to be one of his most entertaining films, but I had some real issues with the story. I also have a problem with the premise.

I will start with the premise first. It’s about a relationship that brews between Alana, who is 25, and Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), who is 15. Alana, despite her internal issues, is pretty and cool and smart. Gary is a struggling child actor who is kind of dumpy and nerdy. Personally, it’s hard to believe that Alana would have anything to do with Gary, but she improbably shows up at the restaurant he invites her to and that’s when their relationship starts moving forward. As predatory relationships go, it’s probably not as predatory as the one in Call Me By Your Name, but at the very least, it’s problematic and not very realistic. I might have been able to buy it if she had been 22 or 23 and he had been 17, and probably better looking. Call me shallow, but I just didn’t see this relationship as realistic based on the parameters we were given. Honestly, if I’m being brutally honest, this premise feels more like a young boy’s fantasy playing out on the big screen than a realistic story scenario.

The point could be (and has been made) that this is a platonic relationship between a teenager striving to be an adult and an adult who’s afraid to grow up, at least until the third act. However, there are too many instances where the relationship becomes too flirtatious and there are too many other instances where one or the other of them is clearly jealous of the other being in a potentially romantic relationship for this to be viewed as platonic. These two people clearly have romantic feelings for each other almost from the start.

That leads me to the storyline, which had some great moments but ultimately ended up being less than the sum of its parts. The heading of this blog is that it was almost great. It was one of those frustrating storylines where the director puts his characters in potentially dramatic situations and plants ideas that can lead to serious consequences and then fails to pay them off. It was as though PTA fell into the trap of loving his characters so much that he didn’t want them to really get hurt, which is just about the most un-PTA thing ever. If you’ve seen any PTA films, one thing is for certain. Everyone is going to go through an emotional meat grinder. While there is a lot of emotional angst in Licorice Pizza, no one experiences the emotional pain that the characters do in The Phantom Thread or There Will Be Blood or Magnolia or even Boogie Nights or Inherent Vice.

Plenty of bad things start to happen. Gary gets arrested on suspicion of murder but is quickly released. Alana is coerced into taking part in a dangerous stunt with a drunken Jack Holden (Sean Penn) but falls off the motorcycle as Holden takes off and is uninjured. It looks like they’re going to get caught running afoul of the psychotic John Peters (Bradley Cooper), but Alana miraculously coasts the moving truck they’ve rented, but is out of gas, in reverse down the hill.

There is a moment at the end of that scene where Alana should have an epiphany. She’s hanging around with kids ten years younger than her. In fact, she does have a sort of epiphany, and she starts volunteering for a local city councilman who’s running for mayor of Los Angeles. We actually start to see some real character growth from her. At this point, I was hoping that we would see an ending like from The Way We Were or Casablanca where the two main characters understand that they can’t be together and each one goes on to live their separate lives. To me, an ending like that would have been a lot more satisfying.

Leading me to my final point. The ending is completely unsatisfying. It’s shot and cut together like it’s supposed to be this cathartic and emotionally powerful moment, but I felt nothing. I couldn’t care less. In fact, I saw what was coming, and I was rooting for something else. The opportunity was there for this film to have a strong and emotional ending, but like the rest of the film, that opportunity was missed.

As entertaining as Licorice Pizza was to watch, it is ultimately a movie that is plagued by missed opportunities. If PTA had cashed in on even a couple of those opportunities, this movie would have been a lot more dramatic and I would have cared a lot more about what happened. In the end, that’s what is so frustrating about this movie. All of the ingredients were there for this to be one of PTA’s best films. It was charming, witty, and funny, but ultimately there was no emotion and no depth and we’re left with no reason to care.