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Close-Up with Camenker Volume XLII: Oscar Updates and Various Films

February 6, 2023

Happy 2023 to all my readers! If you’re wondering why I’ve been absent for a bit longer than usual, it’s just that life has gotten in the way. Between the holidays, weather, and my first bout with COVID, I haven’t had much time to get out and catch movies. That said, I’ve done a lot of catching up at home and been paying attention closely to awards season.

As the season unfolds, I hope to offer some thoughts on nominees, predictions of who will win, and what films I think stack up at the top of the bunch. In the meantime, I did want to discuss the Oscar nods briefly before I highlight a few awards season contenders that I have recently seen, some of which screened at Red River.

2022 in cinema has me feeling a bit “bleh” overall. It’s not that there aren’t some excellent films among the bunch. It’s just that the crowd appears a bit lackluster in comparison to past years, particularly pre-COVID. I am noticing trends that I don’t love in current movie making: longer running times, the theme of societal commentary running much deeper than before, and a lack of silver linings in many of the plots.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do love a movie that makes you think and don’t always need to feel lifted up when leaving a film. That said, balance is crucial and I feel it is missing sorely.


Photo: Artwork by Chloe Lewis

All things aside, the Oscar nominations bring about a variety of thoughts as always. It appears that the top three contenders are EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, and THE FABELMANS, all top notch films that were at Red River for extended periods. The former two are especially noteworthy for scoring four acting nods each, a feat that is not often seen. 

The sleeper hit of nomination morning was definitely the new adaptation of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, which I look forward to watching on Netflix soon as it is a timeless, captivating, and touching story.

Like many folks out there, the Best Actress category was full of surprises for me. I had not even heard of the Andrea Riseborough film TO LESLIE, which I just watched at home on Amazon. To think that she made it in thanks to some strong personal campaigning is quite an accomplishment. The film is decent with a grandiose performance by her that is definitely a top among leading ladies this year. My disappointment, however, rests largely with the fact that Danielle Deadwyler of the heartbreaking film TILL did not earn a spot among the top five ladies. Her performance is perhaps the most touching of the year and even stronger, in my book, than frontrunner Cate Blanchett, who is great in TÁR.

On the subject of small films like TO LESLIE, it is always great to see performances from indie titles find their way into the mix. Brian Tyree Henry of CAUSEWAY, a film you can stream on Apple TV, gave one of the year’s most nuanced and subtle performances and I was glad to see him join the ranks in Best Supporting Actor.

I’ve mentioned my frustration with no love for the film TILL. Add Jordan Peele’s NOPE to that list as well as SHE SAID, which I also finally caught in recent weeks and screened at Red River in December (more on that below). 

Lastly, regarding nominations, it is wonderful to see some of the “feel good” movies find a place despite what I mentioned about heavier titles being a theme this year. Both MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS and MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON, some of my favorite titles from Red River’s screenings last summer, got nominations, the former for costuming and the latter for animated feature. Another “feel good” piece is the Apple TV animated short THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX, AND THE HORSE.

I want to end with quick thoughts about three titles that Red River screened back in the late fall and early holiday season, which I missed. Let me start with SHE SAID since I brought it up already and am disappointed it scored no nods.

A true account of how the #MeToo movement unfolded through outstanding reporting from The New York Times, SHE SAID focuses on the two reporters who broke the story about Harvey Weinstein’s monstrous behavior in Hollywood. A captivating and edge of your seat film, Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan bring the reporting to life through deeply personal stories shared to them by victims of Weinstein’s abuse. 

Having recently read the book on which it is based, I can say without a doubt that the film does the story justice. Kazan and Mulligan, along with the always great Andre Braugher and Patricia Clarkson, bring so many emotions to the forefront of the film which is layered with outstanding dialogue, a visceral score, and realistic depictions of life in a newsroom. It’s an important film for so many reasons, especially in highlighting how this case opened up an opportunity for women to finally speak out.

The Best Picture nominated film TRIANGLE OF SADNESS deserves a completely different label when it comes to “important” if you ask me. How this piece found its way into the Top 10 with The Academy is beyond me. Seemingly a commentary on society’s ills like all of director Ruben Ostlund’s films and a theme of 2022 that I’ve already addressed, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is presumptuous, dull, and disgusting.

Enough said.

Lastly, let me say a bit about THE MENU, which you can now find on HBO Max and which I missed despite its successful run at Red River. Also a commentary piece that has elements of black comedy and the like, THE MENU is clever, well acted, and highly provocative. Unlike TRIANGLE OF SADNESS, it intricately weaves a story that is ensemble driven together with strong performances and a lot of intriguing themes.

Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Hong Chau anchor the piece through excellent character arcs with a mix of nuances and intensity. The narrative links all the characters who are dining at this luxurious island despite the fact that they all come from such different walks of life. The result is a tragicomic horror show, frankly, but one that leaves you thinking deeply. And it’s all done in under two hours. A great feat for filmmaking in 2022.

What have been some of your favorite titles of 2022 in film? How do you think the Oscar will stack up? Keep tuning in to my posts as the season progresses, and happy viewing!

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