CALIFORNIA, USA — The 2022 Best Picture nominees are a diverse collection of films from the past year, and experts say 'they're all over the place."
A total of 10 movies are vying for the Oscar at the 94th Academy Awards. The "The Power of the Dog," widely believed to be the favorite for Best Picture, is a Western touting subtle elements of drama. Yet, in the same category, it's contrasted by "Don't Look Up," a satiric comedy that tries to approach an extinction-level event with a sense of humor, and "Licorice Pizza," a coming of age story with no big name actors in leading roles.
A wide net was cast for these movies, pulling from across genres and even distributors. Half of the movies up for Best Picture were released by streamers.
The showdown for Best Picture culminates toward the end of March at the 94th Academy Awards. ABC10 reached out to four different movie experts to get their take on this year's nominees. Here's what they said stood out about the nominees.
"They just feel more relevant"
Robin Russin, professor of theater at UC Riverside:
"It's the representation of diversity... I think the movies are also looking at movies that express the real experience of people who live different lives, as opposed to just being straight fictions."
"I think movies respond to the world around them, and I think that's what we're seeing in a lot of the new movies because the world has changed substantially in terms of what our obsessions and and our concerns are."
"It's very different these movies. Now, these movies are about cultural anxiety. They're about a real sense that we might be coming towards a post-apocalyptic future. There's real anxiety about the hypocrisy of religion in politics, fear of loss, fear of loss of identity, fear of the world around us... So in a way, when you get something like 'West Side Story,' which I think is a brilliant movie, it kind of became a blip. I mean, it's weird. It's a Spielberg movie. It's probably better than the original 'West Side Story.' It's one of the great classics, and people aren't talking about it that much...but that movie would have been in previous years, the big movie everyone was talking about. And very few people are talking about it, because these other movies are more urgent. They just feel more relevant."
"It's less about the stakes of art cinema versus commercial cinema"
Catherine Benamou, professor of film studies at UC Irvine:
"I think most of them are, again, trying to appeal - everything from 'CODA' to 'King Richard' to 'Licorice Pizza' - they're really trying to appeal to a younger generation in different ways. I think that two of those, 'CODA' and 'Licorice Pizza' are trying to shift the culture a little bit, first in terms of considering who can perform in a film and how do films communicate, that would be the case of 'CODA,' or should recognize actors? Is that necessary as a vehicle for a film getting nominated? That would be the case of 'Licorice Pizza,' that you're not working with... star power. "
"There's an attempt to either take them (viewers) back in time and to imagine themselves growing up in a period that really preceded them, and that they didn't know firsthand, which would be 'Licorice Pizza,' or to get them to think about how to strive in their lives for what they're aiming for. So, I think this is a shift. I don't think it's been that way in past years. It'll be interesting to see which way the awards fall this year, in relationship to that. So, it's less about the stakes of art cinema versus commercial cinema than I think about generation."
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"They're all over the place"
Eric Melin, editor-in-chief Scene Stealers:
"What sticks out to me this year is the sheer kind of breadth and depth of them. We've got 'Drive My Car,' which is a foreign language film, a three-hour foreign language film from Japan. We've got 'The Power the Dog,' which is a very subtle drama -- the huge drama in it is almost missed if you're not totally paying attention but it's also a Western... We have 'Dune,' the big action movie. 'West Side Story' a big musical. Belfast is is a black and white coming of age story set in the 60s in Ireland. It's just a lot of different types of stuff, and I think mostly, that's because we were at home last year, and the streaming services have really hit hard with some with some quality films this year to try to bring a semblance of normalcy back to an industry that was pretty much decimated the year before."
"They're back this year, and they're all over the place."
"Shocked that it made it into the Best Picture nomination"
Mark S. Allen, ABC10 entertainment reporter:
"'Licorice Pizza'... it's one of my favorite coming of age movies of all time. Generations before you, a generation before me, was a movie called 'The Graduate,' and it really is this eras snapshot of that kind of movie. It's that kind of coming of age movie. I love it for the same reason that I loved last year, 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.' It's an amazing snapshot of the 70s. It's a great look at that. It's a great coming of age story told in a way that we've ever seen before. Do I think it'll win? No. Frankly, I'm shocked that it made it into the Best Picture nomination. But that's the win (the nomination). That's about as far as it's going to get."
"I think it's going to be 'The Power of the Dog.' But you never know. Much like 'Blindside' was a popular movie that blindsided the Academy when it won the Academy Award, I think 'King Richard' is a popular film that we'd like to see when that category, it'd be great to see it win that category. (But) I think it's gonna go to 'The Power of the Dog' just based on all the indicators so far."