The Oscar Project
It’s the end of week two of my 2022 Year in Review. I hope you are enjoying the posts and have perhaps stumbled on something new to check out as you enjoy the holidays this year.
Today I’m finally releasing my top two first time watches from 2022. They are both films that I wanted to see as soon as they were released, but didn’t get to right away.
As a reminder, the list so far is:
2: Encanto (2021)
Certain films hit differently based on your life experience, and this is one of those. By now I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve probably seen Encanto (multiple times if you have young children), but it’s worth revisiting here.
If you don’t know, the film is the story of the Madrigals, an extended family that all have magical gifts that have been granted to them by an eternally burning candle. The family is led by the matriarchal Abuela and is full of lively characters including her daughters Julieta (heals people with her cooking), Pepa (her mood controls the weather), and the long-lost son Bruno (can see the future). The grandchildren are just as unique, and in true Disney musical fashion, the opening number “The Family Madrigal” gives you the lowdown on everyone involved.
I think what makes this film work so well is that anyone can find a character or two that they connect with. We see this great big family and despite outward appearances, they’re not perfect. Our main protagonist, Mirabel, is a bit of an outcast because she never received her gift. Her sister Luisa has the gift of superhuman strength, but we learn that she’s about to crack because she tries to shoulder all the burdens of the family. The other sister, Isabela, can make beautiful flowers bloom wherever she wants, but like Luisa, feels pressure to maintain her appearance of perfection, and longs for the ability to make mistakes from time to time.
As usual, the music is infectious, and I probably don’t need to remind you about that song dealing with Bruno (it’s right here in case you miss it) but I urge anyone to take a moment and listen carefully to “Dos Oruguitas”. Give it a listen in the original Spanish and then check out an English translation of the lyrics. It is the turning point of the film for me, and I know there are plenty of people out there who wish someone in their own family would realize what needs to be done to mend a broken relationship.
Lastly, it goes without saying that this is a beautiful film. Disney always seems to bring it on this front and Encanto is no exception. The colors throughout the film are tremendous, and it feels very authentic for the place and time where it is set. I cannot say enough about this film, and if by some miracle you haven’t seen it yet, check it out today.
Encanto is available on Disney+.
1: Interstellar (2014)
I’m a bit ashamed to say this was a first time watch for me, but this is a safe space, right?
This was a huge gap in my movie resume when it comes to one of my favorite directors, Christopher Nolan and after watching it, I was so mad that it had eluded me for so long. Now, I have been a fan of Nolan’s since first seeing Memento back in the early 2000s. Following and Insomnia are now my only two remaining feature films of his that I haven’t seen.
But back to Interstellar, I thought I knew the basic premise of this film, but what I saw ended up being so much more, as I should have expected with Nolan. The short version is that Matthew McConaughey plays Joseph Cooper, a former astronaut turned farmer who is recruited lead a mission away from Earth in an effort to find a suitable planet where humanity can migrate. The mission takes him and his crew through a wormhole into another galaxy and after failing to find a suitable planet to harbor life, Cooper ends up falling into a blackhole where he eventually figures out how to communicate back through time and space with his daughter, giving her the information she needs to solve a gravity equation and the human race.
It's a lot to take in, and that story unfolds over two and a half hours of film, but even with that long running time, nothing feels wasted. Like most Nolan films, the tendrils of the story wind and unwind themselves around each other repeatedly in unexpected ways. You have to pay attention, but when you do, the payoff is incredible.
The acting in the film is superb as Nolan always seems to get the most out of his actors. McConaughey’s reaction to seeing his family all grown up when little time has passed in his own life is something that has been memed into ridiculousness at this point, but it remains a powerful moment. The names in this movie are huge, from Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, to John Lithgow and Nolan regular Michael Caine. Casey Affleck and Timothée Chalamet cover Cooper’s son as a boy and an adult, while Matt Damon shows up as an astronaut that Cooper and team meet on one of the planets they investigate. It’s a testament to the film that I didn’t even know he was in it before seeing him show up on screen.
I’m reminded a bit of James Cameron when it comes to the variety of things that spring from Nolan’s imagination. Of course, Cameron is much more concerned with the dangers of advancing technology (see Terminator and Avatar), while Nolan seems to be focused on the nature of time and how it could possibly be manipulated for various good or bad intentions. I’m so glad that we have people like Cameron and Nolan making movies today because they are able to keep things fresh and new.
Now I just need to find where I can watch Following and Insomnia.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?