The Oscar Project
We’re on to the number three and four top first time watches of 2022 for me and I have a couple more Oscar nominees from last year in the mix. Both are readily available on streaming services you probably already have, so go check them out if you haven’t already!
4: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) (2021)
The second of my top 10 first time watches that was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film last year, and this one won. I watched this a few weeks before the Oscar ceremony and so glad that I did.
The film looks at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a music festival that took place over the course of the summer that year. The festival itself brought in musical acts including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone, all of which can be seen in the film, along with many more. The festival was also put on the same year as Woodstock, just about 100 miles away, and yet most people have never heard of the Harlem Cultural Festival.
I loved seeing all the different musical acts as they were in the last 1960s, but also the other aspects of the festival. People bringing picnic lunches, cooking food on the grass at the shows, and of course dancing. Debut director Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of The Roots brought such love and care to the subject matter that it showed in the presentation of the film. Along with that, the fact that he was able to interview many of the participants and organizers some fifty years later, shows how important it was to those involved.
Even if you have no interest in the cultural elements of this, I strongly urge you to check out Summer of Soul for the music alone. If it doesn’t get you on your feet at least once, then you might need to check your pulse.
Summer of Soul is available on Hulu.
3: Don’t Look Up (2021)
I’m pretty sure there are two types of people that watch Don’t Look Up: those that see it for what it is and are appropriately scared at how accurately it portrays our social media obsessed society, and those who look at it and think that it’s straight up funny and could never possibly happen. Unfortunately, it’s that second group that the first group is truly afraid of.
There is so much going for this film, that it’s hard to know where to start. The basic premise is one we’ve seen before in films like Deep Impact and Armageddon (affiliate links). An astronomer (Jennifer Lawrence) and her professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) discover a comet that will impact Earth in just a few months, causing an extinction level event and must warn the world, hoping to spur humanity into saving itself. However, where Deep Impact and Armageddon focus more on the act of saving ourselves, Don’t Look Up chooses to instead focus on the direct impact of such news on society, especially in an age where national news outlets can gather data from tweets and Facebook in real time.
Don’t Look Up is true satire and goes way over the line. Would our societal response to news like this be quite this bad? Probably not. But based on events in recent years, there would be some in our world that would take things to the extreme. All the elements of our insane world are on display here. You have the President (Meryl Streep) and her chief-of-staff/son (Jonah Hill) who only care about the upcoming election. There is the billionaire tech CEO (Mark Rylance) who is only worried about how he can turn the crisis to his own profit. And don’t forget the always jovial news hosts (Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett) who relegate a truly newsworthy item like a comet colliding with Earth to the last 3 minutes of their show.
Is it over the top? Yes. But unfortunately, I think things HAVE to be a bit overblown to get any sort of consideration these days. Don’t Look Up is just that film that slaps you across the face and says “wake the hell up people!”
Don’t Look Up is available to stream on Netflix.
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?