Oscars Fortnight: West Side Story (2021)

West Side Story (2021)

94th Academy Awards (2022)
Nominations:
7
Wins: We’ll see…

It’s strange to remember that when this week began, just a few days ago, I had never seen West Side Story. I knew some of the songs, like “I Feel Pretty,” “Maria,” and “America,” but I’m not sure if I knew they were all in the same musical. I knew that it was inspired by Romeo and Juliet (“inspired” is an understatement) with the Montagues and Capulets replaced by dancey finger-snappin’ hoodlums called the Jets and the Sharks. And I knew from a 2007 episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that there was a character named Officer Krupke that inspires the phrase “Krup you!” I really think that’s it. That’s all I knew. Until my life changed forever on Monday when I finally watched the 1961 film adaptation and have had this extremely theatrical version of Manhattan playing on repeat in my head ever since.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 9: Mystic River

Mystic River (2003)

The 76th Academy Awards (2004)
Nominations:
6
Wins: 2

It’s funny seeing what films at what times resonate with the Academy. Apart from the prestige of Mystic River being a Clint Eastwood film, I’m not sure what else it brings to the table. It has big performances that border on laughable. The story makes no sense. The mystery is shaky at best. Yet, it is n engaging thriller at times. Like an airport novel. Which makes sense considering it was adapted from what was essentially an airport novel. Some people just like a good time. Also, didn’t it seem like there was unusual interest in Boston in the mid-2000s? The Departed, anyone? Is it just me? Well, let’s get into it ya wicked pissas.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 8: The Insider

The Insider (1999)

The 72nd Academy Awards (2000)
Nominations:
7
Wins: 0

It’s weird to think there was a time when cigarettes were deemed equally dangerous as fast food. Joe Camel was in ads all the way up to 1997. People knew cigarettes were addictive but not how addictive. The story behind The Insider is an important building block in the campaign for the truth behind cigarettes. This is the story of Dr. Jeffery Wigand (Russell Crowe) who in real life was a whistleblower after revealing that his company, Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, was tampering with cigarettes to make them more addictive. It’s also the story of Al Pacino with big hair yelling a lot.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 7: The Piano

The Piano (1993)

The 66th Academy Awards (1994)
Nominations: 8
Wins: 3

Initially, my reasoning for picking The Piano to review was pretty obvious, as just like back in 1994, Jane Campion has one of her career-best films in the Oscar race this year. However, I became a little nervous about this pick after Campion made that weird comment about the Williams sisters at the Critic’s Choice Awards. Though she’s apologized since then and it seems the Oscar news cycle has moved on to claiming CODA as the frontrunner now? I don’t know. Anyways, even if The Power of The Dog doesn’t win a ton of Oscars, it’s in good company with The Piano, a simply ravishing and sensuous work that didn’t do so bad Oscar-wise considering it was up against Schindler’s List at the 66th Oscars. Continue reading

Oscars Fortnight Day 6: Reds

Reds (1981)

The 54th Academy Awards (1982)
Nominations: 12
Wins: 3

Reds is the kind of Oscar-winning film that has been a bit forgotten over the years for reasons that are pretty easy to pinpoint. First, it’s one of the longer Best Picture nominees at 195 minutes, putting it just behind The Irishman in length, but still ahead of this year’s Drive My Car. It also isn’t the work of some revered auteur, as Warren Beatty has one of the strangest filmographies I can think of, with this being his most acclaimed film by a pretty wide margin. And while it does mostly earn its 3-plus hours with a scope that could certainly be considered epic, it feels a little too heady and political to fit into your traditional notions of what constitutes a big-screen epic. Continue reading

Oscars Fortnight Day 5: Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)

The 48th Academy Awards (1976)
Nominations: 7
Wins: 4

I should hate this movie. It’s an English-period piece. It’s 3 hours long. It has Ryan “Oh God, Oh Man, Oh God” O’Neal. Yet against all odds, I loved it! It’s kind of a boring take to say it’s because Stanley Kubrick is a genius but there is a magic touch he brings to everything he touches.

What I like about Barry Lyndon is that it’s a scrappy American take on an English story. It’s engaging and exciting and funny. It’s beautiful to look at. It’s a great story with a great character (even with Ryan O’Neal playing him). Kubrick knew how to bring out the best in any actor. And even though it’s a 3-hour movie. I’d watch it again.

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Oscars Fortnight Day 4: Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur (1959)

32nd Academy Awards (1960)
Nominations: 12
Wins: 11

I’m gonna level with you, I wrote a big chunk of this review earlier this week before accidentally closing my document without saving it. So just like Judah Ben-Hur had to endure years of slavery and hardship, I had to endure writing this again, and you have to endure reading it. Let me see if I can remember the anecdote I initially started with.

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