It’s a transitional period for movies, the Academy Awards, and, most importantly, Oscar villains.
Don’t you remember the Oscar villains? They used to be the movies that made you sigh in front of the TV every time they won an award, ugh!
What did they make of it? In the 1980s and 1990s, the Oscar villain might have been a lavish period piece from Merchant-Ivory or Miramax, which beat the gritty, more authentic film you were hoping for.
Maybe it was the middlebrow drama that kept your favorite director from receiving their long-awaited award. Or perhaps it was a film that was simply bad. But that’s enough of Crash!
The Academy Awards have never been free of politics.
When things became more heated throughout the Trump years, Hollywood progressivism was pitted against online progressivism and was generally judged wanting.
The threat of Trumpism seemed to be hidden by the major contestants.
There was La La Land, a film in which a white man had strong feelings about jazz and glowed with love for a fictional 1950s. Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, Three Billboards soft-pedaled police brutality.
Green Book was an interracial buddy film whose determined refusal to upset white audiences became obnoxious in and of itself. Critics genuinely wondered if an Oscar candidate could spark a mass shooting after seeing Joker.
When I spoke with Academy staffers back then, I got the impression that they didn’t particularly enjoy the annual backlash cycle.
The Oscars were intended to bring people together! But, given what’s happened since — dwindling viewership, relevancy, and a growing sense that the films they’re supposed to honor are on their way out — I’m sure they’d bite off their arms if they saw bloggers calling the Best Picture front-runner fascist propaganda.
At the very least, they’d know someone was paying attention.
Last year, there was no Oscar villain.
What was the sense of doing it if no one was watching? However, just as the first shoots of spring begin to emerge, so do the first hints of potential Oscar villains for 2022.
A GIF of a grimace here, a subtweet there. It is my responsibility as a renowned scholar in the field of Oscar villainy to gather and catalog this proof.
Here’s my early list of the top 15 Best Picture possibilities, as selected by GoldDerby, in the order that they’ll most likely cause social media conniptions when they win.
Without a hero, a villain is nothing. In the (often unlikely) event that they win, these are the films that will be lauded.
Drive My Car
Welcome to the 2022 awards season, where a three-hour Japanese movie about a grief-stricken actor directing a play of Uncle Vanya might not seem like the logical pick to ignite a flame war between cinema critics and Oscar commentators.
When Drive My Car won top prizes from critics, award forecasters chastised those organizations for selecting such an intentionally obscure film.
(In addition to its lengthy runtime, the picture has only made less than $1 million at the box office in the United States and is not available on Netflix.)
Criticism retaliated, claiming that it was not their business to sway the Oscar race; pundits referred to critics as “dishonest elitists.”
Because Drive My Car is such a clear long shot, there’s no better way to prove you’re a true cinephile than to vote for Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s picture – it proves you’re one of the few people who has really watched it.
The Lost Daughter
Despite the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is funded by Netflix, it still feels like an outsider amid the awards season.
Anyone who thinks female characters should “be pleasant,” “have simply explainable intentions,” or “not masturbate around little children” would scoff at the Ferrante adaption.
The Power of the Dog
The other cinephile’s pick for the race, and one with a chance of winning.
Jane Campion’s satire of toxic masculinity is unquestionable in terms of subject matter, and the metanarrative is brilliant as well.
The Power of the Dog is not only a woman filmmaker’s best achievement but also her first film of any kind in almost a decade.
Imagine having to wait that long for Spielberg or Scorsese.
Apple paid a record $25 million for this short film about a teenage girl and her sexy Deaf family at Sundance.
There was a time, perhaps ten or fifteen years ago, when such a massive sum of money would have caused the commentariat to swell with Schadenfreude.
The culture has moved on from those ill feelings as the indie film market has collapsed. Filmmakers, get your money any way you can!
Tick, Tick … Boom!
It’s much nobler to adapt a one-man show about reaching 30 and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous eye-rolls than it is to adapt a Broadway smash. Lin-Manuel Miranda had the unfortunate misfortune of becoming the epitome of everything that filthy lefties and TikTok zoomers despise about Obama-era pop culture, but Netflix has done a wonderful job of disguising him and making Andrew Garfield the campaign’s face.
Garfield was also caught in the thick of a Spider-Man-inspired blush of benevolence at the same time!
The Muddled Middle
The line between hero and villain in these flicks hasn’t been drawn yet. One well-crafted tweet might be the deciding factor.
People tried to do the math after King Richard’s release, saying that the narrative of the greatest tennis partnership of all time was told from a man’s perspective.
They were quickly informed that the film’s executive producers are Venus and Serena Williams. (The term “white feminism” was widely used.) It’s worth noting that the case could be reopened if Will Smith says additional strange sex things.
Two years of industry upheaval have put serious adult films, the Oscars’ bread, and butter, in jeopardy. As a result, there’s been a lot of concern this season about whether the Academy should go for the figurative life preserver and devote more attention to IP-driven blockbusters, which seem to be the only movies everyone wants to watch in theatres these days.
The acceptable face of this argument is Dune, a sophisticated, elegantly crafted tentpole that, if it won Best Picture, would raise a few questions.
But I don’t get the impression that the audience is as excited as they were for Mad Max: Fury Road a few years ago.
The Tragedy of Macbeth
I suppose there would have been some annoyance if Joel Coen’s Shakespeare adaption had become a front-runner because its premise and pedigree were clear Academy catnip: Haven’t these folks already won enough Oscars? But that didn’t happen, and the film remains on the periphery of the Best Picture debate.
Studios of the Twentieth Century Overcritical favorites including Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, and Lady Bird, Guillermo del Toro’s previous picture, The Shape of Water, won both Best Picture and Best Director.
While critics weren’t exactly warm to del Toro’s noir pastiche, any reason to knock him down a notch evaporated when Nightmare Alley flopped at the holiday box office.
A black-and-white re-release attempts to correct the situation, but it comes off as the cinematic equivalent of donning a fedora.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with No Way Home, a perfectly delightful superhero film that happened to be released at a time when superhero movie fans were the only ones in the theatres.
Many of the same critics who complain that the Oscars are “too woke” jumped on its Best Picture nomination, implying that if you don’t think a Spider-Man sequel is one of the year’s top ten films, you must be a pencil-necked intellectual who would have voted for Adlai Stevenson a third time if you could.
Kenneth Branagh’s black-and-white autobiographical drama is the race’s most conventional, approachable, and basic pick. Belfast is a film that your grandparents will enjoy, which is both accurate and a small sneer. Some internet commentators have likened his focus on Northern Irish Protestants to making a Holocaust film about German civilians’ suffering.
None of these quibbles, however, have solidified into a persistent critique — perhaps because the film’s audience is still limited, or perhaps because the 90-minute charmer is simply too modest to despise.
West Side Story
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner deserve credit for giving it their all.
The Puerto Rican characters were expanded out, the Jets were transformed into current avatars of white anger, and a minor character was trans. To the writers of And Just Like That, that could have been a $100 million subtweet.
See, it’s feasible to bring an old IP up to date with 21st-century norms without resorting to a massive button that screams “Woke Moment!” Unfortunately, all of that effort simply served to amplify the outcry, with think pieces hailing West Side Story’s publication as irredeemably racist and the artistic adjustments as “pandering.”
When you factor in the sexual-assault claims leveled against star Ansel Elgort, a significant mental obstacle for the educated moviegoer, it’s easy to see why, despite a diverse ensemble and wonderful reviews, the musical has struggled to establish itself as the progressive pick in the race.
Yes, it’s a lighthearted romance between a 15-year-old boy and a 20-something woman, but the age gap nonsense has always looked forced, and it appears to have worn itself out.
If Paul Thomas Anderson’s picture succeeds, I expect additional uproar, especially surrounding John Michael Higgins’ character, a restaurant owner who speaks to his Japanese wife in a racist accent right out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
What are the chances that out-of-context clips of those scenes will start circulating on Twitter if Anderson wins Best Original Screenplay? Let’s take an example… a thousand percent
Don’t Look Up
Don’t Look Up is a unique kind of Oscar antagonist. The film’s politics are unmistakably leftist; it’s just that everything about them is so irritating that it’s become a hate object anyhow. (Besides, no one can argue that filming a star-studded Netflix comedy is a good way to combat climate change.)
Blogging is true practice.) Adam McKay has gotten on critics’ nerves since rebranding himself as a smarty-pants satirist, and co-writer David Sirota didn’t help matters when he spent the holidays declaring that everyone who gave Don’t Look Up an unfavorable review was participating in the planet’s destruction.
McKay, on the other hand, is a far less divisive personality in the industry. You have to accept that Don’t Look Up winning Best Picture would be a victory of a specific kind of filmmaking.
Being the Ricardos
Because it wasn’t 1999 anymore, Aaron Sorkin was already on thin ice.
Then he built the climax of his film around a heroic intervention by none other than… J. Edgar Hoover?! For Sorkin, I’ll say this:
He couldn’t have come up with a better demonstration of MSNBC liberalism’s philosophical emptiness if he tried.
This hasn’t been an issue for Guild voters, who have showered the Amazon production with nominations and crowned Nicole Kidman the front-runner for Best Actress. If the picture wins Best Picture, it would do the unthinkable:
it will unite art-house lovers, anti-streaming activists, and those who want the Oscars to reflect mainstream taste in anger.
Why is everyone so upset that a terrible Hollywood biopic was nominated for an Academy Award? Perhaps