Oscar Nominees bring range, from predictable to pleasantly surprising

Courtesy of Past Lives

The Oscars are coming up, and many film geeks are waiting in anticipation of the results. This year is going to be a tough one — there are plenty of strong opinions about the movies competing. Barbenheimer, a cultural event, was a 2023 milestone, but these are not the only two in the running — Poor Things and Killers of The Flower Moon are up there too, among others.

In the spirit of Oscar season, I watched two of the nominated movies and am providing my opinions on the story, message, cinematography and aesthetics. If taking less than half (so far) of a Radical Film class with Michael Mirabile makes one an expert, then you can consider this an expert opinion. If not, consider this the opinion of a mere casual movie enjoyer.


I have seen Barbie several times now, for many reasons. That said, this is not a movie I want to see many more times. It was fantastic the first time, and yes, I cried in the theater. The aesthetics and attention to detail in the sets and costumes were wonderful, especially with so many callbacks to classic Barbie accessories and outfits. But despite this, it is not very re-watchable, in my opinion, due to the predictability of the plot and the overplayedness of the soundtrack.

I will be the absolute last person on the planet to dump on Greta Gerwig; her writing and directing skills are incredible, and the writing specifically for this film was right up my alley with a perfect level of satire and what I would describe as confusing humor. Confusing, because coming out of the theater the first time we watched it together, my mom seemed more perplexed than anything, and said to her it just seemed “weird,” not being a person who particularly enjoys satire. The humor was meant to imitate the style of a child’s “pretend play,” the dialogue purposefully odd at times in ways a child might have the dolls interact, and that humor just is not appealing to some. 

The messages about feminism and equality were wonderful and presented in an easily understood role-reversal manner. It is an enjoyable comedy with a deep societal message. I would not complain if it won, but I also think there are more great films to consider first.

Past Lives

This film ripped my heart out a little bit, I will not lie. It twisted together a fated romance, an immigrant story and the existence and discovery of platonic soulmates into one gorgeous film that made me shed a tear or two as the credits rolled. The lead actress, Greta Lee, was fantastic in her role, and Celine Song wrote and directed a beautiful script. 

I enjoyed the cinematography as well; every shot was visually interesting. The characters were complex, particularly Nora, the main character, which made it feel so much more real. Culture also played a large part in the story, with Nora’s Korean-American identity serving as a strong driver of the plot.     Different characters are meant to represent certain parts of Nora’s cultural identity, depicting her past relationships as tied to the places she lived in at the time. The film brings into question the existence of different forms of love as well as the ways that culture can separate or unite people.

This next part will include spoilers. Moving onto the story, it gave me very complicated emotions, to say the least. I am a true lover of doomed love stories (I enjoy a good cry every now and then) but this was one that, for once, I hoped would not work out. For a while, I saw the relationship between her and her childhood “love” going in the direction of an emotional affair, due to the fact that she ended up married to someone else who loved her deeply. Personally, I am not the type who enjoys emotional affair tropes in romance, and I was already typing out my angry review in my head. But luckily, the two childhood sweethearts had a respectful conversation, and they managed to have a very deep platonic relationship by the end, a bond that started with the possibility of becoming something more but did not, and never will in this life.

Movies are long, and I only got through two, but there are many excellent ones nominated this year for the Oscars, so keep an eye out for the results!

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