Rick's Flicks

Sizing Up the Academy Awards for a Year of Movies Like No Other

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By Rick M. Pezzullo

The 93rd annual Academy Awards will be held this Sunday, Apr. 25 at 8 p.m. on ABC. The following is a recap of the Oscar-nominated movies and predictions.

Judas and the Black Messiah

Directed by Shaka King, this film tells the true story surrounding Fred Hampton’s death in the late 1960s. Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya, was the charismatic leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. William O’Neal, played by Lakeith Stanfield, is cornered into infiltrating the chapter at the behest of the FBI due to his own run-ins with the law.

Kaluuya’s performance is among his best as he has become one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars and fully encapsulates what made Hampton such an idolized figure. Stanfield also performs well in his role as a conflicted, but ultimately flawed individual who cannot sacrifice his freedom for his morality.

Although the film is a captivating and in-depth look into a story not well-known by many, “Judas and the Black Messiah” likely won’t win many awards on. Kaluuya should and will win for Best Supporting Actor for a film that truly deserves more recognition.

Rating: 9.5/10
Where to Watch: On-demand from Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play


This year’s award season darling is a drama that follows the life of a middle-aged woman who leaves her home after her husband died and she lost her job at a sheetrock plant.

Fern, played by Frances McDormand, begins her new life as a nomad and travels from town to town in the Midwest, picking up different jobs as she goes. She meets many people from different walks of life in her travels and is often conflicted in whether she should continue on with her nomadic ways living in her van or try to return to the “stable” lifestyle she had before her husband passed.

Director Chloe Zhao does a brilliant job with cinematography as some of the scenes are quite breathtaking. The movie tells a unique story that is not often highlighted by mainstream media, and it was a nice touch to employ real-life nomads in the film.

Despite this, “Nomadland” is one of the most boring films I’ve watched in my lifetime. Devoid of a true plot, it feels like you’re watching a four-hour documentary, even though it’s just over 90 minutes. 

McDormand does an excellent job in her role, as always, but nothing she did could have made me interested in this film. While I understand the stylistic elements that made this movie critically acclaimed and I respect shining a light on an marginalized population, I found it very difficult to relate to any of the characters.

“Nomadland” and Zhao are heavy favorites to take home Best Picture and Best Director respectively, but I’m not super excited about it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Where to Watch: Hulu

Sound of Metal

Directed by Darius Marder, “Sound of Metal” follows the life of a metal drummer named Ruben who loses his hearing in the midst of a tour with his band. Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed, also struggles with a history of drug addiction that has plagued him psychologically and with his relationship with his girlfriend, Lou.

While trying to find the money for cochlear implants, Ruben becomes a member of a group of hearing-impaired individuals who are similarly looking to rebuild their lives and adjust to their new reality.

Ahmed delivers his best performance to date playing a character with an abundance of internal struggle. His acting is raw, powerful and what appears to be a very realistic interpretation of what it would be like to suddenly lose your hearing when your livelihood and happiness depends on it. The scenes where audio is dulled and almost silenced are jarring, uncomfortable, but necessary in portraying the gravity of the situation that Ruben is experiencing.

In any other year where the late Chadwick Boseman was not nominated, Ahmed would have a very strong case for Best Actor. “Sound of Metal” may have a shot at Best Sound or Best Film Editing, but don’t expect a large haul for what could be one of the most snubbed movies of the year.

Rating: 9/10
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Political film and television veteran Aaron Sorkin directs this enthralling drama of the events surrounding the famous trial of the Chicago 7 in 1969.

Seven progressive activists, as well as the chairman of the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale, were arrested for allegedly inciting violence at the Democratic Convention the year before. It is evident that the arrests were merely a political stunt orchestrated by the new Nixon administration.

Sorkin does a masterful job of laying out the events from several vantage points and demonstrating the blatant injustice for the defendants by a corrupt and shameful legal system. Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne are standouts in their portrayals of Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden, respectively. A stacked cast that also features Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Keaton utilizes a witty and fast-paced style that is empowering and entertaining, which is the norm for most Sorkin films.

After a momentum-building win for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture at the SAG awards, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” has a real shot to upset “Nomadland” for the night’s biggest prize. Cohen will likely come up for short for Best Supporting Actor, but expect an Original Screenplay award for Sorkin.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is an outstanding film that is still thematically relevant to American society and would be a well-deserving winner of Best Picture on Oscar Sunday.

Rating: 9.5/10
Where to Watch: Netflix


This biographical drama follows the life of famous screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz as he writes the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.” Cursed with quick wit and impulsivity, Mank, portrayed by Gary Oldman, finds himself as much loved as he is maligned. A man riddled with flaws, such as alcoholism and a gambling addiction, Mank struggles with the many relationships he develops in the film industry, including those with his brother Joseph, Louis Mayer, Marion Davies, and William Hearst.

Oldman delivers a marvelous performance as Mank and has you feeling sympathetic for his character despite his many vices. The movie is filmed in black and white in an effort to transport the viewer to the 1930s, which I found to be a master stroke of cinematic brilliance and adds an authentic element to the story.

The film, however, is not without imperfections as the story is presented with constant flashbacks, which can be a bit confusing.

“Mank” leads all films with 10 Academy Award nominations, but realistically will only have a shot at Best Production Design. Oldman is certainly deserving of Best Actor, but will find himself coming up short to Boseman.

“Mank” is certainly worthy of its critical accolades and is a unique story for those interested in film history, especially regarding the writing of one of Hollywood’s classic movies.

Rating: 8.5/10
Where to Watch: Netflix

The Father

Based on the 2012 play, “Le Père,” “The Father” follows an elderly man dealing with dementia as his daughter attempts to find the best solutions to care for him. Anthony, played by Anthony Hopkins, struggles to remember where his belongings are, where he is, and who certain people are. Frustration builds up for both Anne, played by Olivia Colman, and Anthony as the quarrel over what events are real and what are not.

The film is a harsh reminder of the reality that faces so many families dealing with different forms of dementia. The burden that it places on family and caretakers is sometimes overwhelming and forces people to make difficult decisions for the ones they hold dear. The movie is certainly not uplifting, but is a purposefully raw experience to engross the audience in what it is like to live with such a debilitating disease.

Hopkins is first class as always and had me on the edge of tears at times with his performance. He is deserving of his Oscar nomination and his recent BAFTA win for Best Actor. “The Father” was nominated for six Academy Awards, but I don’t anticipate many wins for the film. It certainly is worth a watch if you are in the mood to be unsettled and to shed a few tears.

Rating: 8/10
Where to Watch: On-demand from Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play


Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, this drama follows the story of a Korean family moving to rural Arkansas in the 1980s in order to make a sustainable living using the crops from their new farmland. Jacob, played by Steve Yeun, is determined to make a success of himself after he and his wife, Monica, have had to work tirelessly their whole lives sexing chicks.

The Yi family has two children, David and Anne. David, the younger brother, has a heart condition that limits his ability to run, amongst other things. Monica and Jacob fly in Monica’s mother, Soon-ja, to help take care of the children, but she has a difficult time bonding with David. The family struggles with finances due to the upkeep of the farm, which puts a strain on their family dynamic and creates a stressful home environment.

“Minari” was a masterclass of character development and a film that had raw realism embedded in every scene. Loosely based off of Chung’s own experiences, the film portrays the hardships of the immigrant family as well as the internal struggle to develop family camaraderie in the face of adversity.

The cast is brilliant as Yeun and Youn Yuh-jung put on performances deserving of their Oscar nominations. “Minari” was nominated for six Academy Awards and Yuh-jung is the favorite to take home Best Supporting Actress.

In what seems to be a golden age of Korean filmmaking, “Minari” is in every way one of the best films of the year and would be well deserving of Best Picture on Sunday.

Rating: 10/10
Where to Watch: On-demand from Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play

Promising Young Woman

This unsettling comedy thriller stars Carey Mulligan, who plays Cassie Thomas, as she looks to avenge the death of her friend, Nina Fisher. While in medical school, Nina was raped by classmate Alexander Monroe, but the case was not investigated by the school and he was never convicted of any crime.

Nina and Cassie subsequently dropped out of school and Nina later commits suicide. Cassie has now dedicated herself to getting justice for Nina’s death by threatening and blackmailing people close to the case and bystanders from her class who refused to do anything at the time. She often exposes sexual predators by feigning drunkenness on weekends at various clubs and bars. Cassie’s life becomes consumed by her mission and ultimately hinders her ability to have a relationship with anyone.

Mulligan delivers a solid performance and is adept at being witty and equally spine-chilling in the way she conducts her “business.” The film itself is very original in concept and I found myself intrigued but also saddened by the way that society has failed so many women who are victims of sexual assault. Fans of plot twists will enjoy the film as it has many ebbs and flows that keep the viewer wondering the true direction.

The Academy has rewarded the film with five nominations, including one for Best Actress. In what is a wide-open field this year for Best Actress, Mulligan certainly has a shot to take home the prize. I wouldn’t expect many awards for “Promising Young Woman,” but its originality, wit and underlying message should certainly be commended.

Rating: 8.5/10
Where to Watch: On-demand from Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play

Predictions for This Year’s Major Academy Award Categories

Best Supporting Actor

Who Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Who Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)

 Best Supporting Actress

Who Should Win: Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”)
Who Will Win: Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”)

Best Actor

Who Should Win: Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Who Will Win: Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)

Best Actress

Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
Who Will Win: Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)

Best Director

Who Should Win: Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
Who Will Win: Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)

Best Picture

Who Should Win: “Minari”
Who Will Win: “Nomadland”

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