My Oscars Quest 2023 Quick-Start Scorecard

Michelle Yeoh looking peaceful, eyes closed, with an explosion behind her.

Michelle Yeoh descends from the heavens to accept her honors.

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture winner from Wings to CODA, and every Best Picture nominee from 1987 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. You take the good, you take the bad, and so on.

In addition, this will be my third annual Oscars Quest Expanded Challenge, which was inspired by that darn pandemic — to see not just all the Best Picture nominees, but as many nominees as possible in all the other categories as well. When new releases were going quickly or directly to home video while theaters were shuttered, the Expanded Challenge was easier for me. I saw all but two of last year’s nominees, and am still missing eight nominees from the year before that. Someday maybe I’ll complete those sets. In the meantime, I have concerns about this year’s logistics now that theaters are back in business. I’m probably looking at far more trips away from home to reach my pointless personal goal, mood and local cinema schedules permitting.

Of this year’s nominees, I’ve already watched the following in theaters and written about them in previous entries:

I caught the following nominees on home video in 2022 and wrote about them as part of a single 4600-word marathon:

  • Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  • Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
  • RRR
  • Top Gun: Maverick
  • Turning Red

Between January 1st and today I watched four additional Oscar-potential films that I thought stood a chance of receiving at least one nomination apiece. Doing my homework early sounded like a good idea at the time. My judgment was off-base: three of those four failed to show up as finalists. Of those, two sucked and shall remain nameless unless anyone cares to ask; the third, The Woman King, was stupendous, wrenching, and robbed by Academy voters.

As for that fourth one — which Anne and I caught this past Saturday, in fact — let’s give it its standard MCC capsule before I start my binge in earnest and have to write a bunch of these in a row:

All Quiet on the Western Front: I saw the original 1930 adaptation long ago as part of my late-1990s “Every Best Picture Winner Ever” viewing project, but it’s one of several that I barely remember. As a kid I saw a little of the 1979 TV-movie version starring Richard “John-Boy” Thomas, but all I recall is the ironic ending. The all-new German adaptation jettisons nearly all of boot camp as well as the sequence where Our Hero goes home on leave, only to realize more or less that you/he can’t go home again. What’s left expands on the beauteous Roger Deakins battlescapes of 1917 with fully realized visuals of its own, incurs some indebtedness to Saving Private Ryan‘s war-gore with a dividend payout or two (“let’s do our own tank scene, but by gum, someone’s going under those treads”), tosses in anachronisms that surely weren’t in the novel (one skirmish in particular is Crisis on Infinite Earths but for weapons and vehicles that were never in use concurrently), and seasons generously from Paths of Glory (the German officers’ sybaritic command spaces provide gravy-thick irony). It might be far more simplified than previous versions, but its antiwar message resonates no less, and newcomers to the story get a faint gist of how Erich Maria Remarque’s take on the Great War numbered among the forefathers of Full Metal Jacket.

That said: I didn’t expect nine nominations for this, but I won’t rebut them.

* * * * *

That leaves me with 38 more nominees to go before I sleep. Some are still in theaters, some proprietary to specific services, some available for rental, and some in unwatchable limbo as of this writing, which is not cool and hopefully temporary. Setting aside the ten shorts that I plan to catch in their annual Shorts.TV theatrical runs when the time comes per annual MCC tradition, the other 28 nominees on my to-do list break down as follows:

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES, WHICH MEANS I HAVE TO SEE THEM NO MATTER WHAT OR ELSE I HAVE FAILED MYSELF:

  • Elvis
  • The Fabelmans
  • Triangle of Sadness
  • Women Talking

NOMINEES I’M SINCERELY LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING:

  • Aftersun
  • All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
  • EO
  • Fire of Love
  • Living
  • Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
  • Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
  • The Sea Beast
  • To Leslie
  • The Whale

NOMINEES WITH MIXED REVIEWS, BUT LET’S CROSS OUR FINGERS AND GIVE ‘EM A WHIRL, WHAT THE HECK:

  • Causeway
  • Empire of Light

NOMINEES ON HBO, WHICH WE DON’T SUBSCRIBE TO, BUT WHICH I CAN WATCH IF OUR CABLE TV COMPANY HOLDS ONE OF ITS IRREGULAR “WATCHATHON” WEEKENDS DURING THIS TIME FRAME:

  • All That Breathes
  • Navalny

THE AMAZON-PRIME-EXCLUSIVE NOMINEES I’LL NEVER GET TO SEE BECAUSE WE DON’T SUBSCRIBE AND APPARENTLY YOU CAN’T EVEN RENT THEM, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT:

  • Argentina, 1985

OTHER NOMINEES I’D NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE TODAY, BUT LET’S GIVE THEM A SHOT, MAYBE THEY’LL BE AWESOME:

  • Close
  • The Elephant Whisperers
  • Haulout
  • A House Made of Splinters
  • How do You Measure a Year?
  • The Martha Mitchell Effect
  • The Quiet Girl
  • Stranger at the Gate
  • Tell It Like a Woman

NOMINEES I HAD HOPED WOULD BE SNUBBED AND I COULD GO TO MY GRAVE HAVING NEVER SEEN THEM, BUT HERE WE ARE, THANK YOU SOOOOOO FRICKIN’ MUCH, ACADEMY:

  • Babylon
  • Bardo
  • Blonde
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Let the Oscar Quest begin! Updates as they occur, only here on MCC! And maybe on my Twitter feed if I’m in the mood! And in our living room if you’re my wife and prone to putting up with me!

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

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