Dear Academy, please do not let Adam McKay’s 2021 Netflix film, Don’t Look Up win the Best Picture award at the Oscars 2022. Do not get me wrong, I absolutely enjoyed the film and the biting satire it was laced with. I enjoyed that they did it all while commenting on the precariousness of the government and media in the wake of a global crisis while also serving as an allegory on the global reaction to the ongoing climate change crisis.
It also starred hordes of personal favourites in satirical roles. I absolutely enjoyed the roast of the Republicans led by the very Trump-like Meryl Streep and the commentary on the predicament of the media response in the hyper capitalistic scenario. However, not even Timothee Chalamet’s appearance as fan service can change my mind about the film being the most significant questionable nomination at the Academy Awards this year (besides the Best Actor and Best Actress nominations for Meet the Ricardos).
2021 was indeed an eventful year with brilliant releases across all cinematic genres. Netflix had a pretty good year, with Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog winning a staggering number of 12 nominations, including Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor for Benedict Cumberbatch, Best Supporting Actors for Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee and Best Supporting Actress for Kirsten Dunst. Thanks to Campion’s brilliance, the streamer has been successful across all categories.
However, the biggest surprise came in the form of McKay’s film being nominated for the Best Picture award, alongside the likes of Campion’s The Power of the Dog, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Sian Heder’s Coda and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.
While fans are excited to see if Campion’s The Power of the Dog will finally break the Netflix curse and help the streamer bag its first-ever Best Picture award, my personal vote goes out for Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, which might become the first-ever Japanese picture to win an Oscar, following the footsteps of Bong Joon-ho, whose South Korean socio-political critique, Parasite made history by being the first-ever foreign-language film to win the Best Picture award at the Academy.
An adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story from his collection, Men Without Women, the film is an intimate, provocative and melancholy exploration of grief, acceptance and love as a jaded widower connects with his young female driver over their shared troubled past and the inability to move on. Their individual stories overlap and implode into each other, creating an exalting story of emotions and aesthetics that lingers in the minds of viewers long after the credits start rolling.
However, Campion’s The Power of the Dog is an equally competent film that basks in the glory of the director’s masterful storytelling, as adapted from Thomas Savage’s eponymous 1960s novel. It delves into the understanding of alienation, jealousy, toxic masculinity and homophobia in the 1920s society where the wealthy Burbank brothers own a ranch. The climax scene, especially, sees Cumberbatch explode into a daze of rage and anxiety that goes down as one of the finest examples of improvised method acting. With brilliant aesthetics and compelling narrative, the cathartic angle makes it a brilliant watch.
The Academy has been criticised on multiple occasions for its lack of diversity and representation. This year, the nomination for McKay’s film seems to be an attempt on their part to appeal to the niche of Hollywood, ignoring its aim to be more inclusive. The film stars a huge ensemble cast with heavyweight names, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, Tyler Perry, Ariana Grande, Mark Rylance, Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, Kid Cudi and others. Sure, it does start an important conversation about the climate change crisis and the nonchalance and hilarious ignorance of humanity to an impending crisis. It trolls Republicans and lays a solid critique of social media. But the question arises, is it good enough to compete with the other heavyweight names in the race? Frankly, no!
When Crash won the Best Picture award over Brokeback Mountain in the early 2000s, the Academy was criticised for being homophobic. They have made umpteen blunders in terms of nominations and wins over the years. However, if Don’t Look Up does not win this time, we will surely laud the Academy to make a sensible decision and save face.
To quote DiCaprio from the film, “We really did have everything, didn’t we? I mean, when you think about it.” Yes, you did – you had a stellar ensemble, amazing promotions and a brilliant message with hints of dark humour – except that you’re no Drive My Car or The Power of the Dog.