This Sunday marks the 93rd Annual Academy Awards and, more importantly, my niece’s 7th Annual Academy Award Party. In preparation for the party, my daughters and I watched all eight movies (and many others that were nominated for other awards). Here is my take on the eight Best Picture nominees (click on the titles to see the movie trailers):

Official Nomandland Poster - Frances McDormand sitting by her van with laundry hanging above her

The acting was amazing. After watching “Nomadland,” I picked Frances McDormand for best actress. That is until I watched Carrie Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman.”

And I thought Riz Ahmed should win for his role as a deaf heavy metal musician in “The Sound of Metal” until I saw Anthony Hopkins‘ performance in “The Father.”

My guess is Chadwick Boseman will win posthumously and I’m okay with that, he was terrific in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” I’m fine with whoever wins–they all deserve it.


The Trial of the Chicago 7 poster of a crowd outside the Supreme Court buildingThe film editing is incredible. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (edited by Alan Baumgarten) dramatizes the events during the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1968. But instead of telling the story in a linear fashion, events are told backwards, during the trial, as the evidence against the defendants is presented and witnesses give their testimony.

The Father movie poster with Olivia Coleman and Anthony Hopkins While I appreciated the film editing in “The Trial of Chicago Seven”, I think Yorgos Lamprinos should win for editing “The Father.” In “The Father,” the main character suffers from memory loss and the beginning stages of dementia, but that isn’t apparent until scenes are repeated with different actors playing the same roles. This technique makes the audience feel the frustration, fear, and confusion the main character feels. It’s brilliant.


Judas and the Black Messiah poster with Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield

In addition to “Mank” (see below), two of the movies are historical. I liked “The Trial of the Chicago Seven” better than “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Both movies take place in the 1960s and even overlap (the Black Messiah, real-life Fred Hampton, appears in both movies).

While I appreciated Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as the Black Messiah and expect he’ll win for best supporting actor, I preferred “The Trial of the Chicago Seven” better. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the screenplay gave me enough background to understand how those events came to a head. “Judas and the Black Messiah”, however, left me wondering about the origin of the Black Panthers and their purpose and goals.


The Sound of Metal poster with Riz Ahmed at the drumsThe sound editing in “The Sound of Metal” (by Nicolas Becker) is unbelievable. This picture is my favorite because of the character arc of the protagonist, a young heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing (written by Darius Marder, Derek Cianfrance and Abraham Marder).

The sound track mimic’s the main character’s hearing loss. Like “The Father”, the audience intimately experiences what the character goes through. Side note–I’m not a fan of heavy metal, so was happy there were only a few minutes of that music in the beginning of the movie.


A Promising Young Woman movie poster of Carrie Mulligan writing in lipstick on a mirror

I also liked the character development in “Promising Young Woman.” When people recommended I watch this movie, they cringed and it’s no wonder. The movie is about a young woman who goes to bars and pretends to be drunk to entrap unscrupulous men. I liked the twists in this movie and found the disturbed protagonist to be sympathetic. I only wish they had a scene with at least one good man.


Official Manari Poster -- little boy walking across a lawn holding a manari plantI didn’t like the character development as much in “Minari.” However, there is much to like about this movie about South Korean immigrants moving from California to their plot of land in Arkansas. My favorite character was the grandmother, played by Youn Yuh-jung who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress and deserves to win. Her relationship with her grandson is gold.

However, I didn’t like how her daughter was depicted as the nagging wife, squashing her husband’s dream. That storyline has been told so many times it’s become a cliche.


The official Mank poster - black and white illustration with all the main charactersMy least favorite movie was “Mank” about Herman Mankiewicz, the writer who won the Academy Award for the 1941 movie “Citizen Kane.” While I appreciate a movie which gives credit to writers (without writers there would be no movies), I wasn’t sure who the intended audience was.

I saw “Citizen Kane” in my twenties and remember little about the movie because I fell asleep watching it. My daughters have never seen it and I’m guessing many in their generation (and mine) also haven’t seen it. Many of the references to people meant nothing to me. Other characters I had to explain to my daughter. The slow pacing didn’t help. If “Mank” hadn’t been nominated for best picture, we would have stopped watching it.


With the exception of “Mank”, I encourage you to watch all these movies. They each bring something valuable to the viewing experience and are incredibly entertaining.

Have you seen any of these movies? If so, what did you think? Let me know!


Where you can see me:


Cocktails and Conversation LogoOn the Chicago Writers Association YouTube Channel! I discuss the research I do for my novels with CWA Board Member,  Samantha Hoffman. We cover my online research (like UV light and what it exposes), my in-person interview with a particle physicist, and my adventures attending a survival school and hiking the Appalachian Trail.


For Homeschoolers

Caitlin and Jessica, in cap in gown,holding their college diplomas on the day Jessica graduates from Drake University

Be sure to check out my homeschooling blog: Seize the Day – Homeschool! In the latest edition, I discuss “Homeschoolers and College.” 





Kristin holding her books


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