The 2022 Oscars ceremony is approaching on March 27 and 10 new films are in the running for the title of best picture: Belfast, CODA, Don’t look up, drive my car, Dunes, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, alley of nightmares, The power of the dogand West Side Story. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and each of them could end up winning big. Looking ahead to the Oscars, we explain why each of them could deserve to hit the jackpot.


Belfastdirected by Kenneth Branagh.


In 1969 Belfast, lovable Buddy (Jude Hill) navigates the life of a fairly typical 9-year-old boy: he has a crush on a classmate, he steals candy, he receives worldly wisdom from his adorable grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds), and he listens to his parents (Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe) as they adorably fight over the money. But escalating sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics is tearing the community apart and threatening to cast a shadow over the family’s future. The story is based on Branagh’s own childhood experiences.


Belfast is pure Oscar catnip; no wonder he is considered one of the favorites. It’s a piece of personal and sentimental memoir of a beloved showman, an actor-director in the tradition of the titans of the London stage. (Over the past 30 years, Branagh has personally garnered eight Oscar nominations in an incredible seven different categories.) It’s a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of socio-political upheaval, blending undemanding and humanistic drama, why -can’t-we-just-get-along-by-hand-wringing. It’s the origin story of a filmmaker, featuring several scenes of a child’s face beaming with delight on a movie screen. It has Judi Dench (who also has eight Oscar nominations and one win). It’s in black and white. He has a very cute child. Academy voters swallow it all.


Don’t confuse any of this with cynicism: Belfast is a very heartfelt and heartfelt film that strives to honor a time and place that clearly means a lot to Branagh. He has great clarity about the painful dilemma at his heart: should the family abandon the home they love and the community that defines it, or stay and risk being consumed by The Troubles? It’s also an entertaining and beautifully acted film. Sunny Hill is a little too eager as young Buddy, but Dench, Hinds, Dornan and Balfe all put on charming and engaging performances, with the gorgeous young couple adding unrealistic but far from life-like movie star glamor. undesirable. to the drama of the kitchen sink. Perhaps best of all, Branagh knows the limits of our indulgence, and he completes his trip down memory lane in a perfectly effective 98 minutes.


Many criticisms are to be addressed Belfast. It’s incredibly unsubtle, with over-the-top direction, broad characterization, and predictable, on-the-nose story beats. Branagh, who is never one to be overwhelmed by humility, cannot resist commendable self-mythification. (There is a photo of young Buddy reading an issue of Thorintended to evoke Branagh’s direction of the first Marvel Cinematic Universe Thor movie.) He also can’t bring himself to see his family in anything other than a holy light. And while his portrayal of The Troubles avoids the most obvious pitfalls by staying largely aloof (Buddy’s perfectly tolerant family and the film’s most despicable bigots are all Protestant), it is devoid of nuance and attempt struggling with social and political realities. , or to describe the human cost. But Oscar voters are less likely to be deterred by any of this than by Branagh’s rough reviews. Death on the Nile.


Photo: focus features

Ciaran Hinds (game of thrones, Tinker Tailor Spy Soldier, Frozen) is a Belfast native and a soulful and humorous performer. It’s wonderful to see Belfast give him a worthy platform. He plays Buddy’s grandfather with tender gravity, giving the town a human voice that could so easily have been drowned out by Branagh’s frantic settings and rose-tinted nostalgia. His Best Supporting Actor nomination is well deserved.


Belfast is available for rent at Amazon, Appleand Vudu. For the other nominees, check out our streaming guide to every 2022 Oscar nominee.


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