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A Librarian Looks at Oscars 2022: Inclusive Stories, Exclusive Access
Posted On February 24, 2022
PAGE: 1 2


Jess & Brandi on the 2022 Oscars

Click here to listen!

Jess and Brandi discuss their hot takes on the 2022 Oscar nominations in their first-ever recorded conversation. Jess starts the conversation with Brandi on Best Supporting Actor and the two delve into all major nominations, including Best Picture, and end the conversation with questions about pop culture access for libraries and patrons. Diversity, streaming, access, performances, and more are on the docket.

The 2022 Oscars will take place on Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

The opinions of the hosts do not reflect endorsement by any organization.

Our conversation, recorded on Feb. 9, has been edited for clarity.

Jess: Today we are talking about the Oscars for 2022—different nominations in acting categories and picture categories, director category, and what our takes are on all those things. Our hot-take scenarios. Our first category up would be Best Supporting Actor nominee. Do you want to run through who is nominated for those?

Best Supporting Actor

Being the Ricardos movie posterBrandi: First we have Ciarán Hinds for Belfast (he’s a first-time nominee), Troy Kotsur for CODA (first-time nominee, and he’s also the first deaf man nominated; the second deaf person after Marlee Matlin), Jesse Plemons for The Power of the Dog (first-time nominee), J.K. Simmons for Being the Ricardos (this is his second nomination, and he won his first nomination for Whiplash), and then Kodi Smit-McPhee for Power of the Dog (another first-time nominee). So that’s what jumped out at me most, is that this is a category of not exactly newbies—they’ve been around—but they haven’t been Oscar-nominated.

Jess: Did you watch the telecast, or did you look at them after the fact?

Brandi: I did watch. I watched Leslie Jordan and Tracee Ellis Ross being fabulous at 5:30 a.m.

Jess: I also watched the telecast, so I was excited to see a lot of these people, but also this was one of the categories that kind of surprised me, mostly because of Jesse Plemons getting it. I did not see that coming at all; I don’t think anybody really did. Both of us listen to a lot of Oscars podcasts and stuff, and I don’t think I heard anybody forecast him getting into this category, even though I loved him in the movie. So I thought that was nice, and I know later on, we’ll probably mention about the different couples who happen to be nominated, but I thought that was a nice surprise.

Brandi: I think we knew Kodi Smit-McPhee was a shoo-in; he seemed like he was the one from that movie that would get Supporting, so it is nice, but then it’s also difficult now that they’re competing against each other from the same movie.

Jess: Yeah, there’s the chance like, “Are you gonna split the vote?” I don’t know, but my favorite in that category has to be Kodi Smit-McPhee because he was the best part of that movie.

Brandi: Because I haven’t seen all of them, from what I have seen, I agree. I think he was just so haunting in that and so creepy in such a good way. He was very good. And from everything I’ve heard about CODA, Troy is kind of the heart of the movie. And Belfast, I don’t really know what role Ciarán plays; I’ll have to watch it and see. Is he the dad?

Jess: I have no idea, and I need to watch it, but it’s not yet available.

Brandi: Right, we haven’t seen Belfast because it’s the one you have to rent for $20, and yeah, neither of us want to do that.

Jess: I haven’t been that committed, but now—I don’t know, will I wait it out ‘til March or will I end up succumbing to the pressure and renting it for way too much money? I don’t know, but I like him as an actor, Ciarán Hinds, because I believe he’s in Game of Thrones, and I think he gets killed off pretty early if I’m remembering the right show. But I’m pretty sure that that’s him. I recognized him immediately when I saw the still, even though I haven’t seen the movie.

Brandi: And then the other big surprise in that one is J.K. Simmons, who is always great. Never a false note with J.K. Simmons. But it’s just—why did he sneak in there? The movie’s just not up to par.

Jess: No, and you even liked the movie more than I did, so yes, I think that’s saying something. But I feel like nominating J.K. Simmons for this movie is like nominating J.K. Simmons for Spider-Man. It’s just, yeah, he’s fine, but is it worth an Oscar? No. So, I don’t know, that one I was a little confused about. Was there any snubs for you in that category?

Brandi: No, I didn’t have any off the top of my head or a knee-jerk reaction of someone that should have gotten in.

Jess: The one that I keep seeing in a lot of articles is Jared Leto for House of Gucci. I’m wondering if those people saw House of Gucci, because he’s very funny—it’s a very popcorn-type movie. It’s not anything bad to watch. But is it an Oscar performance? Just because you put on a fat suit and a bunch of makeup doesn’t make it an Oscar performance, so I don’t think I agree with that being a snub.

Brandi: Right, and it seems like the Academy didn’t have any love for House of Gucci anyway, so it’s not like he was the only one from that movie who didn’t get recognized. It just seems like that movie didn’t connect with a lot of people. On The Big Picture podcast, they were talking about how it had problems with tone, and the actors felt like they were all in different movies—so that’s not going to create a good acting environment for someone trying to break through.

Jess: No. And did you end up seeing that?

Brandi: Not yet. It comes out on streaming, I believe, at the end of this month. I wrote it on my calendar, so I will watch that.

Jess: And that’s one of the ones that I did go to the theater to see, and really enjoyed it. It was way too long, but that’s exactly it, everybody was acting in a different movie. And they were all enjoyable, but I would have loved it more if they were all in the same movie. And I think it’s really funny too, because Adam Driver keeps getting cast in these Italian roles—he played Maurizio Gucci in House of Gucci, and it just came out—I saw it on Instagram earlier—that he’s going to be playing Ferrari in a Ferrari biopic.

Brandi: Really?

Jess: Yeah, I’m like, “Why do they keep casting Adam Driver as an Italian man?” It’s very odd.

Brandi: It’s his coloring. It’s his tall, dark, and handsome thing.

Jess: I guess, because there’s a lot of people with suspect Italian heritage at best, I guess, being cast in those movies.

Brandi: So you’re rooting for Kodi Smit-McPhee?

Jess: I am. I thought he was great in that movie, and if you get all the way to the end of the movie, then Kodi Smit-McPhee really blows you away.

Brandi: Yes, I’ll have to take your word for it, because as we discussed previously, I really enjoyed what I watched as far as, it was a very well-done movie, but I couldn’t handle the animal violence, so I had to turn it off.

Jess: Yeah, which is fair. That’s why my family doesn’t want to watch it. And it totally could have been without that, but we can talk about that more when we get to Best Picture.

Brandi: Yeah, and that’s the thing—the hour that I watched, this and Passing, I think, are the two movies from this award season that (so far that I’ve seen) have stuck in my mind and I kind of keep thinking about and keep revisiting. So those two are my personal front-runners even though Passing got shut out, but we’ll talk about that.

Jess: Yeah.

Brandi: So I agree with you; I would love to see Jesse get some attention, but I think Kodi has the showier role—it’s a very interior role, but showier as far as, he had more to do.

Jess: Yeah.

Brandi: So that’d be fine with me.

Best Actor

The Eyes of Tammy Faye movie posterJess: So, Best Actor. We have Javier Bardem for Being the Ricardos, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Power of the Dog, Andrew Garfield for Tick, Tick …  Boom!, Will Smith for King Richard, and Denzel Washington for The Tragedy of Macbeth. I wanna say I’ve seen all these movies except King Richard.

Brandi: Yes, me too. And Will Smith seems to be the front-runner. He has been discussed for months as the front-runner, and then kind of lost some steam, but now is picking up steam again because he’s nominated officially. And people don’t like when actors are thirsty for an Oscar, and it’s very clear that Will Smith is campaigning hard for this, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it. So we’ll reserve judgment until we see the movie, but he’s always good. Will Smith is a cultural icon; he deserves an Oscar based on his body of work—because sometimes that’s when Oscars are awarded, for bodies of work.

Jess: Ask Leonardo DiCaprio.

Brandi: Exactly. So we’ll see if this is his year, but this is a strong category. We’ve talked about Javier Bardem, and Being the Ricardos. It’s not his fault that the movie’s not that good—he’s doing what he can with the material—but he’s just his charming self. I thought he was good, but maybe he’d be my weakest link as far as the five. Who would you pick?

Jess: I’m trying to think—what is the other nomination that Andrew Garfield had?

Brandi: He got in for, I believe, Hacksaw Ridge.

Jess: Oh, right. I did really like that movie. I don’t know, I struggle with this one too because I know Andrew Garfield has been campaigning as well, which I think is probably a little bit outside of his comfort zone, which to me shows that he wants it, which I like to see. I like to see them care. I don’t necessarily love when you watch an interview and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t care about the awards.” We all care about awards. We all want to be recognized for what we do, so it’s fine to want that as long as it’s not your entire personality.

Brandi: Kirsten Dunst talked about it on The Envelope podcast. They brought up that in another interview, she had mentioned that she feels like she doesn’t get recognition from her peers, and that’s why these nominations mean so much to her, and she wasn’t shy about saying that. But this is someone who’s been in the industry since she was, what, 5 years old. She feels like it is nice to get that recognition, so I thought that was really cool that someone admitted how much it does mean.

Jess: Exactly. I think that like you said, Will Smith, I still think he’s the front-runner even though it’s been kind of up and down. Denzel Washington is always a threat, considering he’s won twice, like you’ve said, and nominated 10 times, and you can’t ignore that. He’s always a threat, but for me, the fact that he was nominated and Frances McDormand was not nominated, it’s a little bit of an indication that he’s down on the list a little bit. Personally, I’m pulling for Andrew Garfield, because of these performances, my favorite was Andrew Garfield in Tick, Tick … Boom! as Jonathan Larson. It’s the one that even though I didn’t necessarily love that movie as a whole, I loved his performance in the movie, and I still think about it. And I watched a really endearing interview about how he got that role and how his masseuse told Lin-Manuel Miranda that he could sing, and then he had to go ask him if he could sing. And I just thought that was really cute. So I would like to see him win, and I just like him as a person. I’m surprised Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t getting as much attention for this role, because the movie is dominating these nominations, and he’s nominated, but I feel like he’s really a background part of this conversation. What about you?

Brandi: I think what from what I’ve seen and heard, the narrative around The Power of the Dog is the great return of Jane Campion. And this is her second nomination as a director, which is historic, and this is her magnum opus, so maybe the actors are kind of falling behind if she might end up coming forward as a front-runner for director. Who knows? But yeah, I feel like I’ve seen Kirsten Dunst campaigning more than Benedict Cumberbatch has, so maybe the studio is pushing Kirsten; maybe they’re saying, “Let’s run with that as the actor that we want to win from this,” if they’re afraid of the Best Supporting votes getting split and because Benedict is in such a stacked category. I was surprised that he hadn’t gotten more nominations. I feel like he’s been around forever—I would have said he had three or four. I think it was for Imitation Game, was his first nomination, and this is the second one.

Jess: That’s what I was gonna guess.

Brandi: Yeah, so he and Andrew Garfield both have two nominations, no wins, and the others have more nominations. Obviously, Denzel has two wins, and Will Smith has more nominations but also no wins. So I would like to see it definitely going to one of the three men who hasn’t gotten it before. I thought Benedict was fantastic in the movie, but yeah, I think it’s Andrew Garfield’s year. I really think he deserves this. I think if he can’t win—if nobody can beat Will Smith, it’s going to be Will Smith—but if the buzz on Will kind of cools, I really think Andrew Garfield deserves it and has a shot. He’s fantastic.

Jess: Yeah. I’m so thrown off by this category in general, just because of what happened last year, with Anthony Hopkins winning and Chadwick Boseman not winning. Of all the categories that everybody thought was a lock, it was that one, and if that can happen, anything can happen. It’s not that I don’t like Anthony Hopkins—they were just wrong. I think it’s probably gonna be Will Smith, but I would love for it to be Andrew Garfield. I really like watching Javier Bardem; I think he’s a really interesting actor, and in that movie my eyes kept going to him just because he was a more interesting part of the movie, for me at least. But not winning for that movie.

Brandi: Here’s the thing about Andrew Garfield. Every movie Andrew makes, with the exception maybe of the Spider-Men, is an Oscar movie. He chooses projects very well, he chooses interesting directors. He’s got a lot more chances in his career to be nominated for an Oscar. Will Smith is not old by any means—he’s older than Andrew—but he’s got a lot of career left, it’s just that he makes a lot of popcorn movies and movies that don’t connect with audiences, and he kind of has not connected with the Academy in the past 20 years since, no, I guess it was Pursuit of Happyness was the last one, so, 15 years.

Jess: That was still a while ago.

Brandi: Yeah. So I think Andrew Garfield has a lot more chances in his career to get nominated and win, kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio, whereas it may come eventually. Whereas Will Smith, he doesn’t have a ton of chances. Maybe I could be wrong, maybe King Richard is the beginning of a trend, and he’s going to start really getting back to serious movies. But there were other ones, Concussion—is it called Concussion?—that he has done recently, he’s been trying for an Oscar, and it just hasn’t connected. So I feel like this is his shot, and he knows it’s his shot, so I really would like to see him win, I think. As much as I love Andrew, I think Will deserves it. But again, I may change my mind when I see the movie. Because HBO Max took it off after one month, and I didn’t get a chance to watch it in that month, and I’m still salty about it.

Jess: Yeah, Will Smith’s 53 and Andrew Garfield is 38. So I think that’s a fair assessment. But yeah, I’d be surprised if we have a stunner in that, but then again, you never know. Moving on to Best Supporting Actress.

Best Supporting Actress

The Lost Daughter movie posterBrandi: We have Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter, we have Ariana DeBose for West Side Story, Judi Dench for Belfast, Kirsten Dunst for The Power of the Dog, and Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard. And we also have a lot of first-time nominees in there, with the notable exception of Dame Judi Dench.

Jess: Yes, and who I am shocked is in there to be honest—and I haven’t even seen that movie, and I’m shocked. Just because I never heard her mentioned.

Brandi: According to The Big Picture podcast, she has a pivotal role at the end of the movie where you leave the movie on her face, so you think of her last. She may have had a connection to audiences that way. I don’t know what the context is for that camera frame or anything, but obviously it was impactful enough for the Academy. But yeah, that is very, very shocking.

Jess: She’s in the end of Cats too, but … I don’t know. I thought if we if we were gonna see somebody from Belfast, we were gonna see Catriona Balfe from Outlander. I thought she was gonna get in, so to see Judi Dench, that was a little surprising to me as somebody who hasn’t seen the movie. I was happy to see Jessie Buckley in there though, for The Lost Daughter. I know that you weren’t a big fan of The Lost Daughter, and I was sort of mild on it as well, but I find it really interesting, the nominations here—because to skip forward to Best Actors really quickly—that Olivia Colman is also nominated, and Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley play the same character in this movie. So that’s kind of a just a fun little tidbit that they’re nominated for playing the same character, just in two different time periods.

Brandi: I haven’t seen any articles mentioning that. That is very interesting, yeah. I wonder how often that’s happened?

Jess: I can’t imagine it’s happened that often, but I really don’t know.

Brandi: I turned off The Lost Daughter before I got to Jessie Buckley. I just don’t have time to watch movies I’m not enjoying. I just don’t, so I am not apologizing for turning it off.

Jess: And that is totally OK, because it’s not a happy, joy-joy movie at all, and it’s also a very—what did I call it? I think I called it meandering. It’s a meandering movie, which doesn’t make it a bad movie, it just makes it a movie for certain people, I think.

Brandi: Yes, it was not for me at that time. Maybe if I sat down at another time and tried to watch it, I’d connect with it more, but I was just not feeling it. Not that it was bad; it was just not for me.

Jess: Since you aren’t gonna watch it—and this isn’t a spoiler necessarily—there’s a scene in that movie, and it’s the part of that movie I remember the most from watching it, is that she has two children and she’s left alone with them, and she’s trying to work and she’s a serious academic, and she’s desperately trying to still keep that part of her life going, while also being a mother, and her daughter is annoying her, and she’s after her and after her and after her, and finally she tells her to go sit in the other room. And she slams the door between the two rooms and the glass breaks in the door. I think it’s just such a powerful image for that frustrated motherhood that I don’t know if you necessarily see—kind of violent, almost; she’s not hurting her child, but she’s doing something that’s going to feel traumatic. I think back to that, and that, I thought, was really good. So I’m glad to see her in the category.

Brandi: That’s probably the scene that that pushed her over the edge into this spot then, because that’s probably something a lot of people couldn’t get out of their heads. That’s interesting.

Jess: Yeah, that’s what I connected to most in that movie, which, as a person with no children, and who has no desire to have children, that movie makes it even clearer that I do not want to have children. I think on Instagram, I call that movie visual birth control. But that’s kind of the point, I think, to an extent, because you don’t see a lot of movies where women are choosing their careers or themselves instead of their families. You see a lot of stuff in pop culture or even just life in general of men choosing themselves or their own happiness over their families, and that’s what this character does, and that’s more rare. And that shouldn’t be a huge spoiler, because it is based on a book, and the book’s been out for a long time, so if that is a spoiler, you should have read the book, I guess. Do you have any strong feelings about anybody in this category?

Brandi: I’m really happy that Kirsten Dunst got in. She’s been in so many great things for so many years; she definitely deserves this. I can’t believe it’s her first nomination. I haven’t seen King Richard, so I’m not sure about Aunjanue. And Ariana, I feel like it’s kind of hers to lose. People are excited to see Jessie, like you just talked about, but I think people like the narrative of Ariana DeBose winning 60 years after Rita Moreno won. Is that what it is, 60, 70? I don’t know. I think that’d be kind of cool if she won for the same character—and she earns it, it’s not just a narrative. She’s incredible in the movie. I don’t know what else she’s been in besides The Prom and Hamilton, but that’s all I’ve seen her in.

Jess: Oh, and she’s in Schmigadoon!

Brandi: Schmigadoon! How could I forget? So just seeing her in those things—and she’s electric in all of them—she deserves this. It kind of reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence, where she just kept getting nominated and won, barely in the industry, and just everything she does is fantastic and Oscar-worthy. And I feel like Ariana has had that so far. Well, maybe not with The Prom, but you know what I mean? I feel like she made an impact with all of her projects so far. So I would really like to see her win. But it would be fun, it would just be nice, for me to see Kirsten Dunst win because I kind of grew up with her, and I’ve watched her since she was just a little bit older than me, so that would be so cool to see her win.

Jess: Yeah, the Bring It On fangirl in me is so excited to see Kirsten in this category.

Brandi: And again, she’s legitimately good in The Power of the Dog. And it’s not an easy role. She nailed it.

Jess: Did you get far enough for the piano scene?

Brandi: Where he is playing whatever his instrument is?

Jess: Yeah, he plays the banjo.

Brandi: Right, and they’re dueling. That one? Yeah.

Jess: So there’s that, and then there’s the piano scene, where she plays in front of her husband’s parents who come to visit. Her husband, Benedict Cumberbatch’s character’s brother, really wants her to play piano for his family and kind of show her off, because she used to play in movie pits. During the movie, she would play the background music. That’s what the character’s supposed to do, and so she gets up there to play, and she completely freezes—she can’t perform, and she just turns around to them and she just loses it, and she’s like, “I can’t do it, I’m so sorry,” and her acting in that 15 seconds is just amazing. It’s so good; you just feel for her. I had to pause it because it was one of those moments where, if you read a book or you’re watching a movie and the secondhand cringe is so bad that you just need a second to shake it out and be like, “Oh, it’s not me that did something embarrassing.” Because that’s really what she conveys, and I think that’s why she’s in this category.

Brandi: OK, I’m gonna track down that scene. I’m gonna fast forward to that scene, because I do feel like an imposter trying to analyze something I’ve only seen half of, but I like I said, I just don’t do the animal violence. But I did watch an hour of a 2-hour movie, so I watched almost exactly half, I think.

Jess: Yeah, just skip ahead and watch that, and I’m sure you watched the dancing scene; people really love the dancing scene. But yeah, fast-forward to that scene, and that’ll be everything you need to see, I think. But I agree with you: Ariana DeBose should win. I think she will win, and it will make me really happy because I thought she was fantastic in that movie. Her dancing—I mean, everybody knew she could dance and she could sing; she was on Broadway, so of course she can do those things. But to do them on film and have them come across with so much liveliness and vivacity, that was awesome.

Brandi: I agree.

Best Actress

Parallel Mothers movie posterJess: So, Best Actress. These are Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Olivia Colman for The Lost Daughter, Penélope Cruz for Parallel Mothers, Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos, and Kristen Stewart for Spencer.

Brandi: I want to swap out Nicole for Tessa Thompson in Passing, because Passing was such an amazing movie. I can’t stop thinking about it. You need to watch it so we can talk about it. I just thought it was so incredible, and Tessa—even more so than Ruth Negga for me, she was also great, and people were saying she was a snub for Best Supporting—but I thought Tessa owned the movie. You’re with her in her point of view the entire movie, and she’s just incredible. And Nicole Kidman is always good, but this was not the role to be nominated for an Oscar for. So please swap out Tessa and Nicole, and then I will approve of the category.

Jess: The fact that Nicole Kidman seems to be somewhat of a front-runner in this category is mindboggling to me. Mindboggling.

Brandi: Yes, it seems to be between Nicole and Kristen Stewart, which is just—what?

Jess: I can’t believe it. Honestly I’m way more excited about Best Supporting Actress than I am about Best Actress. I think everybody in Best Supporting Actress—minus Judi Dench, only because I haven’t seen it; Judi Dench is great—but I think they were better than the people that I’ve seen in Best Actress, with the exception of Kristen Stewart. And that is to say that I have not seen Parallel Mothers. I don’t even know where you can see it.

Brandi: It’s only in theaters right now, and it’s art-house theaters, so it has to be one that’s playing near you. I’m assuming they will make that available before March 27th. I hope they will somewhere.

Jess: I also have not seen The Eyes of Tammy Faye. I know you have.

Brandi: Yes, and the movie was enjoyable. I understand why it wasn’t nominated in any of the other big categories, but I was thrilled to see Jessica Chastain get in here. She was just transcendent in that movie—she made me cry. It was so good. She was just awesome. And the makeup and hairstyling, I believe they’re nominated right? They must have been.

Jess: Yes, I think so.

Brandi: It was distracting for maybe 2 minutes, and then Jessica just made it work, and she was awesome. I didn’t think she was gonna get in—I thought she would get squeezed out—but I was so happy to see her get a nomination. And this is her third, and she hasn’t won yet. She’s one whose career is just filled with winners. She’s gonna win at some point, even though more than likely it’s not gonna be the 2022 ceremony, but that’s OK.

Jess: I think she’ll win multiple times in the future, because she is so good. I don’t think there’s a single movie I’ve seen where I don’t like her. And she tends to pick roles of either really powerful women or unconventionally powerful women, which I enjoy. I have heard some people say that they wonder if Jessica Chastain got into this category partially because the movie’s good, and she’s good in it—it was always sort of part of the conversation—but that she got into the category because she has been so vocal and defendant of Hollywood and Hollywood stars lately, and because there was the big Jeremy Strong profile. Personally, I love the Jeremy Strong profile, because I love Jeremy Strong and I love Succession, and I didn’t think that made him look bad at all. But she came out swinging defending him and defending actors and the way they prepare for roles, so some people have interpreted this as them showing Jessica Chastain that they appreciate what she’s doing, not just for the movie, but for the craft of acting in general.

Brandi: That makes a lot of sense. And she’s also been very vocal about equal pay for women, and she just made The 355, which is on my list. I believe that comes out on streaming, I want to say Paramount+, at the end of the month. So I definitely want to watch that. It didn’t get great reviews, but it has actresses I love in it, so of course I’m going to watch.

Jess: Yes, it does look interesting; it looks like a fun watch.

Brandi: It does, yeah. She is definitely an actor’s actor.

Jess: She is, and sort of on the same wavelength, but at the opposite end of the wavelength, is Penélope Cruz, which I was surprised to see in this category for Parallel Mothers, even though, again, that movie kept being brought up. I did not expect her to get in here. But I did watch an interview with her about this movie on CBS Sunday Morning where she really tried her hardest to skirt the Woody Allen issue, and it was borderline Woody Allen apologist, and it was really uncomfortable. The interview stopped, and everybody went, “ohhh.” It was an audible, “That was not the way to handle this sort of thing.” So we have Jessica Chastain on one hand who’s valiantly defending the craft of acting, and then we have Penélope Cruz over here who’s defending the wrong things. It was a little surprising for me.

Brandi: Also, she’s had four nominations; her one win was for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Was that a Woody Allen movie, or am I thinking of something else?

Jess: Doesn’t it have Scarlett Johansson?

Brandi: Let me look that up.

Jess: I wasn’t allowed to watch that; I was too young. So to be fair, I’ve never seen it. It is a Woody Allen movie.

Brandi: Yeah, that’s interesting. So her only win was in a Woody Allen movie, which doesn’t mean the movie wasn’t good, or she wasn’t good in it, but it’s just interesting.

Jess: Funny enough, Rebecca Hall’s in that movie, and isn’t Rebecca Hall the creator of Passing?

Brandi: Yes, the director. I think people just always seem to like Penélope. She gets in at the weirdest times. I remember there was a movie called—I don’t remember if she was nominated for it, but it was called Volver, I think. She was really good in that. I haven’t seen her in a lot, but what I have seen her in, she’s always good, so she’s just one of those people who, when she makes a good movie, the Oscars usually nominates her. So I wasn’t that surprised to see her, but for Parallel Mothers, which is a movie that has no buzz at all, that was interesting.

Jess: Yeah. I love Nicole Kidman, I do. I like watching her in things, and even though The Undoing was pretty much critically panned, I loved The Undoing. I thought she was great in it. If you haven’t seen it, I think it’s on HBO Max.

Brandi: I have not watched that, but I’ve heard good things.

Jess: I really love that. I like her, but please don’t let her win for this movie. It’s just not there. But I want to see Kristen Stewart win.

Brandi: I think she has a good shot. I think she’s made a lot of interesting choices over the years. She’s really grown as an actress. Did you notice in the Oscars nominations morning when they panned to the middle school, the student who introduced the category said Twilight was one of her favorite movies? I thought that was wonderful. I love that a new generation is discovering this trashy, trashy movie. And the Obamas’ podcast production company Higher Ground just put out The Big Hit Show, and they have a whole (I think) four-part series on Twilight and the phenomenon and taking it back—and it’s so good. So I was excited to see that. Obviously, I’m a Twilight fan, not apologizing for it, but Kristen Stewart has evolved quite nicely since that movie, and she’s just great, and she deserves this. I’m so happy for her.

Jess: It’s good to see her getting attention for all of the stuff she’s done, because she did, she went from blockbuster to complete art house, and a lot of people just kind of lost her in the shuffle and thought that she wasn’t working anymore, but she was working that whole time. She was just doing smaller movies, and what we’ve mentioned before was that this movie was not my favorite movie—this is just going to come off as Jess has no favorite movies, but that’s not true—this was not my favorite movie, but I watched the whole thing, because I liked watching her.

Brandi: The nominations bear that out because Spencer is not getting a lot of love, but she is, because she carries the movie.

Jess: Right. I think Olivia Colman’s always a threat, though.

Brandi: She is, but you can’t compare what Olivia Colman does in The Lost Daughter to what Nicole Kidman does to what Kristen Stewart does. None of these are comparable to even try to compare them against each other. I feel like they’re all such different types of actresses, and there’s a lot of interiority in their roles, and then two of them are playing real people—or three of them really, if you’re still counting Jessica in this conversation, but really it seems like it’s between Nicole, Kristen, and Olivia, and it’s very possible that Olivia ekes out the win, because people just love watching her give speeches. And that’s OK, she’s great.

Jess: She is great. I had heard too this speculation/rumor that the reason Kristen Stewart was not nominated for this movie for a BAFTA was because Prince William is a part of those, and they didn’t want to recognize that movie because apparently, they didn’t like it so much. Which is fair that they didn’t like it; it’s not so much fair that they didn’t recognize her because of that, if that’s true. But there was a lot of talk about how the BAFTAs have been a predictor for the Oscars the last few years, and this year, it was really different—it was really off, so I thought that was an interesting little tidbit.

Brandi: Well, I think the prior awards are going to matter less and less because the Academy membership is diversifying so much in terms of international members. So the BAFTAs is just one country. Does Japan have the equivalent of the BAFTAs? What would they have awarded? We have a Japanese director who’s nominated this year. So I feel like the BAFTAs is just one other country’s opinion, and that’s great; I’m glad they have the BAFTAs, and they should obviously continue—unlike the Golden Globes—but it just seems to me that the previous noms, or the previous awards, are going to matter less and less as we go forward with the Oscars because it’s just too hard to predict. There’s so many movies, there’s so many great performances, and tastes are split. We agree on a lot of things, but we also disagree on some things, so what is it, 9,000 people in the Academy now?

Jess: Yeah, something like that.

Brandi: So if it’s that many people, of course some of them aren’t gonna connect to Spencer. Maybe they didn’t like how she was portrayed; maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with William; maybe it’s British people not liking that portrayal of Diana, which is legitimate because she is British.

Jess: And it’s a polarizing movie.

Brandi: Yes, it is.

Jess: And I think we have seen that it actually makes a difference, that diversifying of the Academy voters in these results—not just in these categories that we’re talking about, but also in things like Flee getting into multiple categories, with the animated feature and documentary. That was a huge movie in a lot of circles, and some people were afraid it wasn’t going to make the breakthrough, and I think that diversified voting bloc made sure that that movie got some more recognition. As well as things like The Worst Person in the World and Drive My Car, which we’ll mention later.

Brandi: Now that we’ve gotten through all the acting nominees, it’s another hashtag Oscars So White year, which has been consistent since it started in, what, 2014? There just aren’t a lot of people of color on this list.

Jess: No. I think that the most people of color in any of them is Best Actor?

Brandi: Yes.

Jess: Because you have three of five. So that is a disappointment. We were on the upward trend and then we kind of fell backwards. You want to tackle Best Director?

Best Director

Spencer movie posterBrandi: I don’t have a lot of thoughts about this, actually, because I haven’t seen a lot of them. Well, I guess I’ve seen some of them. All right, let’s just dig in. So, Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza; Kenneth Branagh, Belfast; Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog; Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car; and Steven Spielberg, West Side Story. Which I think in our notes I spelled his name with “ph” like Stephen Sondheim, which is kind of funny. I think we both want Jane Campion to win. She’s the only woman in the 90-plus year history of the Oscars to get more than one nomination. We’ve only had Kathryn Bigelow, I believe, as a winner.

Jess: Well, Chloé Zhao from last year.

Brandi: Oh, thank you, Chloé Zhao from last year. But I really would have liked to see Rebecca Hall from Passing on this list because she was a first-time director who hit it out of the park. She just did a fantastic job. And you had Lin-Manuel Miranda, another first-time director, for Tick, Tick …  Boom!, he didn’t make it—I love Lin, I’m a Lin stan, but he didn’t belong on the list. It’s his first movie; he’s just getting his feet wet. I don’t see that as a snub, but I really feel like if we wanted to talk about a first-time director (not that any of these directors are first-time directors), but I just feel like I really wanted to see Rebecca Hall get in, and I knew she wouldn’t because there was no traction there. And then the other one that I was surprised not to see was Denis Villeneuve from Dune, because what an achievement that movie was in directing. It was an achievement, and the Academy just didn’t think so.

Jess: I was shocked not to see him in there, even though I haven’t seen the movie yet, just because even the stills that you see, you can tell that this is a larger-than-life thing. And I’ve read articles about how personal it was for him too, because it’s a remake, and the series was made priorly 30, 40 years ago, so to take that on and make it what it did become—it is an amazing achievement. The one that I was surprised not to see is a first-time director, and it was Maggie Gyllenhaal, because she was right up there, I think at least, in the conversation, and when we watched The Lost Daughter, I made some comments about some interesting directorial choices that Maggie Gyllenhaal made, especially with a floating water scene that I don’t know if that was serving the movie particularly well; however, given how the movie seems to have been pretty well-received, the fact that it’s just the acting that was recognized and not her, it’s a little bit of a gut punch for what I was expecting to come from that. But I’m excited to see Jane Campion in there. When we talked about this yesterday, we were talking about how Jane Campion finally got her second nomination, the only woman to ever get multiple Best Director nominations. Meanwhile, we have Steven Spielberg in the category—who is inarguably one of the best directors of our lifetime, but this is his eighth nomination—and how commonplace it is for men to just rack ’em right up, and we have to seem to be happy or excited about a woman getting two, and while I’m happy for her, and I do hope that she wins, I’m not ready to be excited because a woman got two things when another man in the category has eight things. So I have really mixed feelings about it.

Brandi: Well, what Steven Spielberg did was a triumph. He made his first musical at, I believe, 75 years old, and knocks it out of the park, but it was a remake. Tony Kushner deserved credit for updating the screenplay, and he didn’t get that. So I would rather have seen Tony get in there and leave Steven off. Again, triumphant—but there’s just so many other deserving people.

Jess: We know he’s great. This isn’t gonna make him any greater.

Brandi: Yes.

Jess: And is he gonna win? No, he’s not.

Brandi: There is a lot of love for Licorice Pizza. We’ve talked about how neither of us have an interest in that movie—it’s not our thing—but I think there is quite a backing in Hollywood for PTA. People love him. Kenneth Branagh, I just don’t know if people are going to see Belfast as a directing achievement, just from the trailer, but I could be wrong. I don’t know anything about Drive My Car because it’s difficult to see. It’s not available streaming anywhere. I really think it’s Jane’s to lose; I hope it’s Jane’s to lose. But I’m sure other people in the coming weeks will have some takes, and we’ll see what the campaigning is like.

Jess: This is the toughest one, I think, just from what you said too. I’ve only seen two of these movies, so it is hard to call, but Belfast is in black and white, and you know how people love black and white. I wondered from the beginning, is Belfast getting all this attention because it’s in black and white? The same with The Tragedy of Macbeth, are we getting attention because we’re in black and white?

Brandi: It’s interesting because I think that Tragedy of Macbeth used the black and white to very good effect. They played with shadows and light and fog, and made it really work. Passing, I don’t remember what podcast it was, but Rebecca Hall did an interview talking about how she wanted the focus to be on the characters and not us worrying about whether Ruth and Tessa’s skin tone matched what was happening in the story. So I understand her using black and white for Passing. Again, I wish she had gotten on this list. I don’t know of a convincing argument for why Belfast is in black and white. My guess is that it’s kind of a nostalgic look back at his childhood, so it’s the past and nostalgia and evoking a certain feel of your younger days. But I don’t really know. I haven’t heard Kenneth talk about his reasoning for making it black and white, but it does seem interesting that there were a lot of black and white movies this year.

Jess: I almost want to take the two major black and white ones, so Belfast and Tragedy of Macbeth, because it’s not that they’re similar in content necessarily, but I feel like they’re a little bit more similar than Passing is similar to them—just in probably overall feel—but that the fact that Joel Coen wasn’t nominated for Tragedy. It’s not like he’s a nobody. He’s half of the Coen brothers. He’s well-known enough, so the fact that they did not nominate him is also a little surprising, because I did think the black and white was so well used in that movie.

Brandi: Yes.

Jess: Was Passing nominated for any writing categories?

Brandi: That is a good question. Let’s see.

Jess: I don’t think it was. Because when I was thinking about Passing, even though I haven’t seen it yet, that’s where I expected it to pop up.

Brandi: I’m looking up the list now.

Jess: That story was so personal to Rebecca Hall because of her family background. Her Finding Your Roots episode is amazing; everybody should watch it.

Brandi: Oh, I haven’t watched that.

Jess: It’s so, so good. You would love it.

Brandi: Adapted Screenplay was CODA, Drive My Car, Dune, The Lost Daughter, and The Power of the Dog. I actually didn’t know that Power of the Dog was adapted from something, so that’s interesting. And then Original Screenplay was Belfast, Don’t Look Up, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, and The Worst Person in the World. So that’s kind of a neat list. Don’t Look Up I find interesting that that got in for the screenplay because I think a lot of it was improvised—not a lot, that’s not fair to say. Some of the movie was improvised.

Jess: Yeah, the fact that Don’t Look Up is in any of these categories—I’m making a face.

Brandi: Did you read the Vulture article that said, “Don’t get angry when Don’t Look Up wins Best Picture”?

Jess: No, but that just makes me ill.

Brandi: Yeah.

Jess: I was listening to a podcast and somebody said that; they’re like, “Don’t Look Up is a strong contender for Best Picture,” and I just went, “No.”

Best Picture

Tick, Tick .. Boom! movie posterBrandi: Well with that, should we talk about—first of all, let’s see how many of these we’ve seen so far. There are 10 Best Picture nominees.

Jess: I think I’ve seen four.

Brandi: I’ve seen four too. Interesting.

Jess: With a couple more on the docket to be watched soon. So, our Best Picture nominees are Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, and West Side Story. There’s a lot of “d” movies—Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune.

Brandi: I just want to point out that none of the Best Actress nominees come from Best Picture contenders, which is interesting. They rewarded women who outshone their movies, basically.

Jess: Or, did they reward movies that were not led by women?

Brandi: Let’s look at it. CODA has a female protagonist, but it’s really about a family. Don’t Look Up is kind of an ensemble. I don’t know about Drive My Car. Licorice Pizza might be a little bit of a two-hander with Alana Haim, but all of these movies, really, except for West Side Story, which is a romance two-hander, you’re right—they’re all about men.

Jess: I just look at a movie where, if you can’t have one without the other, it’s not about the woman, it’s about the relationship.

Brandi: Right.

Jess: Whereas you look at something like Power the Dog, it’s about Benedict Cumberbatch and his brother, and if you watch Nightmare Alley, it’s about Bradley Cooper. (This is not fair; I’m using the actors’ names because I can’t remember the characters’ names.) King Richard is about Serena Williams’ dad, so it’s not even about Serena Williams, not really.

Brandi: But people’s response to that has been, Serena and Venus were heavily involved, so if they weren’t happy with the movie—but still, why would your first impulse for a movie about tennis greats be, “Hmm, let’s talk about their dad.”

Jess: Yeah, especially when their mom continues to be a driving force in their life. You watch any tennis match that either of them compete in, their dad’s not there. So I don’t know what the answer to that is. Is it that these women-led movies aren’t getting nominated for Best Picture? Because I’ve heard that that has tended to be a trend in the past. Or are we having some other kind of disconnect here? I don’t know.

Brandi: Interesting question. I just want to point out too that I believe four of them are streaming. Don’t Look Up is Netflix; CODA is Apple TV+, which is Apple’s first Best Picture nomination, which is historic. And then Power of the Dog. Oh, three. Three are streaming-only releases, so it’ll be interesting to see who pulls ahead in that as far as what people are watching and where it’s available, which we can talk about in a second. But overall, are you pretty happy with the Best Picture list?

Jess: I’m not unhappy with it, I suppose. I’m glad there’s 10. I think it was mandatory 10 this year, which I like. I think the more movies that get nominated for this category, the more they just get seen by people, and I appreciate that, because if your name makes it in here and your movie’s getting watched, that’s kind of the point. It’s good for them to get the awards and the accolades, but for the industry as a whole, just for these types of movies to be watched by human eyes, this is the way to get that done. So I am not unhappy with it. I am really happy to see Nightmare Alley in there, even though I just railed against male-led movies. But of all of these movies that I’ve seen, which to be fair is only four so far—or five, I think—I liked that movie the best. And I continue to think about that movie at least once a week, which is unique for me. It’s the first-ever movie that I watched by myself in a movie theater, which probably contributes to that feeling because it was so unique, and it was just really fun. But the way that Guillermo del Toro made that movie, you could tell that it was really a labor of love for him. This was a passion project; it is something that he always wanted to make. I think he co-wrote it with his wife, and it’s very visual, the color palettes are arresting, they’re so interesting. I know there’s a version of it out in black and white—which, a lot of critics wanted this to be in black and white, because it is a noir. I personally liked it in color because so much of it has to do with carnival life, and carnivals are very colorful places in anyone’s imagination. So I personally liked it in color. It will not win, but I’m really glad it’s in there so more people can see it. And now that it’s on HBO Max and Hulu, in a weird twist of ownership fate, I think more and more people will watch that movie.

Brandi: Yes, I am thinking about it. I might actually watch it now that it’s readily available to me.

Jess: If I were you, I would close my eyes in the beginning part a little bit, because there is another animal cruelty part.

Brandi: Oh, well then, yeah. You can tell me in more detail another time.

Jess: But it’s really crucial to the story in this case, unlike The Power of the Dog, where you already know that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character is super mean. You really don’t need him smacking the horse.

Brandi: Yes, exactly.

Jess: Which one are you most excited about in this list?

Brandi: I think it’s a good mix of crowd pleasers and art-house movies. Dune, I absolutely loved. I did think it was one of the best movies of the year. I thought it really made the esoteric sci-fi jargon accessible and explained the story really well. The acting was great, the action was great. Don’t Look Up was a big hit for Netflix, so it is a mainstream movie. It’s got big movie stars in it. It wasn’t that great of a movie; it wasn’t one of the greatest of the year, in my opinion, but obviously, people loved it. I do respect Adam McKay; I respect what he’s trying to do with the movie—it’s just a little heavy-handed—but it did make me laugh. I thought it was funny, and I just like that there’s a good mix. I think Power of the Dog is the one that, I don’t know if I really can see a clear front-runner, but to me that’s the one that could pull ahead of the pack. West Side Story is an incredible movie, but I don’t know if it can break through because it’s not original. How can you compare something like Nightmare Alley, which sounds completely original, versus West Side Story, which is basically a remake?

Jess: Unfortunately, I actually think Nightmare Alley is also a remake.

Brandi: Oh, is it really? Well, then I’m picking the wrong thing. Licorice Pizza, I think that’s an original story. I don’t know much about it, because I have no interest in it, but it’s not stuff based on IP. Spider-Man: No Way Home was never going to get on this list.

Jess: No, that wasn’t happening.

Brandi: No. It was my most fun, enjoyable time watching a movie last year, but that doesn’t mean that it was the best movie of the year. I always split my lists; I rate by enjoyment. I have to, because I watch movies for enjoyment. I don’t like to watch movies that destroy me.

Jess: Meanwhile, I’m over here like, “Destroy me!” I had this conversation with somebody where it was like, “Do you think No Way Home is going to be nominated, or do you want No Way Home to be nominated?” And I was basically like, “No and no,” even though it was my favorite movie that I watched last year. And that’s for the only reason that nobody needs to be convinced to go watch Spider-Man: No Way Home. You’re either going to watch it—which, literal millions of people already have—or you’re not a Marvel person, you’re not a Spider-Man person, and you’re not going to be convinced anyway. Where, these types of movies, if we didn’t have something like this, would I even know that some of these existed? I would not. I wouldn’t be as tuned in to seeking them out, necessarily. Like Nightmare Alley, would I have gone to the theater to see Nightmare Alley if I didn’t think that it was probably going to be a part of this conversation? Probably not, and I ended up loving it. Now, even though West Side Story isn’t doing so well in theaters, I think the reason for that is very different than the ones that people want to point to. Would that movie have faded into oblivion without the Oscars? I don’t think so. I think this version of West Side Story is going to be the kind of one where, years from now they say, “Oh, it was a flop at the box office, and now everybody loves it.” I think it’s going to be kind of like that, because it is so well done.

Brandi: I think if we weren’t in a pandemic. I saw The Greatest Showman—OK, quality wise, I love The Greatest Showman, it’s one of my favorite movies; you can’t really compare West Side Story and The Greatest Showman, but I’m going to for a second. I saw that movie opening weekend, because it had Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman, and it was a musical, and I loved it. It broke my heart that it bombed, because it was such a labor of love for Hugh Jackman, and I had an incredible time at that movie. And then word of mouth spread, and it just kept growing and growing and became this huge hit, and now everyone loves this movie who sees it. West Side Story, I think if we hadn’t been in a pandemic, would have been a big hit. It would have been a big word of mouth, like, “Oh, I know you think you’ve seen this before, but it’s incredible; you gotta go see it.” I think the rules are different now, and people are not going to go to the movies for a movie that they saw from 1961.

Jess: Yeah, “I already know what happens, so why do I need to see it?”

Brandi: Right. My parents are looking forward to seeing it, but they’re going to be watching it on March 2nd on Disney+, because they don’t want to go to the movies to see it. I only went to the movies to see it because it was the last night it was playing at my local theater, it was a Monday night, and there were four other people in the theater.

Theaters vs. Streaming

The Tragedy of Macbeth movie posterJess: I only went to see it because you said it was so good, and I was like, “I don’t want to see it,” and you’re like “You should see it.” And then I didn’t have anything to do on that night, so we drove over and we saw it, and then I loved it, and I cried, and it was great. A follow-up question to that, about West Side Story, is do you think they made a mistake with West Side Story in not doing a simultaneous release—doing theaters and streaming at the same time?

Brandi: I do, because look at Encanto. That’s a family musical with catchy songs and established people behind it that people already love—Lin—but that one barely made a blip when it came out in November in theaters, because families aren’t really going to the movies like they used to. And it went on Disney+ around Christmas, and now everybody’s talking about “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”

Jess: Which cannot win an Oscar, sadly enough.

Brandi: No, unfortunately. It’s just right now, I think all bets are off. I think the rules have changed. We’ll see if they’ve changed for the foreseeable future, but you can’t play by normal rules anymore. We’re still in a pandemic.

Jess: Yeah, I wish it would have come out on video on demand at the same time. Would I have watched there instead of going to the theater? A hundred percent. So I would have done what they didn’t want me to do, but I think you would have had way more eyeballs on it that way, and it’s just unfortunate.

Brandi: My dad and I watched Dune at home. We have a pretty big TV, but would I have enjoyed it more in a theater? Yes. In a typical year, my dad and I would have gone to the movies to see that. But this year we were like, “No, it’s on HBO Max; let’s watch it at home.” I loved it. I don’t think it changed my opinion at all; if I had seen it on the big screen, I would have still loved it, I just would have been more wowed by the visuals. I think what they did with Dune was so smart. It was another one like King Richard, where they only put it on HBO Max for a month, and then it quietly went away and hasn’t shown up again. But it’s available to rent now. I would have been just as happy watching West Side Story at home. I’ve even paid for the premier access on Disney+; I am willing to pay $20 for my family to watch a movie because I really want to see it. It’s not like Belfast, where I want to see it, but I’m not willing to pay $20 for it. People vote with their dollars—I vote with my dollars—and I want to watch things on streaming services that I already pay for. I wasn’t going to go to the movies to see it. Things like Nightmare Alley, things like Power of the Dog, I was never going to go to the movies to see those, but Power of the Dog was on Netflix, so I turned it on one day and was like, “Let’s try it.”

Jess: I like when it’s available to me, because I don’t have a ton of free time, and because in my situation, I’m 45 minutes away from any movie theater in any direction, and if I am going to go see a movie, it’s a half-day—at least—commitment, too, because these days movies are two-and-a-half, almost three hours in a lot of cases, and if I’m already spending that much time in the theater, plus the previews, and then I’m spending another hour-and-a-half driving to and from, it’d better be worth it. And something like The Power of the Dog, even though I really, really liked it when I watched it, and it was impactful, I probably would not have made that trek out to watch Power the Dog at the theater. And it is kind of funny to me, when I do look at this list, that the only one I did see in the theater was Nightmare Alley. But it’s literally only because I was already on vacation, and I wanted some me time, and it just happened to line up at the right time that that’s what was at the theater. And it had a really pretty poster, so good job on marketing.

Brandi: There’s something to be said for that.

Jess: But Belfast, by the time I knew Belfast existed, it was only in a theater near me for one more day, and that one more day was a Thursday, so there was no way that I could go, and then that weekend something new had come out, and it was too late. And it’s never been anywhere again near me, so I haven’t had the chance to watch it. And I don’t want to pay the $20. So I’m firmly in the camp of, the more accessible these movies are, the more you make it so that I can actually watch it—that people can watch it—the more I’m gonna like it.

Access & Libraries

Brandi: Let’s talk a little bit about DVDs because that’s what your patrons at the library are going to be watching them on when they are taking them out of the library. It looks like five of the Best Picture nominees have no plans for a release date on DVD—that doesn’t mean they won’t be released, it just means that on the site Video ETA and on (I did check both), they don’t have entries. Some of them did have entries on, but it said, “Sign up to be notified when it’s released,” so they don’t have dates yet. Nightmare Alley is scheduled for April, which is after the Oscars, and then Licorice Pizza is scheduled for March, hopefully before the Oscars. Dune and King Richard are already available. And Belfast will be available as of March 1st on DVD. So you’ll only be able to buy half of the Best Pictures for the library—and what if the Best Picture winner is not one of those five?

Jess: It’s the same problem that I had with Nomadland too, because we weren’t able to get Nomadland until a year, almost, afterward, and by the time that rolls around, the fervor is gone. The people that would have been like, “Oh, I’ve heard that mentioned on the news, or I heard that somewhere, and I’ll check it out.” Now it’s kind of just going to fade into oblivion because, “I don’t remember what that is.” So it’s really disappointing to me, because at the library, DVDs are one of our major checkouts, and the fact that I can’t even provide access for people who either don’t have internet or can’t afford internet, so that they can consume these things that everybody else is talking about—not everybody’s talking about them, but a large portion of society is talking about them—is super unfair to me. Why are we further disadvantaging socioeconomically disadvantaged people by saying, “You can’t participate in a discussion about this,” especially in an area like where I live, where even if they wanted to go to the theater for $5 Tuesdays, where it only costs $5 to go to the movie, even if that is the thing that they could afford to do, they physically cannot get to the movie theater to watch it. So DVD is the only way they could watch this movie, and now they might never get to, and it’s incredibly frustrating. I had the same experience with One Night in Miami last year as well, because it was on Amazon Prime and it took forever—they ended up releasing it on the Criterion Collection, but again, months and months and months and months later. And also the cover of that doesn’t look anything like the movie—it’s a drawing—so if you see the cover of the movie, you probably won’t even realize what it is. There’s just a lot of marketing missteps here that I feel are really unfair, but I’m in a very specific circumstance.

Brandi: Yes, but even if you’re just talking about streaming, the money adds up if you want to watch these movies. You’ve got West Side Story on Disney+, Power of the Dog on Netflix, Nightmare Alley on HBO Max and Hulu—so that’s at least three different streaming services you have to subscribe to. Apple TV+ for CODA, that’s four right there that you have to subscribe to, just to watch some of these movies, and yes, you get a lot back with it, but it’s not cheap. These streaming services keep raising their prices too; Netflix prices just went up, I believe, and Amazon Prime’s price is going to be going up, I believe, $20.

Jess: Like Amazon needs the money.

Brandi: So people are being priced out of these movies at every turn, whether it’s going to the movies, streaming them, or on DVD.

Jess: And the other thing is, I would get some sort of streaming stick and subscribe to services, and say, “Here, you can check out the streaming stick for a week to watch whatever you want to watch on here.” We would subscribe, we’d pay the fees, and you could watch it, so that way if it doesn’t come out on DVD, you can watch it. But I can’t even do that, because it voids the terms of service for these companies. So not only do they say, “You can’t let people stream this because you’re voiding your contract, but I’m going to turn around and also not release it on DVD, so there’s no way you can get it.” It only does two things really—it encourages piracy, because if you wanna watch something and you have any type of access, and you have no money, you’re gonna pirate it (and that has been well-known, as anybody who pirated Game of Thrones for 10 years, HBO didn’t care that much because it was driving people to the show, and they really didn’t do much about it); it’s either piracy or, they just never get to have it, and I just hate that, I hate it so much. Because these movies, all the people that worked on them, the artists that worked hard on all of this stuff, not even just the actors, but the set designers and the production assistants and the costume designers and the sound editors, there’s so much that goes into these movies. You watch the credits of any large movie, they go on forever, and they’re all human beings who had something to do with this piece of art, and you’re not letting people enjoy that piece of art. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

Brandi: I think people who work on the movies want them to make money, they want them to do well, but what I hear directors and actors say in interviews over and over and over and over again is, “We want people to see our movies. We want people to see them.” And it’s the suits who are worried about the money, which, understandably, it’s a business, they need to be making money. But the creative people working on the movies just want their work to be seen and appreciated, is really all they want.

Jess: I want people to appreciate it too. I want the people in my community, if they desire to have a fluency in these topics, to be able to have that, and when someone asks me for one of these films, and I have to turn around and say, “I can’t get it for you because it physically is not available,” it’s hard to do because I know they want to see it, and I know there’s a way for them to do it, and I can’t give it to them. As a public service professional, that’s a very difficult thing.

Brandi: And then you have movies like CODA, about a community that not a lot of people know about, the deaf community. It would probably be a good thing for people to learn about the deaf community from deaf people, and it’s a movie that’s only available on Apple TV+, which is one of the smallest streaming services because people have to have an Apple product to get it for free, or they have to pay $5 a month. It’s one of the cheapest ones, but it’s just not on people’s radar either. So here’s something that people could benefit in tangible ways from seeing this movie. You think about The Conners, I believe, has a nonbinary character on it, and that’s a show that airs on a network, and anybody can watch it for free—and I feel like that show has probably done a lot for educating people about the nonbinary experience. So when you have movies that have people in them that many people don’t encounter in their daily lives, we learn by hearing other people’s stories and empathizing with them and learning about their lives. These are movies that aren’t readily available.

Jess: I have a deaf community at my library, and they might be interested in seeing that movie. I know that they probably don’t currently have access to it, and they probably might even not know that it exists, so to run across it on the shelf when they come in would be really exciting, I think. And I’m disappointed that I can’t do that. The same with The Power of the Dog because—oh, spoiler alert—but in it, there’s minority community representation.

Brandi: Yeah, I was gonna say, I think Kodi Smit-McPhee is, at least in the beginning of the movie, coded. I guess he has a feminine energy, but I don’t know if they make it explicit.

Jess: Yeah, and in the in the latter half of the movie, it is made clear that Benedict Cumberbatch’s character is gay, and so to have the gay cowboy, which is not something that you see all the time, that would be some great representation too, which is another missed opportunity. I think it ignores often that not only do some people either can’t afford the streaming service or they don’t have access to internet, but sometimes that their internet just isn’t good enough to stream content. We check out hotspots and they’re “unlimited,” but every cell company limits you after 50 gigabytes a month; they slow your speeds. So I will check out a hotspot, it will rack up to 50 gigs very quickly, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Then the next people that get it go to use it, and they can check their email, they can get on Facebook, but they’re not gonna be able to stream a movie, because streaming in high definition is like two gigs an hour. It’s just not gonna work, and if you were doing that of your own expense, it would be so expensive. So even when I can give people access, like via a hotspot, by virtue of one person utilizing it, it’s limiting it for everyone else. And I have 15 hotspots, and they’re rarely available because so many people need them. Even people who have internet access, streaming video is a tall order. I have a lot a lot of opinions about that. I think these are great movies. I want people to see them. I just wish more people could see them.

Brandi: Yes, I agree.

Jess: Do you have any concluding thoughts or feelings about the Oscars this year?

Brandi: Well, I just want to make sure we mentioned the fun little thing with the double couple nominees. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons are a couple, and they are both nominated for The Power of the Dog, and Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz are both nominated, obviously for two different movies, but they are also a couple. So that’s kind of cool. This is the third time that this has happened. It was Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, both nominated in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain, and then in 2009, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were both nominated—Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and then Angelina Jolie for Changeling—which I had completely forgotten that she was nominated for that movie; that was such a strange movie.

Jess: Oh, I love that movie.

Brandi: It was good; I did like it, yeah. I just thought that was kind of fun. A lot of the headlines were saying, “Just in time for Valentine’s Day, double couple nominees.” It’s so cute, I like it. So it would be really fun if Kirsten and—I don’t know if Penélope and Javier have a chance—but if Kirsten and Jesse both won, that would be a fun surprise. It’d be a good day in their household.

Jess: If nothing else, they can show up looking fly, and it’ll be great.

Brandi: People were disappointed that that Jennifer Lopez will not be making an appearance with Ben Affleck; he was not nominated for The Tender Bar, but that’s OK because I really, really like Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons—they seem to be really in love, and they really love working together, which is good because then we’ll get some more good movies out of the two of them. So that’ll be exciting.

Jess: I actually heard someone say on a podcast that they should have nominated Ben Affleck so we could see Jennifer Lopez at the Oscars. I’m like, “OK, I think we’re really veering off course here.” But because he had The Tender Bar and The Last Duel, The Last Duel has just been totally erased, but I’m fine without Jennifer Lopez at the Oscars, I’ll be honest. And I also heard people saying that they’re not excited for the Oscars this year, because they’re bored by these nominees, and I completely disagree. I think this year, I’ve seen more nominees than I ever have before, and I think that is because of streaming, even though it’s a bit uneven, and it went in a lot of ways that we were expecting it to go nomination-wise, so I’m excited for them.

Brandi: Me too.

Jess: We should do a bracket to see how many we predict correctly.

Brandi: Oh, yes, let’s do that. That’d be fun. Well, thank you for facilitating this—this was fun.

Jess: No problem, this was great.

Movie poster images come from IMDb.

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Jessica Hilburn is the executive director of Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, Pa., and the co-CEO of the Crawford County Federated Library System. She enjoys popular culture in libraries, true crime, and audiobooks, and she is passionate about advocating for rural communities and libraries, as well as broadband equity and information access. Her writing has been published by Information Today, Inc.; ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited; Library Journal; The Oilfield Journal; and The History Press (which published her book, Hidden History of Northwestern Pennsylvania).

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