Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Placing my bets for the upcoming Oscars
Aditya Chugh, Contributor
We’re about a month and a half away from this year’s Oscars. Looking back, I see 2023 as a particularly unique year in moviemaking. The sheer variety in the stories portrayed on the big screen, the unique forms of storytelling, and even the scale at which they were executed was simply astounding. Safe to say, film pundits and moviegoers alike stand divided in their opinion of which movies should win. Here at The Mike, I’m placing my own bets — for the movies which deserve all the laurels and applause, and the ones which really don’t.
Best of 2023 – Oppenheimer
With a thrilling nonlinear narrative, stellar acting performances (especially from Cillian Murphy), and a background score intense enough to move you to your core, Oppenheimer masterfully captures the story of the eponymous physicist who completely changed the world — for better or for worse. This is surely one of Christopher Nolan’s best, but I feel the highest praise must be reserved for the editor, Jennifer Lame. As we deftly move back and forth between Oppenheimer’s foundational years, his time at Los Alamos in the early 1940s, and the 1950s with rising concerns regarding his left-wing associations in a pre-Cold War United States, the film offers a deeply personal insight into the psyche of a “rational” man of science split between morals, duty, and dilemmas that no one before him — or since him — has had to confront.
As for the predictions, theory will only take us so far. In practice, Oppenheimer faces tough competition from contenders like Poor Things, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Barbie, among others. Still, it had sweeping success at the Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice awards, and I predict the trend will continue at the Oscars.
Worst of 2023 – Heart of Stone
Heart of Stone is the answer to the question: does a $150 million budget, a star-studded, multinational cast, and having Netflix as your distributor guarantee a good movie? Apparently not. The film checks off most boxes on the list of clichés for a spy action film, and of course, with AI being the hot topic of current conversation, they included it as the central gimmick. Gal Gadot plays a highly trained intelligence operative (read: generic spy) working for a secret mission called the “Charter” that is guided by an artificial intelligence system capable of forecasting the outcomes of any decision in any mission at any given moment. Although the plot relies heavily on AI and could have explored some of its more interesting ramifications, the story stays silent. Moreover, the characters are quite flat, and there are plot twists that you could see coming from a mile away (even if you turned in the other direction).
While there are other contenders for the coveted title of worst movie, with Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey standing out as another leading candidate, the primary issue with Heart of Stone lies in its lack of originality, despite the substantial resources and talent invested in its production. Perhaps the filmmakers might have found greater luck with a script generated by artificial intelligence.