If you remember nothing else, remember this: the Oscar race is fluid, not static. That means you think you have the race mostly figured out but movies and performances can still make landfall and end the dinosaurs. One such movie is Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos. Coming in with very low expectations is really the best way to see a movie and such was the case with this film. It had simply flown under the radar and was barely a consideration. Add to that, mild tornados on Twitter that threatened to derail the film before anyone had seen it. Add to that, Sorkin’s directorial efforts have not been quite the grade A people might have expected. But, though no one could have predicted it, he has made his best film to date.
It’s always a little disorienting when a movie comes out of nowhere and is better than expected, or sometimes worse than expected. It exists as a reminder that we don’t make the race, we chase the race. At our best, that is what we do.
Being the Ricardos seems likely to shake up the major categories and even some of the tech categories. While many who predict the Oscars have been holding a place for West Side Story and Nightmare Alley, they weren’t for Being the Ricardos, not even a little bit. But after two smash hit back-to-back screenings (with talent present) it seems that, at least for now, this film is going to be a major Oscar player.
It has the right ingredients to drive a strong contender, namely, it’s driven by bravura performances, a tightly written screenplay, and lean directing. It reminds me a bit of movies like Quiz Show – handsomely mounted adult fare, of the kind we just don’t see that much anymore. I’m not really allowed to write an actual review, so I’ll stick to “awards analysis.”
Nicole Kidman joins the already way-too-crowded Oscar race with a role that seems to have been written for her. How can that be? I don’t know, it just is. Kidman’s work is so consistently good that it’s hard to imagine she’d hit one of her best with this, but indeed she has. Remembering the Oscar race is fluid and not static helps to make room for the end of the year performances, like Kidman’s and her co-star Javier Bardem, not to mention the supporting actors, JK Simmons, Nina Arianda, and Alia Shawkat. But the entire ensemble seems like it’s aimed squarely for the SAG ensemble nod.
I think it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this film could land in Best Picture, due to the strong performances of the film’s two leads and the strength of the screenplay. That’s before you even get to the part about it being a movie about actors and you know how actors love movies about actors. But it’s also about writers. And producers. And the studio system and television and in its own way, about creative expression.
I’m getting into review territory, so let’s pivot back to “awards analysis.”
Looking at Best Actress it could look something like:
Kristen Stewart, Spencer
Jennifer Hudson, Respect
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
With the alts being Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, Jodie Comer in The Last Duel.
Best Actor is also likely to look something like:
Will Smith, King Richard
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog
Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Peter Dinklage, Cyrano
Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos
The other categories that this film will likely disrupt includes:
Supporting Actor – JK Simmons
Supporting Actress – Nina Arianda, Alia Shawkat
Original Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin
Best Director is a maybe at the moment, considering it’s such an incredibly packed category. Right now, the three locks appear to be:
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard
Guillermo Del Toro, Nightmare Alley
Denis Villeneuve, Dune
But Sorkin is surely on the list, as it seems likely Being the Ricardos is headed for WGA, PGA and SAG ensemble nominations. If it lands there and in Best Picture at the Oscars, it seems like a strong contender for Director, so Sorkin could be looking at, and well deserving of, his nomination there.
The film is best seen with a packed house because there is nothing — and I mean nothing — like sharing emotions, especially laughter, with your fellow humans.
Reviews are embargoed until December, so for now it will have to land in this context, as “analysis.” And that means I can’t praise just how brilliant Kidman is, or how astonishingly talented Aaron Sorkin is, or how unexpectedly perfect Javier Bardem is. I can’t write about the film’s title, which holds the key to the whole film — I’ll just have to say, for now, that it’s a film not to miss.