I haven’t seen, and will not see, James Cameron’s latest self-regarding epic of glorious wonderment and spine-tingling astonishment “Avatar: The Way of Water.” I loathed the first “Avatar” — its stupefying clichés, cornball story and embarrassing gravitas gave me the willies — and I have no need for three more hours of blue-hued pablum and pixie dust.
Still, the movie — which The Guardian torpedoed as “a soggy, twee, trillion-dollar screensaver” — is of course making bundles and is, Christ, nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars. It’s all so predictable, and so terribly depressing.
Cameron’s mammoth, mystical, magical 3-D cartoon joins nine other Best Picture contenders, a few of which look interesting. I’ve only seen four and a half of the 10 films, but I know what I like — and what to shun.
The list isn’t totally offensive, yet it’s certainly not in the league of, say, the Best Picture roster of 1976: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Barry Lyndon,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Jaws” and “Nashville.” (Top that.)
Still, I did enjoy Martin McDonagh’s chatty, touching tale of a foundering friendship, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” as much for its shattering performances (led by Colin Farrell, all knitted brow) as for its emotional fragility. Baz Luhrmann’s typically over-caffeinated “Elvis” biopic was fine if rather pat and conventional considering its Visine-demanding razzle-dazzle.
I could not finish the highly (and curiously) lauded metaverse mess that is “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” its great and fitting title aside. I don’t know who this steroidal video game is aimed at (yes, I do: freaks and geeks) and I found it incoherent, unfunny and frenetically unwatchable. The baffling part: It will probably win Best Picture. Seriously.
I long ago stopped trusting Steven Spielberg not to bow to bathos, and his latest, the autobiographical melodrama “The Fabelmans,” looks like a hot, bubbly bath of bathos. Respectable reviews apart, I’ve heard it’s dreadful, only confirming my hunches. Michelle Williams is up for an acting award and I hope she gets it. She’s terrific and is likely one of the few watchable things in this movie I will not watch. I don’t even like the title.
Nothing against that elfin egomaniac Tom Cruise — I happen to think he’s an underrated actor — but I also won’t be squandering two and a half hours on “Top Gun: Maverick,” a popcorn flick without the laughable high-minded pretensions of “Avatar.” How this show about penises with wings got nominated I will never know. Because I won’t be seeing it. But good for it!
In Todd Field’s “Tár” a commanding Cate Blanchett plays the titular classical conductor, an imperious and imposing figure, the artist as viper. A chamber piece cum character study, this coiled drama entrances with theatrical flair and a seriousness that lends it a sheen of prestige. I like it.
Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s famous anti-war novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a huge German production directed with gloomy zest by Edward Berger and starring piles of mutilated war dead. It’s grisly, affecting and deeply human. The film shimmers with ghastly beauty and unstinting realism — irresistible Oscar bait.
Snubs? While I’m happy Noah Baumbach’s irritating “White Noise” was dissed wholesale, the rejection of delirious Indian action orgy “RRR” for Best International Feature Film is scandalous. (Though it is — whoopee — up for Best Song. Watch it on Netflix. Please.) James Cameron, self-proclaimed King of the World, was denied a Best Director nod for “The Way of Water.” I bet he’s having a seismic hissy fit.
Finally in the Best Picture race are Sarah Polley’s #MeToo-ready drama “Women Talking” and Ruben Östlund’s dark international satire “Triangle of Sadness,” neither of which I’ve seen yet. Critics love them. They are probably good, maybe even superb, and for that they will win nothing.