So on the eve of the Oscars, we're still cleaning up 2022, which I suppose isn't that new here at Kinemalogue, and of course halfway through March there's still a fair amount left from the previous year that I want to see. It's entirely possible I won't be "done" with the year, then (though one is never done with a year, like, what does that mean, I'm never going to watch any other movie from 2022?), until April, which is of course a bother because newfangled release patterns means that these days we're already starting the new year in earnest by late winter, and there's already very important stuff I'm missing in theaters (Creed III, for example). Yeah, I say this, as if I actually felt like leaving my house. But whatever, here's a mess of semi-mini, semi-new reviews that shall at least begin to close the loop on 2022: Utama, The Woman King, The Menu, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, and Women Talking.
It kind of makes sense that, prior to this feature debut, Alejandro Loayza Grisi's been a cinematographer, and not an especially veteran cinematographer, at that, with his biggest deal being Planeta Bolivia, what looks like a tolerably cool travelogue documentary miniseries. It explains several things about the movie. One of them is, unfortunately, why Utama isn't edited very well. It's not, like, edited terribly or anything, but it's full of images just bonking into one another. For instance, we will eventually arrive upon a very long shot of our protagonist, Virginio (Jose Calcina), a Quechua llama herder and potato farmer living in the Bolivian Qullaw highlands; we see him cresting a roadside from long down the road, and this swings 90 degrees and several thousand feet to bonk into a very close axial shot of his face. Grisi may also be a cinematographer who was never asked the question "where is the horizon in this painting?", though a one-clause aesthetic philosophy is for the birds anyhow. "Being a TV documentary cinematographer" probably also explains Utama's extremely "nature doc" videography, which can be distractingly (sometimes unpleasantly) smooth, though, to Grisi's great credit, it's color graded for naturalism, and despite the overriding goal being a sort of poetic realism erring on the side of just plain realism, no doubt a well-attested mode in Latin American film though what Utama makes me think of is early Fifth Generation Chinese cinema, he even manages some rather interestingly narratively-weighted lighting set-ups inside the family cabin.
I honor the Oscars as most people do—complaining about them—and I rarely discuss them in any systematic way, and I won't be changing that now. But I will do something I've never done before—consider it a lark, please—because for whatever reason, the silly idea, "whom I personally would nominate and award, were my will in command of the collective mind of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences," has been percolating in my brain for a while. Maybe it's just because I actually saw a non-trivial number of movies from the foregoing year for the first time in a while, and 2022 turned out to be a reasonably great year overall for cinema, so I wanted to celebrate that. Or I got tired of reviewing documents at work. In either case, this is the absolute last possible moment of even marginal relevance for it, and while I'd have liked to have seen all the (actual) Best Picture nominees, at least, rather than just 80% of them, and while this kind of locks down my top five even though I'm not done yet, for this particular game, it's now or never. So with no further ado (except to say, "yes, they're in order of preference" and "part of the fun will be to see if I remember all the categories"), here's what and whom I'd have picked were I the dictator of industry circle-jerking.