The Official Helga Without the H 2023 Oscar Awards

For many years now, I try to watch as many Oscar nominees as possible. Some years I took things more seriously or was more successful than others. In 2019 I started reviewing the films here on this mostly-defunct blog. In 2021, we were knee-deep in a pandemic, which meant most films were available for streaming, the period between nominee announcements and awards ceremony was longer, and I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I watched an absolutely staggering amount of movies (30-something? I’m too lazy to check, but it was almost every single feature-length nominee), with full reviews of every single one. It was intense! Not gonna lie, the experience was fun, but kinda burned me out; when the 2022 nominees came out, I didn’t give 2 shits. Didn’t even look up the list, don’t know if I even saw a single movie, didn’t watch the ceremony. That brings us to… this year.

This year I’ve been focusing heavily on my health, which includes setting goals to keep myself more active and less sedentary. That included less time for TV/movies. But some of the burnout from 2021 wore off, so I decided to jump back in this year, just not go so hardcore. Basically, in the rare moments when I did sit down in front of the TV over the past month or so, I looked for Oscar nominees. I decided to just focus on Best Picture nominees, and maybe not go so deep in the weeds. I also didn’t make any predictions, except to discuss best picture with my husband right before the ceremony started. And, I’m only doing 1 post for the whole year, after the awards. This, ladies and gentlemen, is that post.

original art by Helga without the H.
Don’t you DARE steal my masterpiece!

Best Picture Nominees I Saw:
Women Talking
Triangle of Sadness
Top Gun Maverick
Everything Everywhere All At Once
The Banshees of Irishisomething
All Quiet on the Western Front (started it last night after the Oscars and after writing most of this post- am halfway through)

Best Pictures I Didn’t See:
The Fablemans (meh, no real interest)
Avatar (no intention to, either. WTF is this garbage?)

Other Category Movies I Saw:
RRR (kinda – I’ve watched a YouTube clip on repeat and it was enough for me to heavily root for the song in it)
Empire of Light (sorta – I started the first 30 minutes or so but got super bored and hated it so stopped)
Glass Onion

Other Category Movies I Didn’t See:
The Whale*
Wakanda Forever*
To Leslie
Tell it like a Woman
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
The Batman*
Any/all shorts, animations, documentaries, and foreign films
(* multiple-category nominees, mostly for my own reference)

So that breaks down to:
80% (8/10) of best picture nominees
44% (11/25) of feature-length, live-action, non-foreign, fictional movies
???% (10/?) of total nominees that I am not bothering to count
Could be worse! Based on this terrible sample rate, I think it’s fair for me to commence with…

Stupid Statistics and Pointless Analysis!
This is tradition. I have to do it. I’ll just use the 7.5 best pic movies it did see for my stats.

First up… How’s death doing this year? Pretty dang great as always! Someone died in ALL BUT ONE of this year’s movies! So if you don’t want to watch anything too depressing cuz death is a big bummer, check out lighthearted romp Women Talking, which is all about mass gang rape.

What about animal death and cruelty? I know it’s a weird thing to track, but a couple years back I was kinda weirded out by how many animals were harmed or killed in these films. Assuming it was a fluke, I counted again the next year, and the rate actually went up! This year? Okay, not gonna lie, I forgot to pay attention for this while watching, and my memories are a bit foggy, so I could be wrong here. But… I think this year was way better? I think I only count four pics with animal harm (All Quiet, Banshees, Everything Everywhere, and Triangle of Sadness if you include fishing). Not too bad I guess?
No, wait. I’ve gone back and checked previous years’ stats. This year was the WORST EVER! My, how the mind plays tricks.
2023: 50%!
2021: 32%
2020: 43%
2019: 21%

This poor little guy has no idea what he’s in for.

Where my ladies at? Let’s take a look at Bechtel stats. Does the film depict two female characters who talk to each other about something that is not men? By my count, we’ve again only got 3 who pass muster: Tar, Triangle of Sadness, and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Amazingly the film “Women Talking” is literally an entire film that consists almost entirely of just a whole bunch of women talking to each other… but the whole discussion is centered around how to respond to the men who mass-raped them. I could go either way on whether this counts or not. I would say it does not. I’m trying to think of any time they talk about something else, but whenever someone tries it gets brought back to the raping. Examples:
“Oh no, she’s having a seizure!” is followed by “Why are you trying to get attention via seizures? The rest of us were raped by the men, too!”
“Why are you being such a turd?” is followed by “Because I’m angry that a bunch of men might rape my daughter!”
“Let me tell you a really boring story about two of my horses walking down a road” is followed by “these horses can teach us a valuable lesson about how to deal with these men raping everyone all the time.”

“Let’s talk about something that’s not men-related.”
“Okay. How about the extreme safety hazard of glasses girl always smoking around all this dry hay?”
“She does it because she’s traumatized by the men raping her.”

Okay, enough of this tomfoolery. It’s time to finally get to…

The Helga Without the H Official Awards Ceremony!

Big Winner: Length!
As a kid, I always thought that attention spans would get longer when we got older. That’s why old people read big books, etc. As a teen I could watch 3 movies in a row. But now as an adult, even a short movie just feels too dang long. And my ability to feel engaged for a full movie is just getting worse and worse, especially this year since I started actively monitoring and minimizing my screen time. It doesn’t matter what kind of movie it is; action, animation, arthouse, etc. So many of them just bore the hell out of me. It’s part of why I burned out after 2021. I have no clue what the actual run times are on this year’s films, but I don’t care. No matter what it was… THESE FILMS ARE TOO DAMN LONG! For almost all of these movies I would have loved them, but they just dragged shit out for forever. Tar was super boring and artsy, but would have been fine at half the length. Triangle of Sadness might have been my favorite, if only it had moved faster (like maybe chopping 90% of the first section). Even the super fun, amazing, entertaining, million-jokes-a-minute masterpiece Everything Everywhere All At Once could have cleaned up its act (specifically, once we get to the daughter, the plot dragged). And so on and so forth.

Biggest Snub: Bullet Train
Not a single damn nomination?!?! This “academy” is a bloody joke!
Okay, in all seriousness… Bullet Train the film is not a serious contender here. BUT… and hear me out, cuz I mean this in all seriousness… one of the actors is. No, not superstar leading man Brad Pitt. I’m talking about Tangerine, expertly played by the mega-talented Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Here’s a little story for you. A couple months ago, I was on a cross-country flight on an airline with an archaic entertainment system. There were only a couple channels, they didn’t provide headphones, clodes captions didn’t work, and you couldn’t pause or anything. Once we were up in the air I turned on the system, couldn’t find my headphones, and realized my only provided entertainment option was to pick one of 4 movies that were all 20 minutes in already, and to watch with no idea what anyone was saying. There before me on the screen was a an in a bespoke suit. He was just sitting there talking, but I. Could. Not. Look. Away. I spent my flight watching the film Bullet Train all the way to the end, in complete silence, and waiting for this dude to come back on screen. Every time I tell this story people think I just thought the guy was hot, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Without sound or words, I was left reading everyone’s body language for queues. I was watching subtleties in expression. I was watching movement. And as silly as it sounds, I was blown away by how much I was getting out of this seemingly one-dimensional character is this extremely stupid movie. Every little facial tick, every eye bulge, every shoulder shrug, every sniff. Then he started fighting, and getting exasperated, and jumping onto moving trains to smash their windows out. Through all of the action scenes he not only was physically exerting himself, he was also giving amazing comic reaction shots. It was incredible. And I remember thinking “How in the hell do I not know who this guy is? Everything he is doing here takes extreme talent. He should be winning awards for this shit.” And I meant it.
On a related note, I’m been struggling to finish my next novel. There was one section that I just could not find the motivation to complete. It comprises entirely of my protagonist’s interaction with one other character, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I saw Bullet Train and pictured Taylor-Johnson in the role. And all of a sudden “BOOM.” He fit perfectly. And a couple weeks later, I had a completed draft! (Now if only I could find a muse for the editing process, ugh.)

my muse

Animal(s) of the Year: Racoon and Donkey (tied)
I honestly couldn’t decide between the racoon from Everything Everywhere, and the donkey from Banshees of Ichibad. Maybe the scales would tip if I saw EO. But I didn’t. And I loved both animals. So they both win.

Wig on Toast Award: Penny in Top Gun Maverick
Every year I identify a character who is so boring or shallow or pointless that it can be played by a piece of toast wearing a wig. It’s not an insult to the actor playing the character, no, but to the filmmakers who decided to allow characters with zero depth into their film, usually a complete insult to the chops of whatever likely great actor is selected to play the shitty role (the original winner was Claire Foye’s pointless character in First Man). Often we’re talking female love interests to male protagonists, and this year is no exception. Jennifer Connelly is a fantastic actress. I think she is perfectly cast as the Tom Cruise love interest in Top Gun because she’s age-appropriate for him and looks just as stunning as Cruise. But that’s it. Yeah she looks the part, but… the part is fucking dumb. The love interest in the first movie was dumb as fuck. The entire first movie was dumb as fuck. This entire sequel was dumb as fuck, but at least they cleaned up some of the dumb stuff (I really just mean they didn’t wear jeans for their sexy sports montage). But they still kept the pointless love interest with nothing to do except sit around looking good and waiting for Maverick to come bang her. All that being said, she wasn’t too bad. She knew how to sail, had a decent sense of humor running her bar, drove a cool car, and seems to have had a pretty damn interesting life for the past couple decades. Alas, she is still the only generic lady character in any of this year’s movies* (progress!), so she remains our winner.
*I wrote this before seeing All Quiet on the Western Front, where so far the only female characters are 3 random woman walking in a field, and one of the soldiers just kinda wanders over to them and get himself instantly laid by one of them. The only thing we know about the woman is that she smells good and has nice tits. It’s a WWI movie, though, so…

Helga Without the H Feminist Movie Award: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
This award goes out every year to the film that shows women engaging in activities that are not about being women, or about their relationships to men. In other words; women who are fully-formed characters who have shit going on in their lives. You would assume the feminism movie would go to Women Talking, which is a big discussion of women’s issues, but my award goes to the opposite of that. My award goes to films that have pushed past the point of having to talk about women’s issues just to be seen. Our hero Evelyn is a multi-dimensional character in an infinite number of ways. Yeah, she has a husband and kid, and her love for her family are what eventually save her, but there is just so much more going on here. The other female characters (her daughter and her tax auditor) are just as complex and interesting. Being women has nothing to do with why they are so awesome, or why they do any of the thing they do. They can just be rocks or chefs or dimension jumpers or martial artists. That’s good stuff.
I considered making Tar runner-up. But so much of the character and story revolves around her being the most successful woman composer, we open with an interview about previous woman composers, she gives a big lecture about how we can’t judge music based on the sex/race/gender/etc of the composer. And so on and so forth. Was it refreshing seeing the power dynamic of the abusive superior swapped to a woman? Yeah. But the fact that she was a woman was emphasized just a wee bit much for this to count.
Wait! Holy shit, I forgot about…
Actual Runner-up: Triangle of Sadness. To explain why this films ranks high I’d have to do some spoilers, so instead, you should just watch it.

And finally, it is time for…

I’ll try to keep these brief. I’m listing them very roughly in order from favorite to least favorite, but I’ll be honest: most of these are really closely matched. Nothing jumps out as the very clear definite winner, and I didn’t hate a single movie. Usually something on the list gets me straight-up angry (I. HATE. TENET.) Not the case this year. Of course, if I’d bothered to watch Avatar, that probably would change.

I haven’t watched this movie. But I have watched the same 4 minute clip of suspender dancing roughly 40 times, so that’s the equivalent of watching the whole film, right? Okay, maybe not. The movie is probably garbage. The the nacho suspender dance is pure perfection, and the best song Oscar here was well-deserved. I jumped off the couch in excitement when they performed it during the ceremony. So I’m gonna go ahead and declare RRR winner for “Best Single Scene.”

Glass Onion
I watched this as soon as it came out, months before Oscar season. I thought it was great. Perfect filmmaking. Not too long. Much better than the first one (which was already pretty dang good). And I remember thinking “I could see this being an Oscar nominee.” Would I be as praise-worthy if I watched it during Oscar season? Who knows. But come on- this shit was fun. And its screenwriting nomination was well-deserved.

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
Okay, getting to the real movies now… No single movie jumped out to me as the clear winner this year. I’d say it could have deservedly gone to any of maybe 4 nominees. But in the end, this was my main pick (very closely followed by Banshees of Indochine). Is it perfect? Contrary to what others may say, no, it is certainly not. Others complain that it was hard to follow because it moved too fast; I think it was hard to follow because the daughter’s conflict moved too slowly and didn’t make any sense. Maybe I would change my mind if I watched it again. Still, it doesn’t really matter. This film is so well done, and brilliantly acted. Certainly a well-deserved best actress win for Michelle Yeoh. This film was wacky and zany and absolutely hilarious. I was laughing so hard. And despite my criticisms about the daughter’s plotline being hogwash, it also made me laugh real big, sobbing tears. It’s certainly not your typical Oscar movie, but that’s part of what makes it so great.

The Banshees of Iridescence
This movie was also hilarious, but in a very tragic terrifying sort of way. Where Everything Everywhere is moving at a million miles per minute, Banshees of slow and contemplative. It leaves us plenty of time to question every scene and interaction. The acting is wonderful, and the storytelling is impactful. I’ve always been a huge Colin Farrell fan, and he really shines here. (as does the kid who got nominated for best supporting whose name I can’t remember and am too lazy to look up). This film is only made better if you understand or learn about the Irish history which it is symbolizing. I found a pretty great YouTube video (too lazy to find the link now) that went through all the parallels and it was super helpful. And finally, Irish accents are always a plus in any setting. And the donkey was grand.

“I am not taking my donkey outside when I am sad.”

Women Talking
I really liked this one, despite the fact that it really is 90% just a handful of women sitting in a room and talking (it’s basically 12 Angry Men, as my husband repeatedly pointed out. I don’t know, I haven’t seen it.) It feels like it’s based on a play (and probably should be turned into one), but is actually based on a novel, which is based on an absolutely horrifying real-life event where a bunch of dudes in a Mennonite community in Bolivia drugged hundreds of women in their community with animal tranquilizers and raped them while unconscious. Fun stuff! Our film skips over that horror pretty quickly, though, and really starts up when all the men of the community leave town for 2 days to deal with their buddies being arrested. The women now have to decide what to do about this situation. It was truly fascinating watching women who have been living in such an isolated and repressed setting coming to grips with the smallness of their world, and trying to figure out what they do and do not know. We watch them question their faith, wrestle with internal conflict between what their gut is telling them and what their entire upbringing has been telling them, and fail to express themselves because they do not have the vocabulary necessary. What struck me was how thoughtful and insightful these women were, and how strong. They try to figure out how to possibly go into the world outside of their own, and how that can even be possible for them when they don’t know what is out there, or where they are (for example, none have them have ever seen a map. They don’t’ know what lays beyond their fields.) One thing I am surprised we didn’t see more of, though, was women who are so indoctrinated by their insular community, that they speak out against their best interests. Frances McDorman (who is only in this movie for like 3 minutes) is the only character we see who says “we can’t leave because then we can’t go to heaven” and actually means it. I would have expected a much larger percentage of the women who be too brainwashed to have the discussion we see in this movie. I also thought there were some frustrating plotpoints with the only man in the movie, a schoolteacher who sat in on the meeting to take minutes (since none of the women can read or write). But those were minor frustrations. Anyway, I never want to see this movie again, but I thought it was crazy good and you should definitely see it.

All Quiet on the Western Front
I’m only halfway through this one. So far so good! By which I mean sweet jesus this is depressing stuff. This is the first movie I’ve watched with my new glasses, and holy smokes! It turns out I haven’t been able to see the TV at all for lord knows how long! This war film was crisp and sharp! Which is a shame, because the crips sharp image were of men getting blown to bits. Anyway, the movie itself… So far it is great. The cinematography is astounding. The acting is good. I am really feeling the misery of the characters and the setting. It is a perfect war movie. That being said… it’s another war movie. Does it have anything new to say? Anything we haven’t seen already in a million other heart-wrenching war movies? Not yet, no. Also, does it follow the book? My husband says that the internet says no, it does not. I should know, because this was assigned reading in 7th grade. Alas, 7th grade was my first time fully immersed in advanced classes, which means it was a fun time to realize that I am a slow reader and just straight-up could not keep up with the pace of our reading assignments. So I never finished it. And I never followed along with the glass discussions because I was always several chapters behind. Long story short, this movie is sad because it reminds me that I suck at reading and kinda sucked at school.

Triangle of Sadness
The least-talked-about nominee? I had never heard of this movie before. Barely anyone mentioned it at the ceremony. But somehow it was nominated. I went in not sure what to expect. I’ve gotta say… if this thing had moved faster, it might have been at the top of my list. The characters are perfect. The story is hilarious and infuriating. And it is so, so satisfying watching the rich have the shit kicked out of them. The main problem for me, though, and I know I sound like a broken record here, was that it was just too dang slow. We could have moved through a lot more of the same plot and jokes in way less time. To a certain degree this might harm the comic timing. But… only to a point. Like… come on, we could have chopped half of the first part with the arguing couple. The good shit start when we get to the boat anyway. Should you see this one? Yes. And as you do so, try to guess which is my favorite scene! (hint: it involved poop!!!!!)

This is a great movie for people who love boring movies! I said this to my sister earlier this evening and she started laughing, and I realized it sounded like a joke/insult. But it wasn’t meant to be, I swear! Did you see the preview? If so, you have a sense already of the timing and the general mood of the film. Nothing much happens in the preview, and nothing much happens in the film. And yet the film is like a billion hours long for some reason. Again, if it were a bit shorter, we could have gotten in all the same storyline and brooding and whatnot without falling asleep (and missing the start of the OScar ceremony, btw, cuz we tried to cram this one in at the last minute. And by minute I mean last 300 minutes). This sounds like a pan of the film, but it is not. It does a good job depicting its world and taking us behind the curtain both literally and figuratively. Cate Blanchett was, of course, perfect in her role. The story, as slow and quiet as it was, was still interesting enough (though at times hard to follow). So… it was fine.

Do you like musician biopics? Do you like Baz Luhrman movies? Then you’ll like Elvis. Does this movie deserve a best picture oscar nomination? No. What the hell is it doing up here on this list? But it was still interesting enough. Had pros and cons. I learned quite a bit about Elvis that I didn’t know before. The main guy whose name I’m too lazy to remember was fine. The film was pretty dang uneven, though. We start off in true Baz Luhrman style, super over-the-top wacky editing and surreal storytelling. This intro lasts for a very long time, long enough that we get to the point where we start to assume “Oh, this is how the whole film is going to work, huh? Okay, seems like a bit much, but ok.” Then at some point, I dunno, it’s like the filmmakers run out of steam, and we just switch to being a normal, generic biopic. Which is kinda boring, whatever, its fine. Then towards the end it’s like they remembered “Oh yeah, this is a Baz movie!” and they pick up the wackiness again. Certainly worth a watch if Baz Does Elvis sounds like your cup of tea. But don’t go handing it any golden statues or anything.

Top Gun: Maverick
I have both everything and nothing to say about this movie. I mean… it did what it was supposed to do. It just remade the original crazy dumb movie, but made it shinier. How this crap is nominated for a best picture Oscar, I have no earthly idea. All that being said, it’s a moderately fun film I guess. The casting is good, the thin excuse for a plot is adequate, and the shirtless football is appreciated. I also appreciated the token girl pilot existing. What I really want to talk about is how insanely dumb the original is. I honestly can’t remember if I’d actually ever seen the movie in my youth (I was a little kid when it came out), so I rewatched it when everyone started talking about Maverick. I know everyone laughs about the homoerotic beach volleyball scene, but… I was not prepared for how dumb that scene would be. I didn’t realize going in that this scene had exactly nothing to do with anything else in the film. They are just suddenly playing. Nobody told me that they are playing IN FULL-LENGTH JEANS. I have played my share of sand volley. You CANNOT play it in jean pants. WTF?! Then he arrives LATE to his hot date, straight from his streetwear homoerotic beach volleyball game (that for some reason had spectators even though none of these dudes actually know how to play volleyball, so the match could not have been decent entertainment). He arrives late and unshowered. Motherfucker, if you come late to the dinner I just prepared for you because instead of going home to shower and get dressed you stopped to cover yourself in sweat and sand while making eyes at the dude in your class who you very very clearly are in love with… you are not coming in to dinner. But instead, this lady is like “I’m literally an rocket scientist” (well, not really, she’s an astrophysicist which has nothing to do with airplanes but this movie pretends that it does) “but I am dumb enough to let this asshole strut in here late and drag sand all over the place and then I’ll have sex with him and now there is sand in my bed.”
What was I talking about? Oh yeah. No Oscars here. Should have been replaced on the list with Glass Onion.

Empire of Light
My husband turned this on, telling me it’s an Oscar movie. I love the shit out of Olivia Coleman and Colin Firth, so I said “sure, sounds good!” I can’t remember how far we got, maybe 20 minutes, and I was just bored out of my scull. “What was this nominated for?” I don’t even remember the answer, but it was a single nomination if a semi-minor category. Like best sound or editing or something. WTF? We shut it off. I ain’t got time for this shit. All that being said… maybe you would enjoy it if you actually watched it, which I admittedly did not. Oh, and if you want to see Sophie from Peep Show give Mr Darcy an HJ, then this is the film for you!

That’s a good note to end on. Seeya next year!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s