Our critic says ‘Tár’ deserves several Oscars, including best picture

Cate Blanchett and Nina Hoss in the movie "Tár."
(Focus Features)

Final voting for the Oscars begins today; the results will be unveiled on March 12. Not being a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (an ideal arrangement for all involved), I don’t get a ballot, though if I did, here’s how I would fill it out.


Best picture

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“The Fabelmans”
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”
“Women Talking”

Should win: “Tár.” It’s dispiriting if unsurprising that, apart from the many critics’ prizes it’s racked up, the best of this year’s nominees has never really been considered a plausible front-runner. While Cate Blanchett’s commanding performance has understandably dominated attention, it’s the entire damn world that director Todd Field builds around her — the fully realized sphere of power and influence through which Lydia Tár moves — that gives “Tár” its intellectual acuity, its riveting texture and (charges of coldness be damned) its extraordinary emotional force.

Should’ve been a contender: “No Bears.” The bravest and boldest movie of 2022 was a too-little-seen masterwork by the great Jafar Panahi. His recent release from an Iranian prison is worthier of celebration — and a greater boon to cinema — than anything or anyone in this year’s Oscar race.


Gabriel LaBelle and co-writer/producer/director Steven Spielberg on the set of "The Fabelmans."
(Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment)


Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”
Todd Field, “Tár”
Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Should win: Spielberg. I surprise myself a bit with this choice, but I’m finally won over by the mix of cinematic verve, emotional warmth and pointed auto-critique that Spielberg brings to this deeply though not uncommonly personal work. In his hands, a funny and lyrical bildungsroman becomes a surprisingly tough-minded assessment of himself and the medium he manipulates so effortlessly. Side note: It’s fascinating to see two nominees, Field and Östlund, whose work shows the stylistic influence of the great Michael Haneke, who was nominated for (and should have won) this Oscar back in 2013.

Should’ve been a contender: Park Chan-wook, “Decision to Leave.” Park’s command of visual storytelling has rarely seemed more peerless than in this fiendishly intricate, achingly romantic noir, which won the directing prize at Cannes last year and deserved to win far more.

A conductor (Cate Blanchett in "Tár") and a housewife turned warrior (Michelle Yeoh in "Everything Everywhere All at Once")
Cate Blanchett in “Tár” and Michelle Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” make for a near-impossible choice for lead actress.
(Focus Features; David Bornfriend/A24)

Lead actress

Cate Blanchett, “Tár”
Ana de Armas, “Blonde”
Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”
Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Should win: Blanchett … no, Yeoh … no, Blanchett. Ask me again in five minutes and I’ll switch back to Yeoh, as I’ve been doing all season long. If I give Blanchett the narrowest of edges right now, it’s because in Field she has a director attuned to her every micro-nuance of mood and gesture; Yeoh’s performance, staggeringly multifaceted as it is, at times feels diminished rather than enlarged by Daniels’ maddening stylistic frenzy. Then again, given how much Yeoh overcomes that hurdle, maybe that’s a point in her favor. So, Yeoh it is. No, Blanchett.


Should’ve been a contender: Regina Hall, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” It’s ridiculous to settle on just one in the year that gave us Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”), Mia Goth (“Pearl”), Rebecca Hall (“Resurrection”), Lee Hye-young (“In Front of Your Face”), Françoise Lebrun (“Vortex”), Guslagie Malanda (“Saint Omer”), Keke Palmer (“Nope”), Aubrey Plaza (“Emily the Criminal”), Léa Seydoux (“One Fine Morning”), Emma Thompson (“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”), Anamaria Vartolomei (“Happening”) and two Tilda Swintons (“The Eternal Daughter”). But I’d have liked to see the perpetually undervalued Regina Hall crack the lineup, because while conducting the Berlin Phil is hard, comedy — especially comedy with such rich, piercing dramatic layers — might still be harder.

Paul Mescal in the movie "Aftersun."

Lead actor

Austin Butler, “Elvis”
Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”
Bill Nighy, “Living”

Should win: Mescal. In a beautiful recent consideration of Mescal’s performance as a young father in the grip of inchoate, inconsolable pain, my Times colleague Charles McNulty wrote that the actor “never makes ‘Aftersun’ about his brilliance. He subordinates himself to the work — and by doing so is elevated by it.” Naturally, he doesn’t stand a chance against Butler and Fraser, the category’s two showiest contenders; neither, it seems, do Farrell and Nighy, whom I’d rank a close second and third.

Should’ve been a contender: Jack Lowden, “Benediction.” No one is making more artful biopics these days than Terence Davies, and precious few are eliciting performances as cumulatively devastating as Lowden’s, in which he brings the mind, body and soul of the World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon beautifully to life.

Kerry Condon in the movie "The Banshees of Inisherin."
(Jonathan Hession/Searchlight Pictures)


Supporting actress

Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Hong Chau, “The Whale”
Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Should win: Condon. As the loving sister and free thinker who most thoroughly understands — and alone escapes — the stifling small-town conformity of Inisherin, Condon gets the richest characterization in this category and gives, accordingly, its most nuanced performance. (Her closest competitor in that regard is Chau, the only actor to emerge from the miscalculations of “The Whale” fully unscathed.)

Should’ve been a contender: Dolly de Leon, “Triangle of Sadness.” Seriously, how did she not get in? The beating tragicomic heart of Östlund’s wickedly funny class satire was also, hands-down, the supporting performer of the year.

Brian Tyree Henry in the movie "Causeway."
(Wilson Webb/Apple TV+)

Supporting actor

Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”
Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”
Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Should win: Henry. As a lonely auto mechanic nursing more than his fair share of sorrow, Henry gives a performance of such gorgeous gravitas and restrained melancholy that he would get my vote even if I weren’t eliminating some of his competition on technical grounds. (Gleeson and the clearly unbeatable Quan are both superb; they’re also both leads in my book, and I won’t hear another word about it.)

Should’ve been a contender: Luca Sabin, “Întregalde.” This into-the-woods thriller from the Romanian director Radu Muntean was one of the most suspenseful, compassionate and morally inquisitive movies I saw last year, and Sabin, a nonprofessional actor making a startling screen debut, is its antagonist, conscience and most unforgettable presence.


A woman holds a garment bag while in an elevator in the movie "Tár."
Noémie Merlant in the movie “Tár.”
(Focus Features)

Original screenplay

Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, “The Fabelmans”
Todd Field, “Tár”
Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Should win: “Tár.” Scene for mesmerizing scene, Field’s script might have been the year’s most scintillatingly written and unapologetically erudite movie (and also, predictably and depressingly, the one most subject to charges of pretension). “The Fabelmans” — the latest of several remarkable collaborations between Spielberg and Kushner, but the first that Spielberg has co-written — runs a close second.

Should’ve been a contender: Jordan Peele, “Nope.” Peele won this Oscar five years ago for “Get Out.” He should be in contention again for his third and finest feature — a funny, scary, deeply disturbing interrogation of Hollywood spectacle and, in a sea of top-grossing franchise movies, the year’s single most heartening box office success story.

Ben Whishaw, Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in the movie "Women Talking," an Oscar nominee for best adapted screenplay.
(Michael Gibson/Orion Releasing)

Adapted screenplay

Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Rian Johnson, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
Kazuo Ishiguro, “Living”
Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren, Christopher McQuarrie, Peter Craig and Justin Marks, “Top Gun: Maverick”
Sarah Polley, “Women Talking”

Should win: “Women Talking.” That a visibly disengaged Mark Wahlberg couldn’t even get the title right (“Women Are Talking,” seriously?) at the recent Screen Actors Guild awards is merely the latest indication of how little respect or attention Polley’s film has received all season. Her layered and rigorous distillation of Miriam Toews’ novel is this category’s most impressive feat of adaptation; Johnson’s ingeniously plotted whodunit “Glass Onion,” an original in all but designation, would get my second-place vote.


Should’ve been a contender: Audrey Diwan and Marcia Romano, “Happening.” Incisively adapted from a memoir by recently crowned Nobel Prize laureate Annie Ernaux, Diwan’s brutally timely movie about a young woman’s attempt to secure an illegal abortion in 1960s France is a tense, harrowing stunner.

A scene from the movie "EO."
(Sideshow/Janus Films)

International feature

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Argentina, 1985”
“The Quiet Girl”

Should win: “EO.” With nine Oscar nominations including for best picture, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is clearly the prohibitive favorite. But Jerzy Skolimowski’s formally radical, emotionally wrenching drama about the travails of a donkey is by far this category’s — and perhaps the year’s — most cinematically revivifying achievement.

Should’ve been a contender: “Saint Omer.” There are movies like “Argentina, 1985,” a rousing, impeccably polished courtroom drama and justly one of this race’s more popular contenders. And then there are movies like Alice Diop’s French-submitted “Saint Omer,” a quietly shattering true-crime story that makes it hard to watch any courtroom drama the same way again.

Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh) and Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) in a scene from the Pixar movie "Turning Red."


Animated feature

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”
“The Sea Beast”
“Turning Red”

Should win: “Turning Red.” Pixar delivered the year’s most trenchant and affecting Asian-themed mother-daughter fantasy. Disney, under the leadership of the since-deposed Bob Chapek, released it on Disney+ without giving it the theatrical release it deserved; the Oscar would make a decent consolation prize.

Should’ve been a contender: “Inu-oh.” Steeped in 12th century warrior legend, Masaaki Yuasa’s hallucinatory anime rock opera is possessed of a thrillingly modern sensibility all its own.

Nan Goldin in a photo from the 1970s in the documentary "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed."
Nan Goldin in a photo from the 1970s in the documentary “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.”

Documentary feature

“All That Breathes”
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
“Fire of Love”
“A House Made of Splinters”

Should win: “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” Not an easy choice in a category this roundly impressive; the inclusion of “A House Made of Splinters,” Simon Lereng Wilmont’s deeply moving film set in a Ukrainian children’s shelter, is especially heartening. But it’s ultimately the intricate weave of activism, photography and lived history in “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” — and the sense of artistic kinship that the director Laura Poitras forges with the artist Nan Goldin — that moves it to the top of the list.

Should’ve been a contender: “Descendant.” Margaret Brown’s gravely thoughtful, deeply researched film about the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to the U.S. — and how their descendants are keeping their stories alive, and how their sufferings continue to be both denied and exploited — was the finest nonfiction feature I saw last year.