Larks & Recs: Resident Alien, Oppenheimer, and Anatomy of a Fall

Cillian Murphy with eyes wide in Oppenheimer
Screenshot/Universal Pictures

It’s the second week of March, 2024. We’ve all just watched Katie Britt respond to the State of the Union from “her kitchen” and are looking forward to the Oscars on Sunday. And, on that note, Clay Dockery is back to conclude their running look at the films that will define the broadcast, focusing this time on Oppenheimer and Anatomy of a Fall. Meanwhile, Cat Smith gushes about the women on Resident Alien.

Check back each week for more larks and recommendations!

Katie Britt points her fingers upwards in a kitchen

Resident Alien, Girl TV at Its Finest

Cat: You know why I’m glad Resident Alien is back? I missed my girls.

I mean, sure, I’ve had a crush on Alan Tudyk for years, and once cosplayed Whiskey from Dollhouse for a photo op just so he could menace me (he was very obliging, bless him). But the thing I love most about the alien show is actually very human…and it’s the women.

What we have here is this small town in Colorado, and these women who all grew up there, who have all grown up together, and no matter how their lives turned out, they are all there, and they all have a shared history. Even if their lives went in different directions—when you live in Patience, CO…the roots grow deep.

Alice Wetterlund and Alan Tudyk in Resident Alien

If you tell me you don’t wish you had a friendship like the one between Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko) and D’arcy Bloom (Alice Wetterlund, who is easily my favorite person on television for a variety of reasons), I will not believe you. And it’s not just them. They are the core besties who have been joined at the hip since they were like two, but all the women from Patience know what it means when they get texted a GN59…it means drop everything and meet for a girls’ night out. When one of your girls can say to you, “I just watched my best friend take a piss off the side of my boat. It’s awesome” and mean it…that is a relationship to CHERISH.

Yes, the show is about Harry the alien, and he’s a lot of fun. But really, if Harry went back to his planet tomorrow and the rest of the season was the continuing adventures of my girls, living their lives, having each other’s backs, holding each other’s hair while they puke from too many shots and reminisce about third grade…I’d still watch.

Previewing the Oscars with Oppenheimer and Anatomy of a Fall

Clay: Here is the last Lark in my series on what I think of the Oscar-nominated films and how I think the film’s nominations will affect the 96th Academy Awards as a television show.

This week: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer is the beast of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. It isn’t that often, these days, that the Academy gets to have a movie headlining the Oscars that is critically acclaimed, filled with bankable stars, has an auteur director, and was one of the top grossing movies of the year. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer has all of that, and it has 13 nominations to show for it.

So the question of “how will Oppenheimer affect the show?” is an academic one. In many ways the movie is poised to be the show. There will be viewers who have not watched in years (or have never watched) who are tuning in just to see Nolan or Robert Downey Jr.—this is also true for Barbie, this is a big year for big movies and these two will always be inextricably linked. The better question is, will this be a typical “spread the love” year or an anointing, “this is the movie” year. I tend to think it will be the latter.

Robert Downey Jr in Oppenheimer
Screenshot/Universal Pictures

Of the 13 nominations, I think the film is a lock to win five, a clear frontrunner for three, and has a realistic shot at two more. Best Picture and Best Director are two of the locks, with the only real question being which film will come in second being the real question. It also seems like it will be Downey’s year to finally win an Oscar. Which will be a huge moment for the telecast too; it may be hard to remember with how far Marvel has fallen, but RDJ is perhaps the single biggest star of the past 15 years. Plus he has a compelling story and a history with the Academy. I also can’t imagine anyone else beating Hoyte van Hoytema in Best Cinematography or Ludwig Göransson in Best Original Score.

It has felt at times like Cillian Murphy is in a close race with Paul Giamatti for Best Actor, and I love both performances, but I think Murphy has pulled ahead in the last few weeks and would be shocked if he doesn’t win. Both categories may be closer, but I think Nolan wins Adapted Screenplay and Jennifer Lam will win for for Editing. Makeup and Hairstyling and Sound are the other two where I think Oppenheimer has a shot, but I think Barbie and The Zone of Interest are the actual front-runners.

The only categories where the film seems exceedingly unlikely to win are Best Supporting Actress, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design. And other than Emily Blunt, who I will go on record saying will not win Supporting Actress, the two other categories could still go to Oppenheimer if the voters decide it should be an anointing.

So, the Christopher Nolan coronation is on, as the movie seems poised to win between five and 12 Oscars and be the story of the night either way, which is exactly what the Academy wants and should make for an interesting viewing experience for everyone.

Also this week: Anatomy of a Fall

Finally there is Anatomy of a Fall. Justine Triet’s acclaimed French courtroom drama picked up five Oscar nominations and seems like it could be a dark horse contender in all of them. All of the nominations are in big categories that indicate a lot of support from a lot of branches: Best Picture, Best Director (Triet), Best Lead Actress (Sandra Hüller), Best Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay. The film also could have gotten a nomination in Best International Film, and made that category into an amazing race with The Zone of Interest, but it seems probable that political friction caused France not even to submit the film for consideration.

Anatomy of a Fall also isn’t likely to be drawing in viewers to the Oscar telecast. With that said, it is certainly good for the Academy, and potential viewers, that the film is in the running in so many crucial categories. Hüller, who also stars in The Zone of Interest, gave two of the best performances of the year in those films. But in Anatomy, with her incredible portrayal of the deeply nuanced main character Sandra Voyter, she carries the movie. Voyter is both incredibly sympathetic and completely unlikeable. Like the question at the heart of the movie, the viewer is forced to decide how to feel about her. In the hands of a less capable performer the character might have strayed too far too sympathy or villainy, but Hüller keeps things incredibly grounded. She is probably going to be in third place in the end, but that is a credit to this year’s incredible Best Actress performances.

Sandra Hüller in Anatomy of a Fall
Screenshot/Le Pacte

Similarly, Oppenheimer and Nolan don’t seem beatable for Best Picture or Best Director, but Triet has done some great work here. The other two races are potential targets though. The editing award could certainly also go to Oppenheimer but it is one of the ones that could go another direction if people want to avoid the coronation, and Anatomy of a Fall also does a lot of interesting things in the edit (possibly too many, but that’s my own opinion).

Best Original Screenplay seems to be the place the Academy will award the film, and Triet. Triet and Arthur Harari’s script is tight and interesting, and most of the big competition is in the Adapted category. It will be a close race between Anatomy of a Fall and The Holdovers, but I think the narrative of a Triet win will carry the day. And make for the most interesting show as it may give just a glimmer of hope to some that the movie is in contention in other categories too.

And this year’s show does seem primed to be an exciting one. There are a lot of storylines. A lot of really popular movies are in the mix. And there is a lot of buzz around the show. Even if Oppenheimer winds up winning most of the awards, which is a real possibility, it should still be a fun ceremony to watch.

Written by TV Obsessive

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