Celine Song’s gentle, ruminative romance is, in many ways, the inverse of Gerwig’s no-holds-barred picaresque, but on Oscar nominations morning, their fates were partially mirrored: its sensitive screenplay was recognized alongside its best picture nod, but Song missed out on a best director slot, and the other unfairly overlooked Greta of awards season, Greta Lee, didn’t make the best actress shortlist, either. Both deserve more praise for their heartfelt, understated work in this tale of childhood sweethearts torn apart by circumstance. If it’s any consolation though, it’s certain that, whatever its final Oscar tally, it’ll be remembered as one of 2023’s best films regardless.
In her latest emotionally devastating epic, Ava DuVernay does the impossible: taking Isabel Wilkerson’s lauded non-fiction bestseller Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, a study of the Indian caste system and the hierarchies of Nazi Germany in relation to the long-running subjugation of African Americans, as her source material, she’s ingeniously reconfigured the story to place its Pulitzer Prize-winning writer (as embodied by a regal Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) at its center. Under her direction, it’s a deeply moving, easily digestible, and unexpectedly funny examination of both centuries of history and the personal joys and anguish of a woman who is wading through it all in search of answers. If that weren’t enough, the auteur did all of this outside of the studio system, shooting across three continents in just 37 days, and ending her journey at the Venice Film Festival, where she was, staggeringly, the first African American woman to present a film in competition in 80 years. Somehow, the Academy still shut it out of all categories—but, it’s a film you need to see, and one that is guaranteed to make you weep.
A Thousand and One