This year’s nominees for best picture range from period war dramas to modern portraits of artists to everything (everywhere all at once) in between. As part of the series Anatomy of a Scene, I spoke to the directors of eight of the 10 nominated films. (Steven Spielberg and James Cameron remained elusive.) Each discussion opened a window into the painstaking work of moviemaking, with some unexpected insights gleaned along the way. Read about each below, then check out even more films in the series here.
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’
The director Edward Berger narrates a sequence from his Oscar-nominated film.CreditCredit…Reiner Bajo/Netflix, via Associated Press
This scene from this World War I drama takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a bunker. But I was intrigued to learn that it was first rehearsed in a gym. That’s where the director Edward Berger blocked the sequence so the actors would know the exact beats to hit when transferring to the more constricting set.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’
The writer and director Martin McDonagh narrates a scene from the film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.CreditCredit…Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/Searchlight Pictures, via Associated Press
The writer and director Martin McDonagh is skilled with words, but he said the most surprising moment in this scene came from improvised action. It’s an attempt by Padraic (Colin Farrell) to reach out to his friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), that is met with icy disdain.
Baz Luhrmann narrates a sequence from his biopic starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks.CreditCredit…Warner Bros.
Sure, all eyes are on Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) and his gyrating hips, in this scene where he first mesmerizes an audience. But what really makes this moment electric are the audience members themselves: the professional “scream queens” that the director Baz Luhrmann employed to deliver full-on, choreographed high-pitched wails.
The Run-Up to the 2023 Oscars
The 95th Academy Awards will be presented on March 12 in Los Angeles.
- Asian Actors: A record number of actors of Asian ancestry were recognized with Oscar nominations this year. But historically, Asian stars have rarely been part of the awards.
- Hong Chau Interview: In a conversation with The Times, the actress, who is nominated for her supporting role in “The Whale,” says she still feels like an underdog.
- Andrea Riseborough Controversy: Confused about the brouhaha surrounding the best actress nominee? We explain why the “To Leslie” star’s nod was controversial.
- The Making of ‘Naatu Naatu’: The composers and choreographer from the Indian blockbuster “RRR” explain how they created the propulsive sequence that is nominated for best song.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert narrate a sequence from their film starring Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan.CreditCredit…Allyson Riggs/A24
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film offers plenty of surprises, but what most struck me about this fanny-pack-swinging action set piece was that the fight chorography came from a group of YouTubers. The directors reached out to the Martial Club, “kung fu nerds from Orange County,” Scheinert said.
The writer and director Todd Field narrates a sequence from his film starring Cate Blanchett.CreditCredit…Focus Features
Sometimes not even an actor knows exactly where the material may take them. This scene features a breakdown moment with Cate Blanchett that was so emotionally overwhelming it pulled the rug out from under both the director, Todd Field, and his star.
‘Top Gun: Maverick’
The director Joseph Kosinski narrates a sequence from the film starring Tom Cruise.CreditCredit…Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
This scene of Maverick (Tom Cruise) conducting a hypersonic flight test is a lot of fun, but I think it’s really about the final shot. As the director Joseph Kosinski explained, a real Navy pilot performed a maneuver so low and fast that it blew Ed Harris’s khakis about, and rearranged the roof on a piece of set, destroying it and resulting in what is essentially a one-take shot.
‘Triangle of Sadness’
The writer and director Ruben Ostlund narrates a sequence from his film.CreditCredit…Neon
Ruben Ostlund’s satire of the wealthy involves a particularly nifty moment here, which comes after a yacht sinks and some characters are shipwrecked. It takes place inside a lifeboat, where one woman (Dolly de Leon), who was a cleaning lady at sea, begins to realize her value and how her status can quickly change in this crisis situation. It’s a sharp and subtle acting moment that the camera allows to play out in a wide shot.
The screenwriter and director Sarah Polley narrates a sequence from her film.CreditCredit…Michael Gibson/Orion Pictures/United Artists Releasing, via Associated Press
The screenwriter and director Sarah Polley told me something quite fascinating when talking about this sequence from her movie. She said the scene, which involves a pivotal apology from a mother to a daughter, wasn’t working at first because, she realized, it didn’t have a character actually saying the words, “I’m sorry.” She collaborated with the actors and a key crew member to add those words and create a more impactful moment.