Two films that have zero chance in the Oscars race but which make a good case for how the Oscar Nominations can also give a boost to films sitting external to the larger discussions.
Cyrano is a film that suffered greatly from being postponed multiple times during the pandemic. When it finally did release the advertising campaign was largely forgotten and neutralized and very few realized it was actually out in theaters. Add into this mix a problematic advertising campaign that largely misled in the kind of film this is- some, including myself, didn’t even realize it was a musical lete alone a shakesperean type love story based on a theaterical production- and you’ve got a recipe for Cyrano being woefully overlooked by audiences and voters.
Which is a shame, because it is genuinely very good. It is a love story, but its an unconventional one filled with some wonderful twists and turns and great on screen chemistry. While the trailers puzzling emphasized Peter Dinklages’ Game of Thrones persona, his actual performance is a subdued and complex character study of someone caught in the throes of love, self refection, forgiveness and existential crisis, the perfect themes to inspire great and memorable songs (courtesy of the National). If you go into this knowing what it is chances are good it just might sweep you off your feet in some rather wonderful and unexpected ways
Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom is a film from Bhutan contending in the International Feature category, and it is genuinely one of the most uplifting stories of 2021. It’s sweet, deeply affecting and refreshingly simple in its approach, following a teacher discontent with city life and looking for a change as he relocates temporarily to a remote school high in the mountains of the Bhutan countryside. The Yak is symbolic and also very much real (and adorable). Yak dung is also symbolic and very much real. The film also operates, in a symbolic and very real way, as a love letter to educators. This should be mandatory viewing for the many teachers who have tirelessly and faithfully navigated a pandemic. Its both inspiring and therapeutic and a great reminder of the power the teacher-student relationship holds.
The Oscar Story:
Not much to muse about here. The lone nomination for Cyrano is in Costume Design, a category that is likely to be won by Cruella with Dune in second spot. Lunana has the single nomination for International Feature, a cateory already dominated by front runner Drive My Car, expected second place contender Flee, and the passionate swell of support for The Worst Person in the World. It is merely occupying space there. But that doesn’t mean these are not films very much worth seeing. There is a world where, had Cyrano’s release fared better, it could have competed in a few categories including Best Acter, and the strength of Lunana just shows how strong that category is this year.