Monday, March 04, 2024

Best of 2023, #5: Oppenheimer

I don’t usually enjoy Christopher Nolan’s movies and I had little reason to think I’d like this one any better. Everything I knew going in was unfavorable. I knew it was super-long, I knew it was a big non-linear bowl of spaghetti, and I knew I had issues with the casting.

But it turned out to be great. At times, as with the next movie we’ll be looking at, it felt like a six-hour movie cut down to three hours, so it felt like we were whizzing through the material in a sprightly way. Amazingly, I was able to keep all the storylines clear even with all the jumping around (It helped, of course that I already knew the story. I recommend also checking out Fat Man and Little Boy for a different perspective on this story.)

One of the reasons I tend to find Nolan’s movies unwatchable is because most of them have oppressive scores by Hans Zimmer, which pound the performances into oblivion. For this movie, Nolan went instead with Ludwig Göransson, who scored the Black Panther films, and the result is a thousand times better. I can actually hear the actors!

I do keep wondering if, with all the newfound focus on casting people true to their identity, if Hollywood will ever get to the point where they feel compelled to cast Jewish people as Jewish people. Certainly not the case with this or Maestro. One of my best movie-watching experiences this year was showing my kids Fiddler on the Roof, and authentic casting helped that movie a lot. Glad they didn’t cast Troy Donahue as Tevye.

If you listen to the “Secrets of Story Podcast”, you’ll know I wrote a pre-Imitation Game biopic of Alan Turing called “The Man Who Won the War”. That could also be the title of this movie and this movie has many similarities to my script. When I wrote and pitched that movie in 2005, and people asked me who I would cast, I always suggested a then-unknown actor named Cillian Murphy. Watching this movie, I kept thinking of what could have been.

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