MPR News with Angela Davis

MPR News' Cube Critics on which movies to see and which to skip this awards season

Three radio hosts pose in a cube
Hosts of MPR News’ Cube Critics (from left) Aron Woldeslassie, Samantha Matsumoto and Euan Kerr pose for a photo inside the Kling Media Center in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Movie awards season is in full swing. MPR News’ Cube Critics have suggestions for the movies you need to see and the ones they think you can skip. 

Plus, they share their thoughts about the politics behind awards shows, why some of the best movies get snubbed and whether awards shows still matter.

Guests:

  • Aron Woldeslassie is an associate producer for the American Public Media podcast Smash Boom Best. He’s also the co-host of Cube Critics.

  • Samantha Matsumoto is an associate producer for MPR News with Angela Davis, and a co-host of Cube Critics.

  • Euan Kerr is an editor at MPR News. He’s a former Cube Critics co-host, and now he produces and edits the show.

Here is a list of the movies both our guests and our callers talked about in the show.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Click the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Films that stood out

‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’

Film Awards Season
Scene from, "Everything Everywhere All At Once."
Allyson Riggs/AP

Samantha Matsumoto: This movie is probably one of the best examples of that big, overstaffed movie and how to do it right. I had never, or so rarely, seen a movie about an Asian family where people got to feel so human and messy. Much of it is in Chinese and touches on queer Asian identity. It's so specific, but also so universal.

‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

man sitting on a char and man behind a window
Scene from "The Banshees of Inisherin."
HONS/AP

Aron Woldeslassie: It's the story of two friends. And one of the friends just doesn't want to be friends anymore. The pacing has been done so incredibly, that you're both shocked and not at all surprised at everything that happens. It's very funny and it gives the viewer a sense of melancholy that I think they can enjoy.

‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

still of a movie portrait of a woman
Scene from "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
Marvel Studios/AP

Aron Woldeslassie: It was such a step outside of what we would expect from a standard Marvel film. I don't think I've ever watched an action film that was dedicated to mourning and how pain can take you to so many extreme places.

‘The Whale’

portrait of a man from movie The Whale
Scene from "The Whale."
HONS/AP

Euan Kerr: It is a really claustrophobic, thought-provoking film about the meaning of life, the meaning of love, relationships. It's really engaging but it's also hard to watch.

‘Aftersun’

still of a movie on screen
Director Charlotte Wells delivers a speech as she received the "Grand Prix" for her first movie "Aftersun"
Lou Benoist/AFP via Getty Images 2022

Euan Kerr: This is an amazing puzzle of a movie, because very little is actually explained about what is going on other than you have a sense that there is something ominous on the horizon. It doesn't move very fast. There's no action in it. But it is just riveting.

‘RRR’

three people are photographed
Indian actors during a promotional event of the film 'RRR'
Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images 2022

Samantha Matsumoto: This is a three-hour-long movie. It's an epic about these two men in colonial India. They're both revolutionaries and they strike up this friendship. When I think about movie magic and what movies can do, I think that this movie is a great example of it.

Movies our host and guests thought were snubbed

‘Nope’

a view of a movie set
A general view of Jupiter's Claim set from the film 'Nope'.
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images 2022

Aron Woldeslassie: I think that “Nope” was the best film of 2022. I watched it three times. It's everything that you want from a suspenseful alien film and we get some really great performances, honestly.

‘The Woman King’

portrait of a woman with a movie banner
U.S. actress Viola Davis during a press conference on new movie The Woman King.
Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images 2022

Euan Kerr: It's a story about gender. It's a story about what was happening when the slave trade was occurring in the 1800s and the various communities’ choices. This is a thought-provoking piece with a little bit of history that perhaps a lot of people don't know about. It was kind of strange that we didn't hear more about that.

Listener favorites, flops

Listeners called into the show and shared films that stood out or disappointed them. Here are a few of them.

‘Catherine Called Birdy’

It is loosely based on a children's novel by Karen Cushman and it's a medieval comedy about a 14-year-old girl avoiding marriage. Much of the story is about how she's coming of age, but it's also about her realizing in the end, she's going to get married, but she wants to do it on her own terms. It's a nice movie to look at visually and fun to watch.

— Mina in Minneapolis

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

I wanted to love it. I felt like they added so much military action and bigotry, and they were trying so hard to appeal to the action movie audience. It had some beautiful underwater sequences, but overall, I was disappointed.

— Shawn in Bemidji

‘Causeway’

I loved this movie with Jennifer Lawrence. It's about a soldier returning from the Middle East with a traumatic brain injury and her adjustment to life and the friendships she develops. That movie really stuck with me so I highly recommend it. 

— Katy in Edina

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