The nominees for the 95th Academy Awards have been announced. As usual, many artists find themselves honored to be shortlisted, and there are definitely some great contenders that deserve a watch. Yet, as usual, not everyone makes the final list, and this doesn’t mean that the film, its production, or its performances are not Oscar-worthy. On this year’s list, probably the unluckiest competitor was A Man Called Otto, a movie starring none other than the beloved Tom Hanks.
Surely, with competitors featuring alien worlds or powerful messages about the war, A Man Called Otto seems like a simpler story. Nevertheless, we should not be fooled by VFX and paraphernalia, as Hanks’s new movie is a heartwarming story that deals with more than superficial issues. Ageism, the advance of big real estate companies over owners, and immigration are just a couple of the sensitive topics that the movie brilliantly displays, and though it’s understandable that the Academy has its criteria when selecting the nominees, the movie had its solid arguments for a nomination.
Mixing Complex Subjects with Light-Hearted Storytelling
As mentioned, the topics in the movie are not mild. Tom Hanks portrays a grumpy man named Otto, stuck with a silent depression that manifests itself in the form of anger. Retired against his will, living without any valuable relationships, the surly man leads a meaningless life, something that could sadly be the case for many older people. Suicide is also part of the story as well, depicted in a humorous, yet respectful way, showing how a pinch of laughter can sometimes ease into certain themes.
Property and ownership are part of the movie. Not long ago, though with a very different perspective, Nomadland addressed the issue of home security and living without a permanent place, gaining a nomination for it. Again, despite being treated differently, it’s clear that certain topics do generate an impact on the Academy Awards nominations committee.
Last but not least, the life of the main character changes completely when a new neighbor moves. The character in question is called Marisol, portrayed by Mariana Treviño, a wife and mom of two, and expecting a third one, that just moved from a Central American country. Immigration from the southern border is another key topic that usually catches the eye of the Academy, and this movie does a great job of showing a different aspect of it rather than the complexities of illegal immigration, which is an interesting take well worth a movie.
The Performances Deserve Recognition
No one would argue with Tom Hanks’ acting skills. We usually see him in roles where his character is a lovable man, generating instant empathy among viewers. This time, Hanks takes a less affable role that, of course, grows over the course of the film, but starts off as a bitter old man who seems deserving of every unfortunate aspect of his life. Hanks handles the part with the absolute simplicity that audiences are accustomed to and delivers an emotional performance that might drop a tear or two, something Oscar-nominated performances usually provoke.
However, the real surprise here is Mariana Treviño. Marisol’s bold personality comes to life brilliantly on the silver screen when this actress perfectly jumps back and forth from Spanish to English. The character is a woman who has seen some difficult times in life, let alone the fact of being an immigrant in America, and she conveys that complex personality without a script that gives too many details of her past.
Her performance is believable and moving, showing that caring is what makes the difference when it comes to injustice. Teviño’s character practically invades Otto’s privacy, partly because of her personality, but mostly because she shows a clear intuition for the pain in people around her. In the end, it is the story of two adults who need each other without forcing any kind of romantic relationship, and Treviño, without having Hanks’ credentials, shows amazing chemistry with him, leaving the audience in hope of seeing her in more roles in the future.
A Man Called Otto did a great job of gathering all the elements that make a movie worthy of an Oscar nomination. It has a good script, solid cinematography, and touching performances that were probably the most overlooked element in terms of nominations. Maybe a Best Picture nomination would have been a little too much if we base ourselves on the contenders of the list (even though it should have had its chances). Sure, there’s no war, homages to classic cinema, or other classic or hot topics that usually make the cut, but it did check many of the Academy’s boxes. It’s safe to say that, though no accolades have been given to the movie so far, it has opened a new side of Tom Hanks that we hope to see again, and most importantly, it introduced many of us to the talented Mariana Treviño.