Who are you cheering for?

Some will be cheering for Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” or Steven Spielberg or “Elvis” or Michelle Yeoh or Jamie Lee Curtis or Andrea Riseborough in “To Leslie,” or “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is clearly the best title.

Me, I’m cheering for the Canadians.  There are a lot of them to cheer for.

James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Sarah Polley’s  “Women Talking,” Brendan Fraser for his performance in “The Whale,” animator Domee Shi for “Turning Red,” Daniel Roher’s documentary Navalny, Chris Williams’ “The Sea Beast,” and Wendy Tilby and Amanda Formis’ “The Flying Sailor” and the Canadian-American documentary “Fire of Love.”

Roll the dice.  There’s a very good chance that Cameron walks home with at least one Oscar, if not half a dozen, since the first installment of “Avatar” was treated so shabbily by the Academy years ago. There’s a very good chance that Sarah Polley comes home with, at the very least, an Oscar for best-adapted screenplay based on the Miriam Toews’ novel. I’m also putting my money on “Turning Red” for best-animated feature or “The Sea Beast,” presently streaming on Netflix.  Brendan Fraser would normally be a sure bet for lead actor, except for  Irishman Colin Farrell in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in their roles having a pint and an intense conversation

Speaking of “Banshees,” what an adorable farcically poignant little tale it is with sheep, donkeys, dogs, and cut fingers.  Filmed on parts of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland and Achill Island –an island whose stark beauty I was privileged to see as a young boy—it sets an archetypical Irish scene: a priest, a cop, a pub, a pubmaster, pints of Guinness, a loving and deep-seeing sister, a Banshee (a ghost-like figure portending death), two old friends at war with each other, and animals galore, with a donkey (Colin’s) and a dog (Brendan’s) being outstanding supporting actors in the tragicomedy.

Directed and written by Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), the film stars Colin Farrell in the performance of his life and co-stars Brendan Gleeson, nominated for best-supporting actor, with whom Farrell was coupled in the crime drama “In Bruges.” The dialogue in “The Banshees of Inisherin” crackles with wit and charm:

“Padraic Suilleabhain, played by Farrell:  What’s your tune called?

Colm Doherty, played by Gleeson: The Banshees of Inisherin, I think.

Pandraic:  But, there are no banshees on Inisherin.

Colm:  I know. I just like double S-H sounds.”

The two-drinking buddies have been friends for decades, but Colm wants to call it quits because of Padraic’s propensity to bore; he wants to give the remainder of his days to composing and playing the fiddle. Padraic says that Colm used to be nice, but he isn’t nice anymore.

“Colm: Ah well, I suppose niceness doesn’t last then, does it, Padraic? But will I tell ya something that does last?

Padraic: What? And don’t say somethin’ stupid like music.

Colm: Music lasts.

Padraic: Knew it!

Colm: And paintings last. And poetry lasts.

Padraic: So does niceness.

Colm: Do you know who we remember for how nice they was in the 17th. century?

Padraic: Who?

Colm: Absolutely no one. Yet we all remember the music of the time. Everyone, to a man, knows Mozart’s name.

Padraic: Well, I don’t, so there goes that theory.”

On the talk goes, or, as the Irish sometimes say, the craic, like scenes out of Beckett in “Waiting for Godot” or Synge in “Playboy of the Western World.”

The other film I hope does well on March 12th. is Tár for no other reason than it showcases one of the great actors (I choose “actor” deliberately here as actors like writers don’t belong to a particular gender) of our time, who, according to director Todd Field, “always wants to do things that are dangerous.”

In preparation for Tar, Blanchett learned to play the piano, and enough German and enough about conducting to be a convincing German conductor pursuing a new version of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

Cate Blanchett, who once played Bob Dylan in the feature film “I’m not There,” is so raw, so real, so electric in Tár that immediately after seeing the film at the Playhouse in Hamilton, I rushed home to look up the fictional conductor as if she were a real historical figure.  This element of realness, of biography, is made all the stronger by the appearance of “The New Yorker” writer Adam Gopnik interviewing Lydia Tár in the first major scene of the film.

Tár is a film that explores power dynamics in music and in life. Lydia Tár is an ambitious, talented conductor who wants to be, needs to be, the best in the world regardless of the toes she steps on (primarily the toes of her wife, Nina Hoss, and her assistant, played by Noemie Merlant), but it is not so much as a study of power that Tár appeals to me; rather, it is the film’s exploration of the power of music. How music goes to places that words can’t reach, how it expresses emotions too complex and contradictory for language.  Tár lives for music, ever alert to sounds, whether natural or mechanical, that might be made into music, ever open to new possibilities of music from a young, attractive Russian cellist played by Sophie Kauer.

You leave the cinema having learned something about the range and subtlety of music and having witnessed one of the great filmic performances of our time – that of Cate Blanchette as Tár— riveting, unforgettable, and Oscar-worthy.