NIGHTMARE ALLEY: 2021 (On HBO Max) The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best picture at the Academy Awards show on March 27, 2022. But that isn’t why I wanted to watch it. Ty Burr, formerly the critic for the Boston Globe, and now a freelance movie critic, said about the nominations: “But the nominee that has lingered in my mind, to my surprise, is Nightmare Alley." Guillermo del Toro’s cynical noir fantasy is pure cinema: enveloping, evocative, epic but intimate, with a great, career-best performance by its nominated producer Bradley Cooper.” That was enough for me and I convinced Gary to watch with me. The movie opens with Stanton (Bradley Cooper) dragging a body and setting fire to a farmhouse. (We ultimately learn what the scene is about.) Stan finds his way to a strange carnival, and Clem (Willem DaFoe), the manager, hires Cooper on. There he meets the Zeena the Seer (Toni Collette) and her assistant, Pete (David Strathairn), and Molly (Rooney Mara), who has an act using electricity. He eventually convinces Molly to run away with him to star in an act that “will take them to the top.” Stan has developed into a talented grifter and he and Molly have created a classy mind-reading act when they meet a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett). Dr. Lilith Ritter proves to be Stan’s downfall. The film is moody and the setting, which is the early ‘40s, is, as Burr says, evocative. Cooper is brilliant and is surrounded by A-list actors. Guillermo del Toro is known for making weird movies (The Shape of Water and Pan's Labyrinth). I loved those two films, but Gary and I can only give this one a B. (But, Gary gives the ending an A+. He believes it ties everything together with great style.) Maybe if we had seen this film in a theater on a big screen we’d have loved it. GRADE B