The Whale is probably the most formidable entry in the 2023 Oscars, though it has not been nominated for best film. In this film adaptation of Samuel Hunter’s one-act play, the circumstances that lead to a reclusive, massively obese man giving writing lessons online from his apartment are revealed through the entry and exit of key personalities in his life: his best friend, daughter, wife, a “missionary,” and a pizza delivery man. This is classical tragedy that evokes comparison with the great plays of the mid-20th century, such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a High Tin Roof, but the complex relationships it disentangles are distinctly early 21st century. The whole cast is superb, but the performance of Brendan Fraser as Charlie and Hong Chau as Liz is outstanding, and definitely establishes them as leading contenders of, respectively, the best actor and best supporting actress awards. Among other things, this low-budget ($ 3 million) production shows that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make a great film. All you need is a good story, a good cast, a good crew, and a good director–in this case, Darren Aronofsky–who casts a magic spell and converts them into great art.