If you know me from my old blog, then you know that every year I attempt to watch all of the Oscars Best Picture Nominees ahead of the ceremony. It’s a fun tradition that makes me feel more invested in the annual awards ceremony. On top of that, there is SO MUCH media out there to consume and I have a really hard time knowing what to watch. Being able to watch the nominated films each year helps give me a course to follow. My rankings of the nominees are based entirely on my own opinions and have no bearing on who wins the top honor. For many years, the movies I rated at or near the bottom of the list took home the prize. So this is really just done in fun. The one rule I have is that a movie must be watched all the way through in order to be ranked.
This year the Academy saw fit to nominate ten films for Best Picture. Due to logistics, I was not able to watch Avatar: The Way of Water. It is still only being shown in theaters and when my husband and I attempted to look at showtimes, none of the theaters near our house are playing it. Therefore, my ranking below is based only on the nine films I have seen.
**SPOILER ALERT** Do not read below if you do not read below if you do not want spoilers.
1) Everything Everywhere All At Once
Watching EEAAO, I uttered the following phrases out loud: “what is happening?” “this is weird but I like it.” and “What does this have to do with anything?” Reading those statements, you may be wondering how this movie ended up as my favorite out of the nine nominees I watched. One of the big things that I consider when I rank these movies is how they sit with me long after the screen goes dark. For me, this is one of those movies that stuck with me. It left me thinking about it and thinking about how it made me feel. I have heard even the actors in this movie ask “can you tell me what this movie is really about?” and I think there are a lot of messages to grab onto. The one that I really grasped is this idea that a mother could become so aware of the damage she has caused her daughter that she would cross time and space and universes to find and heal her daughter and their relationship before all Joy is lost. (yes, the J is capitalized on purpose… if you’ve seen the movie you understand.) I thought that was a really beautiful concept and message.
2) All Quiet on the Western Front
An interesting fact (I think) about me is that I love a war movie; especially a war movie that is shot beautifully and made to be as accurate as possible. All Quiet on the Western Front, which is also Germany’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film, fits that bill in every way. I also was unfamiliar with the book and have not seen the original film adaptation so I went into my viewing of this movie with a pretty open mind. Like I said, this movie was beautifully shot so that you felt like you were right along side the army in the trenches. The way the story was told too, it felt very much like a lot of the documentary footage I have seen of World War I. I found the story to be much more compelling than 1917, a previous Best Picture nominee which also depicted the same war. In All Quiet, I felt like I knew personally what it was like to be in the trenches.
3) The Fabelmans
As with most of these movies, we watched The Fabelmans over two nights because we have a toddler and my husband gets up early for jiu jitsu three mornings a week. After the first night of watching this movie, I honestly didn’t think I was going to rate it very highly on my list. I know that it is based on Steven Spielberg’s actual life and what he experienced as a child, and during the first half of the movie I was wondering if it was only nominated because his name is attached. But, after the second night, The Fabelmans ended up third on my list. It wasn’t because anything happened necessarily, but I think that the heart of this film really comes out in the second half. Once the characters have been established, you really root for them and want to see some kind of conclusion to their story. I thought that the acting, especially by Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, was fantastic and really brought the inner turmoil of their characters to life. There is one scene near the end of the movie where Sam’s father is carrying his mother across the threshold of their new home in Northern California and the father, played by Dano, has this huge genuine smile on his face – he is so happy to bring his wife into this home, but his wife, played by Williams, plasters on a fake smile and tries to play along before you see her smile quickly fade – then they cut to the next scene of the two announcing to their children that they will be getting a divorce. It was just really so well acted.
4) The Banshees of Inisherin
I love Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson together. They have such a great, natural chemistry and the dry humor of Martin McDonagh really lends itself well to that chemistry. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie going into it but I found it to be deep and hilarious at the same time, all without trying to hard. Padraic and Colm are best friends until one day Colm up and decides he doesn’t want anything to do with Padraic anymore, without so much as an explanation. Eventually, over the course of the film, you learn that Colm found Padraic dull and felt his time could be better spent composing music on his fiddle. This is complicated by the fact that Colm decides that he is going to cut off one of his own fingers every time Padraic tries to talk to him. The story was so beautifully told that none of that seemed bizarre. That and I also had a whole unit on the Theatre of the Absurd during my English studies in college, The Banshees of Inisherin fits right into that genre with the likes of Beckett and Ionesco.
5) Women Talking
I was particularly interested in this movie by writer/director Sarah Polley because it had made white, evangelical, male Twitter very upset and so I wanted to know more. What I had been able to deduce before watching this movie is that the aforementioned Twitter group was upset because Women Talking is based on a true story (that happened in Bolivia, though the movie is set somewhere in the US or Canada) that they might prefer remains untold. The story is simple: a group of women in a remote Mennonite colony have been drugged and raped by the men of the colony for years and when one of the men is finally arrested and the others go to bail him out of jail, the women take action. The women have not been allowed to receive a formal education but they use pictures to create a ballot and cast votes with an “x”. When two of the ballot measures tie, staying to fight the men or leaving the colony altogether, the women of two prominent families are gathered together to talk and decide how the women of the colony should proceed. The movie is quite literally as advertised… it’s a bunch of women sitting around talking. This was one of those movies that didn’t feel like it needed a lot of action to get its point across. The message was powerful.
6) Top Gun: Maverick
I am one of the few Americans who has not seen 1986’s Top Gun. I was still six months away from being born when the original movie premiered so it was never at the top of my priority list to see it. But, Top Gun: Maverick didn’t really require a lot of knowledge of the original movie. It certainly didn’t hurt, but it was pretty easy to figure out the plot of the original movie from this one. My husband actually said he though Maverick was better than the original. What I liked about this movie is that it was a good mix of the action we have come to expect from a Tom Cruise movie with a lot of heart an good storytelling. I actually didn’t expect to like this movie at all so the fact that it isn’t at the bottom of this list either says a lot about this movie or about the ones I liked less…
What would it look like if a #MeToo perpetrator had been a woman? Enter Lydia Tàr, played by the exquisite Cate Blanchett. Tàr is a world renowned orchestra conductor who has been known to prey on young women under the guise of helping them in their careers. After one woman snubbed her advances, Tàr makes it so that that woman is never able to get a job as a conductor and she eventually takes her own life out of despair. Only then does it come to light the role Tàr ultimately played in the woman’s demise. Eventually she is cast from society and, rightly, receives no redemption. Honestly, this movie was B-O-R-I-N-G. It felt like it dragged on for hours and you just kept waiting for something to happen but nothing ever seemed to. The one saving grace of this movie was Blanchett’s performance. I swear that I could watch that woman read the phone book and it would be an Oscar-worthy performance. She was so believable as someone that you hate that her appearance on screen simultaneously made my skin crawl while I couldn’t look away.
I actually watched this movie twice. Once, before it was nominated because I adore Baz Luhrmann. Then a second time after it was nominated so that I could actually pay attention instead of having it on in the background. It did not get better the second time around. That is hard for me to say because, as I said, I truly love Baz Luhrmann. I think this was the first of his movies that I didn’t just love (My favorite is actually NOT Moulin Rouge – though I love that one, but Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman) and that was so disappointing. I thought that Austin Butler did a great job playing Elvis, but Tom Hanks was grossly miscast. This movie just really missed the mark for what it could have been, I thought.
9) Triangle of Sadness
The fact that this movie exists fills me with a triangle of sadness… I’m kidding, sort of. This movie won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and in my own movie watching experience I have found the films that win that award to be particularly weird (for lack of a better word.) It doesn’t make them bad, necessarily, but I definitely think they are made for an audience that probably is not me. Triangle of Sadness was kind of all over the place for me. First you meet a couple, both models, the woman more successful than the man. They fight over money and then makeup passionately. Then they get a free cruise because she’s an influencer and the clientele on the boat is bizarre. The crew seems to be a take on Below Deck meets actual cruising – the crew the guests see are all blonde haired, blue eyed Europeans, while after dark, a group of Filipinos comes out to clean the ship from top to bottom. The captain, Woody Harrelson, is a drunk and after a night of drinking with a guest who happens to be a Russian Oligarch, he goes on a tirade about Marxism over the ship’s loudspeaker. Meanwhile the seas are turbulent and the food has gone bad causing most of the passengers to become violently ill (something I really can’t handle in movies). Eventually the ship sinks and only a few survivors wash up on a seemingly deserted island – including (magically) the model couple and the Russian Oligarch. One of the Filipino cleaning ladies survives and stakes her claim as the ruler of the island. Lord of the Flies ensues. And then the movie just ends. It was bizarre and, like I said, just all over the place for me.
Since I didn’t see Avatar, those are my rankings of the nine films that I did see. Did you watch any or all of these films? What did you think? Tell me below in the comments!
My husband’s list:
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- Top Gun: Maverick
- The Banshees of Inisherin
- The Fabelmans
- Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Triangle of Sadness
- Women Talking