BY ALEX GILSTON MARCH 9, 2023
The 95th Academy Awards beckons the end of this year's awards season. A long trodden cyclical path that will no doubt come around again in the blink of an eye. As the Oscars are just around the corner I thought I’d put my thoughts on all of this year's Best Picture nominees down onto paper. The crop of films the Academy has come up with this year is, in my opinion, a mixed bag. There are some true masterpieces, some that are solid enough, and some, admittedly, well made films that didn’t resonate with me in the slightest. But before we get started on those I wanted to mention a few films that missed out on a nod this year that shouldn’t have.
With there only being 10 slots at the maximum for Best Picture and hundreds of films releasing in a year it’s difficult to give everyone their flowers. But some misses are harder to take than others, and this year was no different. Jordan Peele’s Nope was one of the best films of 2022 filled with excellence in all different types of categories, from the cinematography to the performances. It’s representative of the Academy’s shaky relationship with the horror genre. Another one of last year's top films that has fallen foul to the same sword is Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All, which features one of the best performances of the year in Taylor Russell. Aftersun is the kind of debut feature that deserves to be recognised at the highest level and although Charlotte Wells now has a handful of breakthrough awards under her belt, a Best Picture nomination would have been thoroughly deserved. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s powerful blockbuster The Woman King should also have found its way onto the nomination list too. If you could also indulge me in a final point that if any animated film were to break into the Best Picture conversation it should have been Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio.
10. The Fabelmans
When I was 10 years old my idol was Steven Spielberg. I wanted to be him, to be able to make something that resonated with a whole generation of people. So it shocked me when I walked out of The Fabelmans, based on Spielberg's own upbringing, feeling nothing for it. For what it’s worth it’s not a badly made film, but it also isn’t anything special and in no way captures the magic of some of his other films, or the magic of some of its fellow nominees. That being said it’s obviously not surprising it’s made such a dent with the Academy. A film celebrating the magic of cinema directed by Steven Spielberg is the ultimate Oscar bait.
Elvis is a frenetic whirlwind ride of a biopic that can only be attributed to the one and only Baz Luhrmann. Considering that seven of the last ten Best Actor winners have been actors playing real life people - one being Rami Malek playing another singing legend Freddie Mercury - it was more of an expectation for Austin Butler and Elvis to find its way into the nominations. Elvis has never been an artist that has interested me - apart from his creative impact on Lilo and Stitch - so sitting through close to three hours of his life, told through the eyes of Colonel Tom, one of Hanks worst performances to date, was a difficult task. The Academy embracing this film also makes me sad for Rocketman - Taron Egerton included - which deserved all the love.
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front is another picture that doesn’t look out of place on this list. A bombastic, visceral war film. A totally gut-wrenching portrait of the horrors normal everyday people went through in the name of war. But similarly to both the previous films it didn’t wholly resonate with me. When it comes to films like it, it’s not exactly as fresh or as original as some of the films further up in my ranking.
7. Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick was 2022’s second highest grossing blockbuster at the Box Office. It’s probably the most universally loved film by general audiences up for contention this year. It certainly deserves to be included. It took everything that worked in the original Top Gun, and ramped it up to eleven. Every film from here on out I actively enjoyed last year but compared to the top five it still doesn’t really come close.
6. The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin is a Martin McDonagh special. It’s a laugh out loud dark comedy that tackles the purest connection we humans can make; friendship. It handles the seriousness of a fallout and how it can affect us whilst also providing some massive belly laughs. It also features some knock-out performances that in any other year I’d be rooting for. It’s not peak McDonagh for me though, I much prefer Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
5. Triangle of Sadness
Ruben Östlund’s razor sharp satire Triangle of Sadness is my middle road pick for Best Picture. It’s a fascinatingly constructed film with some of the wildest moments in any of the Best Picture nominees this year. It’s thematic through line is particularly ham fisted but it’s a film that airs on the side of absurdity so it fits well enough, I have no strong feelings either way on it’s chances to take best spot but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think it deserved a spot amongst the best.
4. Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron continues his Box Office domination with the second sequel nominated in Best Picture this year. After Avatar: The Way of Water got announced all those years ago you probably could have reserved its spot in the Best Picture line up there and then. Unlike most of the films preceding it, Avatar actually made me feel something. But despite being just as good as the original it’s probably only going to take the Visual Effects award, which of course it deserves.
When it comes to Best Picture the top three in my ranking are the only films in the whole list that I’d actually be happy seeing take gold on the night. TÁR blew my socks off in a way I wasn’t prepared for. It’s masterful filmmaking from the ground up, the writing, the direction, the cinematography, that blistering performance by Cate Blanchett, which all come together in a scathing exploration of cancel culture. Just a tad too long for my liking though.
2. Women Talking
Women Talking was the second to last film I saw out of this year's line-up, and although it was one of my most anticipated films of 2023, I didn’t foresee it landing so high on the list. Not only is Women Talking impeccably crafted in every way, it’s also, unfortunately, massively relevant. It speaks to the collective anger women are feeling towards the patriarchy right now. Although it’s high up on my list it’s probably the biggest outsider for Best Picture, but if Sarah Polley doesn’t nab Adapted Screenplay there is something seriously up.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
There is no doubt in my mind that my second favourite film of 2022 takes the top spot amongst all of the nominees, and the one I’m truly hoping will take the top prize. Everything Everywhere All At Once isn’t necessarily a film you’d expect to do well here but that speaks to how much it has resonated amongst all types of people since its release almost a year ago. Its dedication to the unconventional makes it all the more worthy of a winner if it happens. If it does end up winning I’d struggle to think of a film that has had a bigger impact on film fans and Hollywood alike. It’s all good and well winning Best Picture at the Oscars, but winning Best Picture and being remembered is a whole different story. The final chapter in Everything Everywhere All At Once’s domination. The ultimate cherry on top of one of the most delicious cinematic cakes in recent memory.