The Oscar: an award which means a lot less each year because of the unbearable preaching of the Academy Awards ceremony itself, and the fact that the Best Picture award almost always goes to the wrong film. Since I’m clearly such a big fan of the Oscars, it’s time to rank the 2022 Best Picture nominees from worst to best!
10. Don’t Look Up
I hate that the posters for this disgusting film will now say “nominated for Best Picture.” Don’t Look Up is utter garbage that doesn’t even deserve to be considered a motion picture. This is just a propaganda piece made to inflate the egos of writer/director Adam MacKay and the Hollywood elite. The movie marketed itself as an allegory for climate change, and while I normally despise politics being thrown into movies, I wasn’t that offended by this specific topic since it’s not nearly as controversial as many others being injected into cinema today. However, this movie was barely about climate change at all; it’s just a film attacking people on the Right. The message of the movie is basically that Republicans are all foolish and lack common sense. While I don’t associate myself with either side of the political spectrum, I still think it’s incredibly offensive to just denounce half of the United States population. The film is also incredibly stupid; I get it’s supposed to be a comedy, but I don’t buy for a second that the entire world population would be in disbelief of a giant meteor hurtling toward Earth when there’s clear evidence — not to mention that they can actually see it in the sky later on in the movie. Don’t Look Up is devoid of any humor, intelligence, or heart. This is a disgusting product made by a fake filmmaker who has once again proven his immaturity and incompetence. MacKay is arguably the worst director in Hollywood right now, as he symbolizes everything wrong with the industry. He’s self-righteous, arrogant, and only cares about patting himself on the back. The point of cinema is to provide the public with escapist entertainment with powerful themes and some sort of excitement. MacKay couldn’t care less about doing that.
9. The Power of the Dog
Although The Power of the Dog is the most likely nominee to win the Best Picture Oscar, it’s easily one of the worst. Now, it looks like The Godfather compared to Don’t Look Up, but that’s not hard to do. This movie is incredibly pretentious, mainly because of its intentionally slow pace. The film is such a vicious slog to get through, especially in the first act, which is almost unbearable. I had to stop watching 30 minutes in and was only able to power through it in one sitting about 2 weeks later. Most of the characters are highly uninteresting, and that’s a major issue when you have a film entirely built on the exploration of themes through the eyes of your 4 central characters. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch was horribly miscast in the lead role of Phil Burbank. He couldn’t do a Southern accent to save his life and his mannerisms simply didn’t match the evil, gross character he was playing. However, I did love Rose, played brilliantly by Kirsten Dunst; she might have given my favorite performance by an actress of 2021, which is why she probably won’t win the Oscar. The most interesting concept of the film is that a woman married into a new household must live with her demon of a brother-in-law, who psychologically tortures her to the point where he makes her almost terminally ill. If the film was just about that relationship, it would skyrocket toward the top 5 films on this list. Unfortunately, since that’s just one plotpoint which is only truly explored for 20 minutes, it’s never given room to breathe. Instead, we get long, tedious scenes about ranching and playing the piano. I think Jane Campion (who seems like a self-righteous snake in real life, by the way) did a mediocre job directing the film. She’s a decent director of actors and the film looked pleasant, but her slow-paced style of stretching out a narrative that leads nowhere is aggravating. I found The Power of the Dog to be an obnoxiously pretentious, aimless film with themes that weren’t nearly profound enough to justify its aggressively boring pacing. Therefore, it’s perfect for a Best Picture win.
8. West Side Story (2021)
Yes, I know all the other critics are calling this “stunning” or “a triumph,” but I just can’t. Steven Spielberg is easily my favorite director of all time, so it pains me to say that this remake of a Romeo & Juliet ripoff didn’t work for me. It’s certainly not bad; it’s just mediocre. I’m personally not into musicals, but if you can give me great songs or a great story, I can overlook the distractions of people breaking out into song. Starting positively, this movie is gorgeous. The set design, lighting, costuming, and the breathtaking cinematography are all immaculate. I also thought that the dancing was strong and Ariana DeBose gave an incredibly charming & human performance as Anita. The other performers also were great at balancing the trifecta of acting, signing, and dancing. Unfortunately, the movie still has the same ridiculous plot of Romeo & Juliet, in which two people who just met immediately fall in love and are willing to die for each other over the course of only two days. Also over the course of two days, a massive gang war occurs. There’s simply no excuse for how unrealistic this is; it doesn’t matter if it’s based on prior material. Also, in my opinion, the only truly memorable and catchy song in this 2 ½ hour movie is “America.” Ultimately, this is an unnecessary remake of an already flawed film, neither of which deserved the Best Picture nomination in my opinion.
Belfast is one of those movies you watch only once and say to yourself, “that was fine, but I’m probably never going to see it again.” This is very much an autobiography of the film’s writer/director Kenneth Branagh, specifically his childhood during the chaotic Northern Ireland of the late 1960s, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. The film’s dilemma is that its first 55 minutes are largely unremarkable. Nothing much happens and the characters aren’t really given that much to do. There aren’t any major events, arcs, or memorable moments; this section of the film is more of a time capsule into a time period and location which isn’t all that interesting or unique. However, the film really picks up in its final 45 minutes, when the characters actually start growing and the turmoil explodes into a massive climax. This is when the characters start to learn from each other and develop deeper bonds, leading to a heartbreaking yet hopeful ending. Something that this film absolutely nailed throughout the entire runtime was making the 7-year-old main character Buddy charming and likable. Normally, young children in movies are unbearably annoying, largely because they’re played by horrendous child actors. It’s incredibly rare when a child actor is actually decent, and luckily, Jude Hill was exceptional. He was not only adorable, but he also did a great job of balancing his own personality while also acting as the audience’s point of view. He was incredible. The other performances were also terrific as well. Buddy’s relationships with his family felt realistic, heartfelt, and deeply personal, which is the main reason why I didn’t find the first 60% of the film all that boring. Belfast is a decent film that’s charming enough to pass the time, but it’s also Oscar bait which I don’t have the urge to rewatch.
6. King Richard
Speaking of Oscar bait, we have King Richard. Despite 100% being designed for Will Smith to win an Academy Award, this is still a highly enjoyable and engaging movie. The movie follows Richard Williams, the father of the world-famous tennis players Venus & Serena Williams, a man entirely devoted to making his children the best of the best of the best. This is a film about addiction to success and greatness, and it raises the question of how far a parent can push his/her child before it goes too far, and that’s actually really fascinating. Will Smith gave the best performance of the year as the title character, changing his voice, mannerisms, and movements all to embody this deeply flawed but endearing father. While this is definitely a movie made to stroke the William sisters’ egos, it works well as a family drama and doesn’t glorify its central character to a ridiculous degree.
5. Drive My Car
I think this film accomplished what The Power of the Dog was trying to do. It’s a slow-paced drama interested in exploring characters and themes rather than a sprawling story. The difference between the two films, however, is that Drive My Car has interesting characters, better pacing, and justification for its length, while The Power of the Dog is just pretentious. Drive My Car is almost comically long, as its opening credits don’t start until 40 minutes into the 3-hour-runtime, but its length is part of its charm. One of the themes of this film is how slow life can feel when you’re unfulfilled, as the main character is a man whose wife died after cheating on him and he can’t get over it. After the first 40 minutes when we see him with his wife before she passed, he’s a damaged, quiet, and distant person who has trouble forming relationships with people. His life has become tedious without his wife, and when he meets his new driver, he finally forms an actual connection with someone and is able to move on from his past. The movie actually uses its runtime to explore the central character as much as possible (he’s literally in every single scene), and since he’s so well realized, it doesn’t feel boring at all — at least not to me. This film isn’t going to be for everyone and I don’t think it’s very rewatchable, but I still found it to be extremely compelling and deeply emotional. On a side note, I appreciate that the Academy is starting to consistently nominate foreign films for Best Picture every year.
4. Nightmare Alley
Going into Nightmare Alley, I thought I wasn’t going to like it. It’s a remake with mixed reviews and a director whose filmography I’m not all that familiar with. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the movie turned out to be. It’s a psychological thriller about a man named Stan Carlisle whose only motivation in life is to become rich and powerful; the film follows his rise and fall in the world of show business. Bradley Cooper was spectacular in the role, as was the rest of the cast. The film is also directed brilliantly by Guillermo Del Toro, whose previous film The Shape of Water won Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards. The camera is constantly moving throughout every single scene, making the film uneasy, disturbing, and almost sickening at times. The movie is cleverly split into two parts, so you can see his humble beginnings as a carnie in the first half and his battle for affluence in the second half. Overall, Nightmare Alley is an extremely creative film with an impressive cast, unique direction/cinematography, and a perfect, mindblowing ending.
3. Licorice Pizza
Paul Thomas Anderson’s love letter to the free-spirited times of the 1970s is one of my absolute favorite movies of the year. It’s funny, suspenseful, tragic, and epic all at the same time. The relationship between our two leads is incredibly heartfelt and both actors were terrific in the film. They shared instant chemistry with each other and improved upon Anderson’s already phenomenal script. Speaking of the script, Licorice Pizza has the best dialogue I’ve seen in any recent film since The Social Network. It’s that good. The first 5-10 minutes of the film is one long extended dialogue sequence between the two main characters which tells the audience everything we need to know about their personalities, passions, and goals for the future. The movie is a ton of fun and Anderson’s best work since There Will Be Blood, another Best Picture nominee. My only significant gripe with the film is its strange title, which is never explained during the entire movie.
CODA is likely the most mainstream, widely-appealing film on this list, but that’s why I like it so much. This is a sweet, charming, and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a high schooler named Ruby struggling to balance her ambitions for the future with the needs of her hearing-impaired family. The movie is incredibly tasteful, as it respects deaf people and doesn’t make them cartoonish. The entire cast is perfect, especially Troy Kotsur as Ruby’s father Brady. Despite the seemingly dour situation this family is in, the movie is always hopeful and lighthearted due to its wonderful sense of humor, witty script, and chemistry along the cast. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and it’s refreshing to see such an uplifting movie during these hard times.
Dune is one of the greatest films of the 21st century. It has impeccable direction, an all-star cast, great characters, a timeless story, and some of the best visuals in cinematic history. This is the type of movie that isn’t really made today. It isn’t filled with bad jokes, mindless action sequences, or social justice messaging; it’s a film made by fans of the source material that want to spread their love for it onto the audience. It treats the audience like intelligent adults, which unfortunately is rare in movies today. This is an immersive, one of a kind experience with mindblowing visuals that make your jaw drop. It’s the perfect demonstration of what cinema can do, and it gets better every time I watch it. I think it will eventually be recognized as this generation’s Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. It’s a crime that Denis Villeneuve wasn’t even nominated for Best Director, and, unfortunately, I sincerely doubt that this will win Best Picture — it’s way too good for the Academy. But I do know that in 50 years, Dune will be remembered as a classic and taught in film schools around the world, while most other films on this list will be forgotten.
Click on these links to read my reviews of Best Picture nominees Dune, Licorice Pizza, and King Richard.