Wow, the 2023 Oscars are right around the corner! To mourn the snubs and celebrate the forthcoming cringe of the ceremony, I’m going to rank the 10 Best Picture nominees from worst to best.
10. Triangle of Sadness
Writer/director Ruben Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” is 2022’s “Don’t Look Up.” This is an incoherent film full of random events and conveniences that obliterates any believability into atoms. The satire on the wealthy had potential to be insightful and funny but was neither because of lazy “jokes” and incompetent, on-the-nose messaging. It’s the kind of allegory that a bitter college freshman would write, not anything worthy of a Best Original Screenplay nomination. It’s clear that Östlund was vigorously patting himself on the back during every scene, which is likely why the movie feels like it was made by an entirely distracted filmmaker.
Without hyperbole, I found myself yelling at the screen and begging the film to end during the third act. It was so egregiously full of itself and refused to cease its bloated runtime. Things just kept happening and happening and happening but none of them felt in any way memorable, impactful, or entertaining. I have no idea how this juvenile student film won the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival, where previous winners include “Pulp Fiction,” “Taxi Driver,” “Parasite,” and “The Pianist.” I guarantee “Triangle of Sadness” will be forgotten within, at most, three months after it loses all of its nominated categories at the Oscars.
9. Everything Everywhere All at Once
The persistent cult surrounding this film is going to hate me for this placement, but I have to be honest — I thought Everything Everywhere was a self-indulgent mess that ran on for 30-45 minutes past its natural endpoint.
The film thinks it’s a lot more poignant and intelligent than it actually is, and the Daniels’ approach to storytelling that focuses on wacky imagery is just boring. The endless jokes on raccoonatouille, hot dog fingers, sex toys, and bagels don’t land when you tell them fifty times. What’s worse is that the Daniels constructed their multiverse around the zaniness, which just doesn’t work. For example, the concept that you can take over the skills of another version of yourself by doing something unexpected like swallowing glue is too ridiculous. The rules of the multiverse are inconsistent and riddled with contradictions too, as objects are transported despite it being established that only skills can be transferred. For instance, how was Alpha Waymond able to give Evelyn the magical earpiece needed for multiverse jumping when it’s not from her universe? How was Alpha Gong-Gong able to put rocket boosters on the wheelchair of normal Gong-Gong?
Furthermore, the third act of Everything Everywhere is a disastrous, sappy Lifetime drama. The last 45 minutes is just the same beat repeated over and over again: Evelyn learns the importance of compassion with Character A/B/C/D/etc. The film keeps beating us over the head, simultaneously overemphasizing a message while also being too cluttered that it’s hard to keep track of everything it’s saying. On a side note, why didn’t the police just enter the building and intervene? They just stood outside the whole time.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is about to win Best Picture, and I couldn’t be more frustrated. I don’t even hate the film — I just hate how it has overshadowed far better movies from 2022. It’s trendy to love this thing and give it a 10/10 just to hop on the bandwagon, but it simply doesn’t deserve it. This is an obnoxious and poorly developed movie that owes all its faults to its misguided direction.
8. Avatar: The Way of Water
This film shares many of the same issues with Everything Everywhere, although it didn’t irritate me quite as much. It’s far too long, self-indulgent, and focused on style over substance. With “Avatar: The Way of Water,” James Cameron decided to put the audience through the wringer with a 3h 12m film despite only having enough content for, at most, 1 hour and 50 minutes. The script here is also horrendous — full of plot holes, contrivances, and blatant laziness. There’s no soul here. This film has no memorable characters, action sequences, or really anything except for the visuals. Speaking of which, those are absolutely the saving grace of the film. Every single shot is stunning, demonstrating that CGI can still do wonders as long as it’s given enough time to develop. Another positive aspect of the film is that it starts out really strong. The first 30-40 minutes are actually pretty entertaining, albeit still generic. Ironically, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is at its worst when it’s exploring the Way of Water.
For reference, this is the first movie on this list that I’d give a positive grade to. “Elvis” lives and dies on the performance of its lead actor, and it benefits immensely from that. Austin Butler is Elvis. Due to the prevalence of Elvis impersonators in the world, it can be hard to take portrayals of the icon seriously, so the fact that Butler not only leapt but flew over that hurdle so easily is incredible. He mastered all of the mannerisms of Elvis, making sure to differentiate them, and his voice, as the character ages over the course of the film. He’s able to ground and humanize this godlike figure while still maintaining the magical aura of Elvis. He is the reason to see the film.
Unfortunately, many of the elements surrounding Butler aren’t all that good. Tom Hanks looks and acts ridiculous as Col. Tom Parker, giving a Razzie-worthy performance (he was literally nominated for one). I’m personally not a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann, and his irritating tendencies reared their ugly heads in “Elvis.” As is evident by my comments on previous films on this list, I find that over-the-top, boisterous direction often intrudes upon the immersion of a film. I prefer more intimate and grounded work behind the camera, and that’s not at all what Luhrmann does. There’s so many cuts and zooms and whip-pans and cross-dissolves that it’ll make your head spin. It got excruciating at times, although Butler’s brilliance still kept me invested all the way through.
6. Women Talking
“Women Talking” is a profound film that effectively explores its dark subject matter. Sarah Polley’s melancholy direction and thorough screenplay prove she was one of the best filmmakers of 2022. The movie is almost entirely dialogue, but it never gets stale because of how invested you are in the characters. The performances are really what tie this film together, though. The ensemble cast is perfect in each of their roles, the standouts being Claire Foy and Ben Whishaw. My favorite part of the film was composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s impeccable score, which perfectly encapsulates the tone of the film and the conflict these women are forced into. It’s a shame that she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.
While the story of “Women Talking” is extremely tragic and not one I really want to revisit, I found myself inspired by the end. This is a bit of a tough watch, but definitely a valuable one nonetheless.
I’ll cut right to the chase: Cate Blanchett needs to win Best Actress and Todd Field needs to win Best Director for “Tár.” Blanchett transformed herself into a completely different person for the role. It’s easily the year’s best and quite possibly the greatest work she’s ever done (which is saying quite a lot concerning Blanchett’s legendary career). It’s one of the greatest feats of performing that I’ve ever seen. She makes Lydia Tár feels like a real human being, delivering her lines so well that they seem instantaneous, organic, and entirely unscripted. She draws you to the screen throughout the whole film through Tár’s ups and breakdowns. Guiding the realism of “Tár” is Field’s perfectly subtle documentary-esque direction. Field excels at immersing the audience into his precisely constructed reality .
“Tár” also has a biting awareness of today’s climate, covering issues such as abuses of power and cancel culture. Field’s script is incredibly intelligent and objective when exploring these themes, delving into all sides of the topics and not presenting anything as 100% good or evil. It’s a world of gray areas that depicts all viewpoints with maturity that’s absent from modern Hollywood.
My main issue with “Tár” is that it’s far too long. At nearly 2h 40m, it struggles to justify its length. If Field just shaved off 20 minutes, the film would be a more engaging watch while still retaining its methodical pacing. That said, I still loved it.
4. The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical film about his childhood is a highly endearing and lovable film, albeit a by-the-numbers one. This is some of Spielberg’s most intimate filmmaking to date. He makes the audience feel like they’re a part of the Fabelman family, experiencing their struggles and accomplishments. Our protagonist Sammy is instantly likable while never being an altruistic self-insert. It’s exciting to watch his filmmaking journey and how much his family life influenced it. The cast is all solid (except for Michelle Williams and her aggressive overacting), from Gabriel LaBelle’s charming performance as Sammy to Paul Dano’s subtly tragic portrayal of Sammy’s dad to Judd Hirsch’s hilarious role as Uncle Boris. While the film felt a little too generic at times, Spielberg’s dynamic direction and the inspiring tone made this a fantastic coming-of-age story.
3. Top Gun: Maverick
With the best of 1980s cheesiness and excitement, “Top Gun: Maverick” earns its status as the year’s most popular blockbuster. Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski brought such a palpable energy to this film and a sort of innocence missing in Hollywood today. Watching Cruise and his co-stars dash through the air in actual fighter jets is a one-of-a-kind experience. You feel the speed of the planes, the exhilaration of the moment, the danger of the skies. Maverick proves that there are certain things CGI just can’t replicate, and why practical effects will always be superior. Tom Cruise is on a mission to save movies, and he just might have done it with this one.
2. All Quiet on the Western Front
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is a haunting and soul-crushing anti-war film with mesmerizing cinematography, a pulse-pounding score, stellar performances, stunning set pieces, impeccable direction, and timeless themes. The film never lets up and always keeps the audience on their toes. Director Edward Berger had a clear, unyielding artistic vision that grabs the audience from the first frame, puts them right in the horrors alongside the characters, and leaves them breathless. The ending is particularly soul-crushing, illustrating the futility of war and the deterioration of those who risk their lives at the behest of uncaring figures. It’s one of the most profound war films in recent memory and one which I’ll never forget.
1. The Banshees of Inisherin
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is not only my favorite of the Oscar nominees, but possibly my favorite film of 2022. It’s incredible how writer/director Martin McDonagh takes this seemingly microscopic premise of two friends breaking up and expands it into a much larger tale of death, loneliness, relationships, and finding purpose. McDonagh’s script (which, as of writing, I pray wins Best Original Screenplay) is flawless. Not a single scene, line of dialogue, or beat is wasted. McDonagh excels at balancing tragedy with comedy. Every time he goes for a joke, it lands strong (especially the scene between the priest and Colm) and always services the story in some way. His characters are written so beautifully and are played to perfection by the cast.
Colin Farrell gave one of the year’s best performances as the innocent and simple-minded Pádraic. Watching this lovable human being descend into a darker, cynical place is absolutely heartbreaking. Farrell does so much with his eyes, voice, pauses, and stutters. He’s the true standout here, but the rest of the cast is also phenomenal. Brendan Gleeson is horrifying yet sympathetic as Colm, a man coming to terms with his imminent death and lack of accomplishments in life. Kerry Condon is brilliant as Pádraic’s outsider sister Siobhán, the only character who escapes the madness. Lastly, Barry Keoghan is scene-stealing as Dominic, the island’s semi-moronic, semi-brilliant kid with a knack for saying the wrong things at the wrong time.
Banshees may appear like a small film on paper, but in reality it may be the most ambitious film on this list. It’s a hilarious, tragic, and twisted downward spiral of a fairy tale, and an all around great cinematic experience.