The batch of movies offered to us this year by Oscar is an unusually poor group. Some of these movies are really good, but there is not a stand out movie like CODA last year or Spotlight a few years ago which stands up and shouts ‘I am the obvious winner here’. It is an open field. CODA may have been the best movie of the last twenty years.
Each year I usually post two or three times about the Oscars, and I intend to do so again over the next week. This is the one dedicated solely to the category of best picture. I will take them in order of the way they are listed and give a one or two sentence review. Then I will give some analysis of the movies that have the greatest chance of winning, along with which one I would pick.
Snubs? Did someone mention snubs? Yes, there are snubs. Wakonda Forever should be on this list, as should Causeway. I also think Marcel The Shell With Shoes On should be there, too. None of those could win, but they are far better than Avatar, Top Gun, or the awful awful awful Triangle of Sadness. And yes, I am still upset Coco didn’t get a best picture nomination.
All Quiet On The Western Front — A powerful film expertly crafted and spectacularly performed. I know all the history of World War I, and somehow, still, It managed to keep me on the edge of my seat.
Avatar: The Way of Water — A beautiful remake of Dances With Wolves. Zoe Saldana is one of the best actresses of our age, and she almost saves this film from being a total waste of an entire afternoon.
The Banshees of Inisherin — Complex character study that may, perhaps, be a parallel of the politics of Ireland. The plot is insane, literally, but the acting is worth watching.
Elvis — I enjoyed the movie, but I think this is one of the few films I would say Tom Hanks makes worse. I still can’t figure out how they didn’t work the wonderful Alannah Myles ‘Black Velvet’ into the soundtrack, somehow.
Everything Everywhere All At Once — I enjoyed this movie far more than Mrs. Greenbean. The problems with it are the now too common tropes of alternate universes and Neo getting unplugged. But Michelle Yeoh (Shoutout to Georgiou!) compensates for those.
The Fabelmans — Biopic of Steven Spielberg’s life. That is pretty much all you need to know. Oh, and all the actors — all of them — are fantastic!
Tar — This movie stays with you, which is what good art should do. Its functioning at many different levels, and I can’t decide if it is incredibly dry comedy, suspenseful conspiracy tale, or commentary on the #metoo movement from an unexpected place. The scene where Tar (Cate Blanchett) eviscerates cancel culture while guest lecturing at The Juilliard should be required viewing for every Gen Z and Y every morning before going to work.
Top Gun: Maverick — This movie is a lot of fun, and I remembered how good it felt as we came out of COVID to sit in a packed movie theater and watch it. Still, though, I preferred the plot when it was Star Wars: A New Hope.
Triangle of Sadness — Do not watch this movie unless you are a glutton for punishment (like me) and have to watch them all. It is commentary on capitalism done in the most disgusting way and steals shamelessly form Lord of the Flies.
Women Talking — Straight up the best acting you’ll see anywhere in anything. That none of these women were nominated for any acting category is a travesty. Side note — Two women who both played Lisbeth Salander in such different roles but that at the same time remind you of that powerful female character is special in its own right.
There are ten movies here, but only four real contenders. If this were the old days of only five movies in this category, they would be All Quiet, Everything, The Fabelmans, Tar, and Women Talking. I don’t think Tar can win for the simple reason that it is complicated, confusing, and hard to nail down. That leaves us with four.
Women Talking feels to me a little like Argo did several years back. No one but me thought it could win, and I predicted it would, and it did, but Afleck did’t even get nominated for best director. This feels similar with Women. I think voters will have a hard time not voting for it. It has a puncher’s chance.
The Fabelmans, I think, will be very few people’s first pick. But it will be a lot of people’s second choice, and the ranked voting methodology may then usher in the Fabelman’s as the winner while the other key contenders split the top votes. I will not be mad if it wins, because Spielberg has been robbed so many times — I mean, only Schindler’s List — that’s it — that is the only best picture award he’s won.
Everything Everywhere is a fun movie with outrageous plot twists — I’m looking at you hot dog hands — and if it wins it will likely be a Parasite moment in that it is such an odd film people award it for that fact alone. The Social-Media-Verse thinks this will win, but I don’t. This movie must have been murder to edit.
All Quiet is a remake of a classic film from old Hollywood. This movie evokes so many emotions from sadness to joy to anger. Mrs. Greenbean was spitting mad at the end of it, such is the stupidity of war. The parallel track of warfare balanced with the work of diplomats makes this version of the story that much more compelling.
Greenbean’s pick? I would not be angry if any of these five won, unlike Birdman and The Shape of Water, two films I am still very upset about. Later next week I will address themes, but for now it is enough to say there is a powerful anti-war sentiment this year. To me, this gives emotional edge to All Quiet, and it performed strongly at the BAFTAs. I think All Quiet On The Western Front will win best picture.