Ranking the 2022 Best Picture Nominees

Best Picture 2022

This is the fourth year that I shall be ranking the Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Awards. The nominations like every year were a mixed bag. There were some pleasant surprises like Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter, Jesse Plemons for The Power of the Dog, and Nightmare Alley. There were also some notable absences like Denis Villeneuve for Dune. Overall though, I’ve seen more disappointing nominations from the Academy before.

This year’s lineup of Best Picture nominees were pretty good, for the most part they range from decent to excellent. I’ll talk about my thoughts on each movie, and touch upon what I think about its winning chances.

The ranking of the nominees is all based off my personal preference and how much I liked them, not about which of them “deserve” to win more.

10. Don’t Look Up

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There’s really only half of these movies which I feel deserve to be nominated. With that said, Don’t Look Up is really the only movie on this list that I wish wasn’t among them at all, despite liking the film. It seems I’m not alone, as it seemed to have already become firmly the least liked best picture nominee. I won’t pile on this movie too much given that it has already become this awards season’s enemy (there’s at least one for every year). However, I can’t deny I have a huge amount of issues with it. Despite some occasional funny jokes throughout, it’s not that funny. It’s very drawn out and could feel dull in parts and it is tonally confused, and it can’t seem to decide whether it’s a serious drama or a comedy. It particularly fails as a satire, mainly as with how its meant to be an allegory for climate change. Satires being unsubtle isn’t inherently bad (see Sorry To Bother Me), but Don’t Look Up is obvious and blatant in a rather lazy and easy way. Nothing insightful is said, in fact not much is said at all, and it really doesn’t help with how condescending and smug it feels at times. Adam McKay’s directing style could get a bit grating at points, mainly the editing, and despite a great cast, most of their performances are decent at best. Still, I still liked the movie from my first and probably only viewing of it. There were aspects of the script that I liked, whenever its dramatic it was effective, in fact it works better as an end of the world depressing downer than a smart satire. I found the cast to at least be mostly decent (aside from a particularly terrible Mark Rylance), with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan and Melanie Lynskey delivering the stronger performances. Also, it had a pretty good score from the ever reliable Nicholas Britell.

Despite all the nominations, Don’t Look Up doesn’t seem like it has clear Best Picture chances, I’m not even sure that it would win in any of the categories it was nominated for. Even as someone who didn’t love all the nominees, it’s the one movie which just doesn’t belong here. At least it was nominated over Being the Ricardos.

My review of Don’t Look Up

9. Licorice Pizza

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This is very likely my most controversial ranking on this list. Licorice Pizza seemed to have received critical acclaim upon its release, and there were certainly some great parts to it. The cast are solid with some good performances from leads Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman through to supporting players like Bradley Cooper. Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction as expected was impeccable and stylish, transporting you back to the 70s. It’s very well shot with PTA’s trademark long takes and has a pretty good soundtrack. It has its moments, and is entertaining and funny at times. However, I just was not interested in the story or characters at all. Coming of age and hangout movies generally require those, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I am aware that those aren’t my favourite types of movies by any means, but even by those standards I felt incredible disengaged from everything (even without its more controversial aspects). I was watching a series of events loosely connected to each other, and its fairly messy and disconnected. While I get that it was the point, I just wasn’t invested enough for it to work for me. It started out okay for the first half, but by the time it reached the end, my enjoyment and investment had almost completely fizzled out. Licorice Pizza is still decent and I’m prepared to say I liked it, but it gets worse the more I think about it. I just didn’t get much out of it, and I unfortunately consider it Paul Thomas Anderson’s worst film yet.

As for awards chances, I don’t think it will receive Best Picture but has a chance at Original Screenplay. Despite my disappointment with the film, I don’t think it’s the worst of the nominees by any means.

My review of Licorice Pizza

8. Belfast

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Belfast is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, and one that received some mixed reactions, especially with its high awards chances. As for me, I think it’s a good movie, if a little unremarkable. The script is pretty straightforward, it is a coming-of-age story following the lead child living in Belfast during a tense political time. As a slice of life film about family and childhood, I thought it mostly worked. The cast were the best parts of the movie, Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench all do great jobs here, and their chemistry together made them feel like a family. Kenneth Branagh’s direction is pretty good, even if the black and white cinematography felt like a gimmick. For its faults, it is a passion project for Branagh, you feel it throughout and at the very least helped the movie to a degree. It definitely has some issues, the slice of life approach doesn’t always completely work, some situations could be contrived, and even with its relatively short runtime it can meander at times. I don’t think that there’s a lot inherently bad with Belfast, but it’s just nothing special. It’s pretty good as a one time viewing charming movie about family that semi-autobiographical, but that’s it.

One could make the argument that Belfast is the real ‘enemy’ of this awards season, since compared to Don’t Look Up, Belfast actually does have a viable chance at winning the top award. Even though I like the movie, I really don’t think it should win Best Picture. It would be a very unremarkable and underwhelming Best Picture win, even if I think it’s a good movie by itself.

My review of Belfast

7. King Richard

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King Richard is a pretty standard biopic that probably didn’t need to be nominated, but it is a good movie. As someone who didn’t know much about Serena and Venus Williams, I thought it was interesting to watch. Also while it was a biopic, it was also a character study for lead character Richard Williams as played by Will Smith. Despite my issues, I found myself invested throughout. The acting played a big part, with Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton all delivering great performances. While the direction wasn’t special it was decent enough, and the tennis scenes were filmed and edited with enough tension. As I said, King Richard is definitely a cliched sports biopic, by the numbers with big inspirational speeches and moments, and unsubtle dialogue, along with it being a bit too long and drawn out at 2.5 hours in length. Also like with most biopics, it felt very safe in parts, especially with the inner conflicts with the lead character. Those issues aside, I thought the movie was pretty good.

I don’t imagine King Richard would win Best Picture, it definitely has higher chances winning in the other categories it was nominated in, including Best Actor (in which Will Smith is one of the frontrunners). Again, I don’t feel like this film really needed to be nominated for Best Picture, but for what it’s worth, I’m not unhappy that it’s one of the nominees.

My review of King Richard

6. CODA

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CODA was one of the more surprising movies of this awards season, and I liked it more than I was expecting. It is definitely a predictable coming of age movie that falls into many of the cliches and tropes associated with the genre, and it has its fair share of cheesy dialogue and moments. However, it does its best to improve on those cliches, and despite its familiarity, I emotionally engaged with the story and characters, and I found it to be a charming and heartfelt movie with touching scenes. It also helps that the performances are fantastic, Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant all play their parts well and their family dynamic was conveyed very well. So despite its shortcomings, I thought CODA was an enjoyable and pretty good movie.

I’m not sure that CODA would win Best Picture and even though I do really like the movie, I’m not sure I would be 100% on board with it winning Best Picture. However like with King Richard, I’m okay with it being one of the nominees.

My review of CODA

These next 5 are my favourites of the nominees, I would be satisfied with any of these winning Best Picture.

5. West Side Story

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I confess that I’m not familiar with West Side Story the musical, or West Side Story the film adaptation from the 60s, but I had the chance to finally watch Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story fairly recently and I loved it. Despite the central romance which I found pretty much impossible to care for, I was invested with the story and characters and was entertained across its 2 hours and 40-minute runtime. I found it over the top and cheesy in all the right ways. Ansel Elgort might be the clear weakest link in the cast and was out of place, but the rest of the cast in Rachel Zegler, Mike Faist, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno and more than made up for it with their great performances. Steven Spielberg’s direction was just all around amazing. It was incredibly well shot and directed, the song and dance sequences were showcased wonderfully, the production design and costumes are fantastic, and the whole movie just had this constant energy from beginning to end. This is genuinely some of Spielberg’s best work as a filmmaker, and I don’t say this lightly. As someone who has mostly found his past films decent but nothing spectacular, this is my favourite movie from him since Munich.

I don’t see West Side Story winning Best Picture (even if it would be well deserved), but I do think that it would be worthy winners for its other categories, from Supporting Actress to director and its technical categories.

My review of West Side Story

4. Nightmare Alley

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I honestly wasn’t expecting Nightmare Alley to get nominated at all, despite all the early awards hype, it didn’t receive a lot of love or attention upon its release. I’m glad it got nominated however, it really does deserve to be here. Nightmare Alley has a compelling and engaging story, and it is one of Guillermo Del Toro’s darkest (which is saying a lot). While it is essentially another movie following a hustler who gets in over his head, I was invested in this seedy and sinister story. It is definitely a long movie and occasionally the pacing dragged in the first half, but I was always invested in what was happening. Additionally, the performances from everyone were fantastic from Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, and more. In particular, Blanchett was a scene stealing femme fatale (who really could’ve had more screentime), and Cooper gives possibly his best acting work yet, especially in his last on screen moments. The direction from Guillermo Del Toro was strong as to be expected. There’s a lot of visual imagination on display, the cinematography is striking, and all the technical elements come together to form this wonderful gothic atmosphere. Nightmare Alley, at least for me, is one of Del Toro’s best, and one that I am sure will be appreciated more over time.

Nightmare Alley is honestly one of the least likely nominees to win here, in fact I’m guessing that it scraped by to get nominated at all. However, it does have a decent shot at production design and costume design. Either way, I’m glad that it is here at all.

My review of Nightmare Alley

3. The Power of the Dog

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The Power of the Dog seems to be the frontrunner to win Best Picture alongside Belfast, and I can’t say that it doesn’t deserve to be one of the frontrunners. It has a slow burn story, but is an excellently crafted character study, with particularly focus on the layered character dynamics. The acting is amazing from everyone, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee are all fantastic in their parts. The direction from Jane Campion is outstanding, it’s a beautiful looking movie that takes advantages of its landscapes, and is very well put together, with an effectively dreadful, unnerving and haunting atmosphere. Among the best films of the past year.

Between Belfast and this, I definitely want The Power of the Dog to win more. There is a part of me that wonders if this is the kind of movie that the Academy are interested in or not, but I’ll be more than happy if it wins.

My review of The Power of the Dog

My next two favourites are practically interchangeable in their ranking.

2. Drive My Car

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I’m incredibly happy to see Drive My Car nominated for Best Picture. I knew that it was in the shortlist for the category, but I didn’t think it would make it beyond a Best Foreign Film nomination. Drive My Car is a truly beautiful and poignant movie. The script is incredible, the dialogue is hard hitting and beautifully written, and the topics and themes including grief and loss are covered excellently. The story and characters are layered and despite the very long runtime, I found myself invested throughout. The performances are also amazing from everyone, especially Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tōko Miura and Masaki Okada. The direction from Ryusuke Hamaguchi (which rightfully received a nomination) was phenomenal, demonstrating incredible filmmaking on display, especially with the striking cinematography.  It is a meditative, complex and beautiful film that gets better the more I think about it. Despite my placement of it on this list, there is a strong argument for it being the best movie of 2021.

I’m not quite sure that Drive My Car would win Best Picture, I’m just not sure how much this movie would appeal to voters especially in comparison to The Power of the Dog or Belfast. I could be completely wrong however, I would absolutely love if it won come Oscars night.

My review of Drive My Car

1. Dune

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Perhaps its very predictable of me putting this at the number one spot. Nonetheless, Dune: Part One was one of my favourite films from the past year, an ambitious and epic sci-fi story which seeks to adapt one of the most influential and iconic pieces of sci-fi literature. The movie certainly benefits from splitting its story into two parts, even if the film is really dependent on the second part which hasn’t been made yet. This approach allows for a lot of strong worldbuilding and a lot of lore and characters to be established, it really helps put you in this world that director Denis Villeneuve is transporting you to. Additionally, its great at conveying the larger stakes and scale while telling a personal journey of the lead character. The acting from the ensemble cast are all good, especially from Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Stellan Skarsgard. Denis Villeneuve’s work here is some of his best yet, ambitious and incredibly epic in scope. On a technical level it is fantastic, the cinematography is phenomenal, the production design and costumes are otherworldly, and the operatic and unique score really works in sync with the rest of the film. Again, Dune: Part One is a movie which depends on its second part succeeding (which will no doubt be nominated as well), but even by itself, it is an outstanding film and my favourite of the Best Picture nominees.

As far as awards go, I feel like Dune will be like Mad Max: Fury Road, with many Oscar wins for the technical categories but wouldn’t be enough to win the top prize (perhaps part of that is that Denis wasn’t even nominated). Nonetheless, expect Dune to sweep the technical awards come late March.

My review of Dune

What are your ranking of this year’s Best Picture Nominees, and what do you think of the nominees overall?

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