This shall be the second year that I’ll be ranking the Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Awards. While I’m not as emotionally invested in Awards Season as a bunch of other people are (way too invested I should add), I’m still nonetheless paying attention to what’s going on with it.
Considering the disappointing awards (even just for the nominations) last year, this year’s line-up is a considerable improvement. I actually managed to predict all the Best Picture nominees correctly, aside from assuming that The Two Popes would somehow get in as well. Usually I can predict that the Best Picture winner will be between two particular frontrunners, but this time it’s between four, and I’m not actually sure which one will win. Predictions aside, looking at my least favourite nominees this year compared to last, you can really see the stark difference in quality. It might not necessarily what I’d pick for the nominees, but it’s mostly a line-up I’m okay with.
So along with ranking the Best Picture nominees, what I’ll be doing is that I’ll talk briefly about my thoughts on each movie, then talk about its awards chances.
9. Jojo Rabbit
Considering last year with Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, having Jojo Rabbit as my worst of the nominees for Best Picture is a considerable step up. Now I really loved Jojo Rabbit when I first saw it, it was hilarious, well written, and all around very entertaining. Thinking about it more, while I still liked the movie, I realised there wasn’t a whole lot to it at its core. The message against Nazis, hate and fascism is forever timeless and one that I fully support. However, beyond that, it doesn’t really have much to say. For a satire, and one by Taika Waititi, I know it could gone a little further than it actually did. At least the movie is set from a child’s perspective, so there’s some excuse for the simplicity of Jojo Rabbit. Nonetheless, I felt it could’ve said a little more. With that said, what it gets right, it does very well. It’s well written and directed by Waititi, it has some entertaining scenes, and even a couple effective emotional scenes. The cast was also great, with Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie (who really was the standout Supporting Actress performance in this movie) being the highlight performers. Overall a solid movie that could’ve been even better.
Jojo Rabbit isn’t winning Best Picture, this much I can say for sure. It may have received some praise and some awards nominations, but I really don’t see it going further than that. It has much better chance at some of the technical categories like Production/Costume Design.
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
I’m aware how potentially controversial it is that this movie is so low on this ranking, and surprising most of all to me considering how much I loved it when I first saw it. Let’s just say that my opinion on it has been decreasing recently, and I had a rew-atch to see how I would feel about it. Even though I have enough things to say about it to make up another review, I’ll condense it for here. There’s nothing I can really pin down as being actually bad, in fact I could still call this a great movie. Quentin Tarantino’s love for cinema and Hollywood is on full display here as he brings its late 60s era onto the big screen. It’s a great looking movie with some stunningly filmed sequences, and Tarantino as usual writes a good script, especially with the dialogue. While not everyone was a fan of how it was handled, I thought the tribute to Sharon Tate and giving her a happy ending was great. It gave the audience a glimpse of who Tate was, instead of just the perception of “Roman Polanski’s wife who was killed by the Manson family”. What I’ll remember most positively most of all with the movie are Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in their roles of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, which ranks some of their best performances. So you’re probably wondering where the ‘however/but’ comes in after all that high praise. Even though most of the decisions make sense and there’s nothing I inherent had an issue with, I just couldn’t get into it this time. Maybe when I first saw it, it was the anticipation and hype, maybe it was some onscreen cinema magic that really grabbed me. Whatever it was, it wasn’t present for my second viewing, and it just didn’t have the same effect on me. Despite how warm the movie, is especially compared to Tarantino’s other movies, I really lacked a connection to the story and characters, which didn’t help when this was a movie not driven by anything and was 2 hours and 40 minutes long. At a point it became tedious to get through to the end, even if it wasn’t unpleasant to watch. To put it simply, it’s a movie that I admire and appreciate more than I actually love.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, and it could very well get it. Quentin Tarantino hasn’t had one of his movies win the top awards, it’s a leading contender in some other categories (including Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay) and it’s a movie about Hollywood, so you know it has at least a solid chance. You can probably tell I’m from up above that I’m less than enthused about this idea. While it’s a solid movie and as far as Best Picture winners go it would fit in just fine, it just sounds rather predictable and most of all safe for the Academy to award. I guess I could accept if it won (especially considering last year’s Best Picture winner), but I’d be seeing it more as a career win for Quentin Tarantino more than for the actual movie itself.
7. Ford v Ferrari
James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari surprised me in how great it was. For a movie that’s about racing, it could really appeal to anyone who could relate to having a passion for anything. It wasn’t just a movie about cars (even though it was that), it was a drama that most people could really get into, even if some of the structure and certain moments do feel typical of most sport movie biopics. We are following our underdog main characters in Matt Damon and Christian Bale and root for them as they try to achieve the seemingly impossible. When it came to the racing itself, it was engaging, intense and great to watch, with 95% of it practical making the movie even more enjoyable. On top of that it’s further elevated by a solid cast, with Christian Bale particularly giving yet another outstanding performance, and possibly one of his best. While at its core Ford v Ferrari is another racing biopic, Mangold and co. managed to make it a little more than just that.
Honestly, I’m a little surprised Ford v Ferrari actually got into the nominees despite all the praise, when I predicated that it would get nominated, I just throw that in as a guess. With that said, it’s got the same amount of chances as Jojo Rabbit winning Best Picture, in that it’s not going to win. However, it actually has a shot at winning some of the awards in the technical categories that they’ve been nominated for like Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and the like. I wouldn’t be surprised if it managed to sneak away with one of those awards, but don’t expect it to be walking away with the top prize come Oscar night.
Early on, 1917 was quickly written off as ‘just another war movie’, especially after being released a couple years after Christopher Nolan’s World War 2 movie Dunkirk, however it’s a little more than that. A technical achievement, Sam Mendes took on this ambitious task and delivered on some great results. Much has been said about how they made the movie look like it was filmed in one shot and it’s indeed impressive and lives up to all the acclaim. More than a gimmick, it really immerses you in the daunting environments and dire situations that the protagonists are stuck in, never allowing a break at any point. However, 1917 is more than this technique, and I hope people recognise some of the other special choices that were made that make it work so well. I will say that I’m not sure the movie will be quite as impressive once it leaves cinemas, and I don’t know how well it will last. While most of the major cast basically just have notable one scene cameos, the leads with George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are great, with MacKay particularly shining. What would’ve taken 1917 to the next level is if the handling of the story and characters better. While I’m definitely on board with the protagonists and their goal, I wasn’t as invested in them as I would’ve liked to have been, and so the downtime and characterisation scenes didn’t work quite as well (although MacKay’s performance compensated for at least half of that). With that said, that didn’t stop the movie from having a very effective emotional payoff at the end. Overall, 1917 is an impressive piece of filmmaking from 2019.
1917 is one of the four frontrunners for Best Picture, with the win at the Golden Globes establishing it as a big player. Like Ford v Ferrari, it’s a very technical based movie, and on that side of things it’s very impressive (no idea why it got nominated for Original Screenplay though). While I’ll get to the other two frontrunners later, it seems like this and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be one of the ‘safe’ choices for the award, and as that I wouldn’t be so excited if it did win. Not to say that it’s completely undeserved though, story and characters aside, 1917 is a filmmaking achievement, so I guess I’ll be comfortable enough with it winning even if it’s really not at all my first choice for the award.
So, among all the divisiveness surrounding Joker, I’m very much on the side of people who really liked it. It’s generally good throughout and I don’t have many complaints, however the third act is where it all comes together and really becomes great. Joker is very different for a comic book movie, a dark and grounded character study that’s reminiscent of movies from the 80s from the likes of filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese. It seems like this movie was an experiment to try something new within this genre, and it seemed to have paid off quite well. Todd Phillips has done a lot better with this than I thought he would, with the movie completely setting you in this dark and grimy version of 80s Gotham City, with stunning cinematography and an eerie and excellent score throughout. However, at the centre of it all is Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck/Joker, who’s excellent, thankfully so since this movie relies on him so much. While I’m not quite sure I’d say it’s his best performance, at the very least it’s one of his best. One could say that this movie could’ve done without being associated with a comic book character such as Joker, and that’s true, I still like what they did here. While the similarities between this movie and classics like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy don’t bother me too much, it would’ve been better if it was a little more different. On the whole I still think that Joker is a very solid movie.
It’s no secret that despite all the backlash against this movie, Hollywood clearly loves Joker, with the Academy Awards giving it 11 nominations. It has a good chance at winning some of these, with Best Score having a good chance (alongside Thomas Newman’s score for 1917), and is the frontrunner for Best Actor with Joaquin Phoenix. With that said, they probably aren’t going to give Best Picture to Joker, there are other movies that are way ahead of it, and I haven’t seen it win Best Picture in any other awards shows. One thing for sure though, it would certainly spark quite the divisive reaction if it somehow got it at the end of that night.
4. Marriage Story
Noah Baumbach’s bittersweet yet hopefully story of divorce is incredibly well made. Showing the process of divorce as well as its effect on a family, it’s very well put together. Baumbach has directed it all very well but his writing is what’s particularly incredible, reaching a range of different emotions and most importantly feels genuine and human above all else. The cast were all great, with the leading performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson truly tremendous, and some of the best from this past year. I guess my one gripe is that although I was very much engaged in this story, I was slightly disconnected from the characters, despite how intimate and character driven this movie is. I’m also not sure if it’s a movie that’s going to hold up that well on repeat viewings. With all that being said, from my one viewing of Marriage Story, it ranks among the highlights of movies to come from 2019.
Marriage Story is indeed receiving critical acclaim from pretty much everyone, but it doesn’t seem to be winning many Best Picture awards from many award shows. Even if it wins some of its awards like Adapted Screenplay, it’s very unlikely that it’ll win Best Picture. If it does somehow win it however, even though it’s not my personal favourite of the nominees, it’s still a great movie that I’d be satisfied seeing being given the award.
3. Little Women
I wouldn’t have thought months ago that Little Women would be one of my favourite movies of the year, but indeed it was quite the surprise. While I’m not familiar with the other adaptations or even the original story, Greta Gerwig seems to have done a great job at making this version of Little Women instantly appealing for today’s audiences, crafting a warm and heartfelt film that certainly has the potential of becoming a beloved classic. Her writing and direction were fantastic, and although not everyone was a fan of the parallel storylines that the film cut between, I thought it worked perfectly for the story (I really wished it got nominated for Best Editing at least). The whole cast were all great, with Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh particularly standing out as great performers. The more I think about Little Women, the more I really love it, and I can’t wait to see it again in the future.
Despite the nominations, Little Women doesn’t really have a great chance to win Best Picture. It might be able to win for some of its nominations like Best Costume Design, and possibly Best Adapted Screenplay (competing with The Irishman). However, don’t expect it walking away with Best Picture at the end of the night, not that I’d have a problem if it somehow did.
Now these next two are interchangeable. I firmly believe that if either of them win, they’d be firmly the best ‘Best Picture’ winner of the 2010s.
Parasite is one of the most acclaimed films of the year, and for very good reason. Bong Joon-ho’s latest starts off simple at first but over time becomes something completely different, a Hitchcockian thriller so excellently written and directed, truly made by someone who’s a master at their craft. Even watching it again more recently, I was just enthralled by how well made it is and still holds up, it’s entertaining and hilarious at first and then becomes incredibly dark and tense. The themes of class divide, and the like were also implemented perfectly in the story. The cast were great and deserved a lot more praise than they’d been receiving, it would’ve been nice to see at least one of the actors receive a nomination. Parasite is an extraordinary film, and it’s very satisfying to see it receive the love and praise that it deserves.
Parasite is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, and it’s great to see a bunch of support for it. It’s already got Best Foreign Film in the bag, could possibly get Best Original Screenplay (although competing with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Marriage Story), and maybe even some technical awards, so it would seem it has a shot at the big award. There’s just one problem, it’s a foreign language movie. This isn’t the first time a foreign movie has been nominated for Best Picture, but none of them have actually won. Now it’s not impossible for it to break through, with Parasite already being loved by Hollywood, even breaking through to American audiences. However, I can still see the voters being snobby over the fact that they have to read subtitles for it and choosing another film instead. If it does somehow manage to win though, that will be quite an achievement, and could even pave the way for the Academy to recognise even more foreign movies (beyond the foreign movie category) in the future.
1. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese is my favourite director, and with so many excellent movies under his belt, for his latest film The Irishman to be my favourite of his work, that’s saying a lot. While on paper it could’ve been just another mob movie from him, and indeed it starts off like that (albeit a really good one), Scorsese ventures into territory he hasn’t covered before. He’s at the top of his game, telling a melancholic and contemplative story about betrayal, regrets, and growing old, taking place over a lifetime. The ambition of this project is incredibly high and could’ve failed on many aspects, but Scorsese and co. have pulled it off. The whole cast is good, but particularly the trio of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci gave incredible performances, some of the best of their careers (and considering some of their movies, that’s saying a lot). The Irishman is not only one of the best movies of the year, it’s also one of the best movies of the decade, and shall be remembered in the years to come.
The Irishman is one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, and a while ago I would’ve said it was the definite frontrunner above the others. There are a few things that might stop it however. Some voters won’t like the long runtime or just dismiss it as just another Scorsese mob movie, but most importantly there’s also the fact that it’s a Netflix movie, and of course certain parts of Hollywood really are against Netflix. The question is whether that is going to stop the Academy voters from voting for a Martin Scorsese film. The biggest indication that it might not win however is the fact that the Irishman himself, Robert De Niro, wasn’t even nominated for Best Actor. The fact that the most important person of the movie, the titular character who the story entirely surrounded, wasn’t seen by voters to be important enough to be nominated, might also mean that they might not find the movie itself worth voting for. Not to say that it can’t pull it off, in other awards circles it has been winning quite a bit, but there’s even a bit of an uphill battle that they’re fighting here, despite being a frontrunner.
What’s your ranking of the Best Picture Nominees, and what do you think of the nominees?