Culture, Film

The 2023 Oscar Best Picture Nominees: Ranked

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Everything Everywhere All at Once

Featured Image: Allyson Riggs – A24 Movies

The long-awaited Oscars took placed on March 12 in which film fanatics waited in anticipation to see the winners of the 95th Academy Awards. With seven Academy Awards, Everything Everywhere All At Once swept all of the major categories and took home the main prize.

aAh! ranks the list of all of the Best Picture nominated films.

10. Tár

No Academy Awards

I feel like I’m alone in my opinion here, but I could not even vaguely get on board the Tár-train. Opening with an over-long interview sequence that doubles as an exposition dump, we find out all of the achievements that this fictional composer has acquired but, just like every scene in the film, it is so bloated and dull that I found myself losing interest (and patience).

Most of the 2 hour 50 minute runtime is spent watching the slow downfall of an artist, ruining her career and losing all of her relationships – Cancel Culture: The Movie. Cate Blanchett gives a strong, commanding performance but Lydia Tár is so hideously unlikeable and uninteresting to watch that I found nothing to hold on to to keep me going. Unfortunately, nothing ever really comes together, and even if it had, it’s such a slog to get there it doesn’t feel worth it. 

9. Avatar: The Way of Water

One Academy Award

I’ll heavily caveat this by saying I’ve never been a huge fan of the first Avatar. Though the visuals are impeccable and it’s impossible not to admire the scale, Pandora is just not a world I enjoy spending time in (you can imagine my delight when they announced four sequels). Though The Way of Water is a pretty fun ride and the family drama at the heart is far more compelling than anything that happened in its predecessor, the story stays stagnant for far too long and spends an unusual amount of its running time luxuriating in tedious whale riding sequences.

One positive step-up from the original is the bad-guy. Stephen Lang’s Quaritch (yes, I had to Google that) feels like a very imposing threat on Jake Sully (had to Google that too) and his family. It’s currently doing insane numbers at the box office (third highest grossing film of all time), so I suppose we have many more of these to look forward to – oh joy.

8. Elvis

Zero Academy Awards

From its opening minutes, Elvis is a lightning-fast assault on the senses, and it never really slows down. Austin Butler is Elvis. From the accent to the pelvic thrusts he really inhabits the man. The whole film lives and dies by this central performance so it’s lucky it’s a good one.

Unfortunately, Tom Hanks is also doing whatever Tom Hanks is doing in this film – a complete caricature that saps some gritty scenes of all emotion. The speedy storytelling probably isn’t for everyone, it certainly grated on me after a while as it meant that no scene really had time to breathe, and never really let us indulge in the terrific performance (Butler, not Hanks, obviously). Though the pacing didn’t always click with me and some of the more – questionable – things about Elvis’s past are eliminated, it’s such an audacious way of telling a biopic that you ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ with it. 

7. Women Talking

One Academy Award

A colony of women are being attacked by men, and need to decide whether to stay and fight, or leave. The whole film is one long debate, mainly set in one room (barn) and made up of challenging and interesting discussions, it’s basically 12 Angry (Wo)Men. The attacks all happen off screen and are dealt with in a sensitively non-explicit way and it’s to the film’s credit that you understand everything without seeing anything (tell don’t show).

In a film full of top-tier performances, Claire Foy steals it – being the angriest of the group, she gets some great punchy dialogue. However, it never quite hits the emotional heights that I was expecting and the conversations get ever-so-close to being repetitive. That being said, overall it’s a fantastic study of a group of oppressed women who decide they deserve to have a voice. 

6. All Quiet on the Western Front

Image: © 2022 Netflix Netflix Tudum

Four Academy Awards

The film that unexpectedly swept the BAFTAs, including best film, does not sugar-coat the tragedies of war. Shown from the point of view of the German’s in the final stages of World War One, we see a familiar story told through the opposite lens – as they lose.

The action sequences look incredible – with muted colours and packed with full-on violence. Its relentless portrayal of the horrors of war are so gritty and compelling that you can’t look away. The score by Volker Bertelmann is unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a war movie and creates such an unsettling, chilling atmosphere. It perhaps has a bit of a saggy middle – I became very aware of its 148 minute runtime (can the Oscars nominate shorter films next year?) – but as soon as the battle scenes kick in, the time flies right by. 

5. The Banshees of Inisherin

No Academy Awards

Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, and the donkey: a film filled with incredible performances (but somehow left without any Oscars). A film about one friend who decides he no longer wants to be friends anymore – that is literally the entire plot. Everything stems from that one idea and you will absolutely never guess where it goes. It’s properly funny as well as devastatingly sad, sometimes in the same scene. Martin McDonagh walks the incredible fine line between funny and silly in a way that few other writers do as precisely. A massive (severed) thumbs up for this one. 

4. Top Gun: Maverick

One Academy Award

The film that saved cinema! It’s not often that the Academy acknowledges the big blockbusters of the year but this action packed thrill ride must have put a smile on the voter’s faces. A sequel to Top Gun, a film that I have always liked-but-not-loved, Maverick bests it in almost every way. It’s the Tom Cruise show, and that is in no way an insult – all Cruise wants to do is blow audiences away with an amazing experience, and he does that. We’re also reminded how good he is as an actor, specifically in the scene with Val Kilmer, the two convey so much while saying so little. And special props to this film for finally giving Miles Teller something meaty to work with after proving himself as a tremendous talent in Whiplash. It will make you feel the need, the need for speed.

3. Triangle of Sadness

No Academy Awards

When Ruben Östlund does satire, he really does satire. Marketed as ‘Lord of the Flies for the super-rich’, Östlund examines the pettiness and pathetic side of the top one percent. Much like his Palme D’Or winning The Square, it is almost structured like a series of vignettes – each acting as a metaphor. I can’t think of another storyteller who goes for such bold, obvious symbols without allowing them to feel patronizing or overblown. Beginning with a hilarious dive into a couple made up of a male-model and an influencer, played to perfection by Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean (who sadly passed away just last year), the film changes into a sit-com, and then a disaster movie, while always keeping the same tone and sense of humour. The way it examines masculinity and gender reversals is inspired – and very, very funny.  

2. The Fabelmans

Image: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
© Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved.

No Academy Awards

It’s safe to say that it was inevitable I was going to love this. After last year’s perfect West Side Story (a hill I’m prepared to die on), Steven Spielberg delivers the most personal film of his career, a story about a young man who falls in love with cinema, made by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Never drifting into melodrama, The Fabelmans feels so authentic that you forget you’re watching a film – a true testament to the power of cinema and the ultimate goal – losing yourself in a great story. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are superb, giving non-showy performances and pulling at the heart strings throughout.

The movie-making-scenes are a joy to watch, acting as a reimagining of how the master learnt his craft. From standing on wooden boards hidden under sand to simulate explosions to popping pins in the film cells to look like gunshots, it’s beautiful watching the early glimmers of creativity. Perhaps the most impressive feat is that it never feels self-indulgent as it so easily could have. It also features one of the most heartbreaking shots of any film this year – not to spoil anything, but Sammy in the mirror on his camera – if you know, you know. 

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Seven Academy Awards

Much like Parasite back in 2020, it’s so surprising when the Oscars nominate something that is so fresh, distinctive and non-awards-baiting, that it feels unlikely it will actually win. Alas, this year’s best film has achieved the same goal. Maximalism coats an enormous beating heart, disguising a family drama as a multiversal adventure.

The performances (which swept the acting categories) are what brings the film together, Michelle Yeoh is great as both the mother figure and the action bad-ass. Stephanie Hsu is on another level, giving Marvel’s Kang a run for his money as the big bad of a multiverse. But the stand-out is Kuy He Kwan (Indy’s Short Round) who completely steals the show (and an academy award) and is finally being put back into the spotlight proving himself as a remarkable talent. There is so much care and detail put into every single frame of the film and the whole thing is bursting with originality and fun – as close to perfect as any film I’ve seen. Oh, and it will leave you craving a bagel.

About the author / 

Thomas Mansbridge

Thomas Mansbridge is a journalism student at Manchester Met. He's interested in films and television and watches every new release.

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