The 92nd Academy Awards are right around the corner and for the first time in a long time, my schedule actually permits me to write an article like this. Huzzah. Now remember these are my personal thoughts, which we’re all entitled to.
1. Little Women
Adapted Screenplay By: Greta Gerwig
Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Little Women is without question, my favorite film of the year, quickly landing itself into my Top 10 of All-Time (A ranking I haven’t actually done yet, but I know it’s there. Ssh.) It’s a timeless story for all ages and I never want to stop singing praises for Greta Gerwig and the entire cast who’ve managed to bring out parts of the March women that previous adaptations didn’t get to. It’s a story that focuses on mothers and daughters, and sisters alongside love showcasing just how the relationships in our lives could inspire the people we choose to become. Times have changed and there’s a lot of dark media in the world right now, but I’m happy to know that there’s still room for families, romance, and stories that end with profound hope. This is the kind of writing that made me fall in love with storytelling when I was a little girl, and for that I’m grateful. It’s vulnerable, it’s sincere, it’s potently moving and perhaps, my favorite part of this version is the bold reiteration of the fact that all our dreams, despite how simple or complex, matter. A woman’s choices and the narratives she carves for herself are always important. It’s brilliantly acted, astoundingly directed, and dare I say, perfectly adapted. It’s my Best Picture choice and I’ll stand by that belief to the end of time.
2. JoJo Rabbit
Adapted Screenplay By: Taika Waititi
Directed By: Taika Waititi
JoJo Rabbit is fantastic — hilarious, witty, and thought provoking in all the right ways a film about a terrible time in history can be. It is now a fact, universally acknowledged that Taika Waititi can do no wrong. No seriously, trying to understand how this man’s brain works is one of the most fascinating conundrums as an aspiring writer. How does he do it? (It’s also adapted in a way to bring forward a more hopeful, noble ending then the one present in the book.) There aren’t many people in the world that could mix humor with the horrors of Nazism with the writer/director playing the role of an overly dramatic Hitler. But Waititi manages to tell a profoundly moving story that in its details, focuses on the people who’ve risked their lives as opposed to the ones that have allied themselves with Nazis. It’s a story that focuses on a little boy’s corrupt vision revealing just what it means to be young and impressionable, all while revealing the altruism in his heart despite the decision to be on the wrong side of history. And in the midst of the humor, it focuses intricately on humanity and goodness. It’s a conundrum how it works, really it is.
Original Screenplay By: Bong Joon Ho
Directed By: Bong Joon Ho
My stress levels were through the roof the first time I watched the film — I knew it was a thriller, I knew I’d signed up for some sort of a dark, comedic twists and turns, but good Lord, never knowing what was coming was anxiety provoking. However, it’s one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen, which flows so seamlessly in its twisted, complex storytelling. Bong Joon Ho is an undeniable, visionary genius. It left me heartbroken, lost in my thoughts, and thinking carefully about how upper and working class are perceived, how they were portrayed in the film, and the lengths they’ll both go through to protect what’s theirs. It’s moving, it’s gut-wrenching, and it never once misses a beat in subtly reminding the audience of the dark ramifications societal and cultural impact could have. And it does so in a way that’s never once jarring but entirely understandable. Parasite is a complicated film to dissect, but it’s extraordinarily well written and it understands all the emotions it’s taking its audience through. It dissects itself down one character at a time allowing the story to flow in a way that works effectively.
Original Screenplay By: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Directed By: Sam Mendes
I’m completely floored by 1917. It’s one of the most visually stunning pieces I’ve seen in a long time — the one shot directing was so captivating. I’m typically not one to be intrigued by war centric media, but the hype is very real around this and it’s deserving of all the praise its getting. George MacKay’s exceptionally memorable performance cobbled with the emotionally moving storytelling broke me. That final shot of him is one of the most haunting, beautifully silent moments of film I’ve seen in a long time and it brought so much depth to the entire thing. 1917 differs from a lot of films in its genre primarily because of how it focuses on its characters, their entities, and human connections. My guess for what will take Best Picture is between this and Parasite. (Both of which I’m rooting for and will be happy either way.) And Sam Mendes’ exquisite vision is without question landing him a great number of deserved accolades. I will actually riot if it doesn’t take the Best Cinematography award home. The one night shot. You know the one I’m referring to. I remember gasping out loud when we watched that scene in the theaters — pure, cinematic magic at best.
5. Marriage Story
Original Screenplay By: Noah Baumbach
Directed By: Noah Baumbach
There are so few words to describe Adam Driver’s performance in Marriage Story, prior to having seen Joker, he was my biggest contender for the Best Actor category. But his nomination alone is crucial for so few men are given the opportunity to be as vulnerable as Driver was in this film. I held my breath watching his breakdowns the entire time. It’s an amazing, unbelievably raw, and beautifully sincere film with a lot of warmth surrounding all the darkness that comes along with divorce. I cried as much as I thought I would and then some. Scarlett Johansson has never shined brighter than she did in this film. And Laura Dern. Laura Dern for everything. That is all.
6. The Irishman
Adapted Screenplay By: Steven Zailian
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
If I were into mafia based crime dramas, I’d be able to appreciate The Irishman more, but regardless, it’s one of Scorsese’s strongest films to date and one of my personal favorites. If it had a shorter running time I’d watch it more.. The production design was phenomenal, the directing was enriching, and the storytelling was rightfully emotional. But what I don’t understand is how the heck was Robert De Niro snubbed from a Best Actor nomination!? This is one of De Niro’s strongest, most haunting performances to date — he’s the very reason the film is as evocative as it is. The stories he told in silence alone were gut wrenching and I genuinely don’t understand how he was overlooked.
7. Ford v Ferrari
Adapted Screenplay By: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller
Directed By: James Mangold
Ford v. Ferarri is riveting — a thrilling film with an exceptional cast, and a gripping plot that doesn’t cater to my normal interests, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. The last few moments especially were aces. It’s a film that starts off understandably slow but its details paint a lovely picture of love and friendship amidst the race car shenanigans. And it’s those moments of humanity I was personally able to appreciate most along with the exquisite chemistry between Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, and Matt Damon. To be frank, you could put these actors in any genre of a film together and I’d enjoy it entirely because it was that good.
8. Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood
Original Screenplay By: Quentin Tarantino
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Fun fact about me before anyone chews up my throat for ranking this so low: Tarantino films and I don’t mesh well. While the visionary director and his astounding attention to subtle details is undoubtedly worthy of high praise, his stories aren’t ones I find enjoyment in and they often leave me feeling anxious. Thereby, I can’t exactly say I loved Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, but I could appreciate bits and pieces within the story that highlighted the complexities of Hollywood along with intricately and delicately focusing on mental illnesses. The performances and cinematography, which brought to life Hollywood in the late 60s was nothing short of remarkable. Margot Robbie was stunning as Sharon Tate and I wish we got more of her character because while I enjoyed the twist, I would’ve wanted to see more of her brought to life. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio should always be scene partners. And most importantly, let it be known that Brandy the Pit Bull, was my favorite character.
Adapted Screenplay By: Todd Phillips
Directed By: Todd Phillips
I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Joker in its entirety, so we’re going to focus this solely on Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and the fact that it’s the strongest part of the film. Clowns have made me uncomfortable since I first saw one at another kindergartener’s birthday party. Ronald McDonald has never been appealing either. I hate clowns. And that’s that. But I’ve been a massive fan of all Batman films since before I even really understand what the stories were about and the Joker has always gotten a pass. Every performance has made me uncomfortable nonetheless, but I never really skipped out on them as I do with Pennywise or other clown focused media. Phoenix brought a whole other type of rage to the Joker and his mannerisms were downright distressing. The dancing, the pathological laughter, the rage — Phoenix clearly did a lot of work to understand the character and brought it to life almost too well. The Oscar is entirely well deserved for this man, which I’m sure we’re all certain he’s getting.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Adapted Screenplay By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Directed By: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
I will never forget my first viewing of this film and the collective emotions it felt as though thousands of us shared in the theatre. It was otherworldly and one of my favorite memories of the year without question. But alas, I knew a film like this would never get recognition from the Academy despite the groundbreaking visual effects, astounding performance, and beautifully captivating score that carried it. Avengers: Endgame is an unbelievably moving film that inspired a wide range of articles here starting from an homage to Natasha Romanoff’s legacy, a celebration of the Asgardian brothers that started off as enemies, a round-table memoriam that followed Tony Stark’s sacrificial death, and the second chance at love I’d been hoping Steve Rogers would get since he went under the ice. It also inspired several podcast episodes, in multiple parts. It was more than just a film, it was an experience. It was years of anticipation ending with a satisfying, emotionally captivating conclusion that left us jazzed about it all for months to come. It’s still a film that I’ll watch and viscerally react to as I did that very first time because it meant so much to just be a part of its legacy as a fan.
Original Screenplay By: Ari Aster
Directed By: Ari Aster
Let it be known that I recently “watched” Midsommar. (Skipped some gory, distressing bits hence the quotation marks.) and my goodness, Florence Pugh’s performance was harrowing, unbelievably raw, and so vulnerable. What astounding gifts this woman has; how the Academy snubbed her is beyond me. (I know she’s nominated for her performance as Amy March in the Best Supporting Actress category, but if any actress deserves double nominations it’s Pugh.) The way culture is represented is so thought-provoking in this film. What people choose to accept and normalize vs what’s right or wrong. How they navigate through both joys and sorrows by choosing to share it collectively. It all made the storytelling that much more riveting. And the direction, where does one even begin to discuss the details?! There was not a single shot that couldn’t be analyzed further. (Except maybe the gore because y’know — still, someone less squeamish could tell you.) And finally, the score! So stunning.
3. The Farewell
Adapted Screenplay By: Lulu Wang
Directed By: Lulu Wang
The Farewell, my goodness, what a GEM. I laughed, I cried, and I was so fiercely impressed with the performances. Awkwafina is a treasure — her performance was so achingly palpable and sincere I’m gonna be thinking about it for a long time coming. I am so deeply moved by it. (Spoilers for the ending, so look away if you’ve yet to see it.) But knowing her grandmother survived it all in the end?! What!? What a story. What a legacy. It was incredible, honest storytelling that touched me profoundly.
4. Just Mercy
Adapted Screenplay: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton
Just Mercy is gut wrenching, exceptionally powerful, beautifully moving storytelling full of outstanding performances from everyone involved. Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan broke me multiple times. (Again, seriously did no one watch this film because how on earth were none of these men acknowledged?) There are so many quiet, hauntingly evocative shots throughout the film that moved me to my core. We need to tell more of these stories that focus on those who’ve been wrongfully convicted of a crime because of racial profiling. It’s not enough to just have one or two because it happens too frequently in our world to stand watching from the sidelines. Go out of your way to watch this film, find it wherever you can, tell your friends. It deserves colossal praise.
5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Adapted Screenplay: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster
Directed By: Marielle Heller
My heart has never felt more at ease leaving a theatre then after A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s the most inspiring film I watched this year and I feel so fortunate to have just seen it. (It’s up there with Little Women and the extraordinary effect it has.) Kindness is magic and Tom Hanks embodies Mr. Rogers effortlessly. (An unlikely chance he’ll win the Award, but here’s to hoping, right?) But the performance I want to actually scream about is Matthew Rhys’ because this man could do absolutely no wrong. He’s such an excellent scene partner to the legendary Hanks, and the perfect choice to exhibit the struggles of a man with conviction. Human beings are such beautiful creatures when we allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable. It’s as brave as we can be and my goodness, I’m so glad A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood reiterates this fact
Honorable Mentions: Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker, Hustlers, Rocket Man, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Frozen II.
Mixed Category Thoughts
- [Michael Scott “Where are the turtles?” voice] WHERE ARE GRETA GERWIG AND TAIKA WAITITI’S BEST DIRECTOR NOMINATION!?! WHERE ARE THEY!?
- How on earth was Aladdin not nominated for Costume Design?
- I wish Judy was a better film because Zellweger’s performance is fantastic, but the film itself paled in comparison.
- Someone explain why both Jennifer Lopez and Awkwafina weren’t nominated because what the actual freaking fork. Injustice.
- I’m not even a fan of horror films because I’m a chicken but what is the excuse the Academy has?
- My heart is still hoping we get some sort of a surprise like last year’s and Saoirse Ronan takes home the Best Actress award. (@God please.)
- Taron Edgerton deserved a Best Actor nomination, too. Did we forget that he sang, too? He actually embodied Elton John to the t.
- Parasite actors, Kang-ho Song and So-dam Park. Where are their nominations!?