Oscar Best Picture Nominees 2020: My Thoughts and Reviews

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Hello all,

AWARD SEASON. If you know me, you know this is my favourite time of the year! It is the time I find some of my favourite movies and get really critical on what I like and don’t like in film. It is a time where we reflect and give praise to the best in film and TV from the past year. 2019 was a pretty dry year for me, in that I did not spend a great deal of my time watching movies or TV. My number of movies watched during the year was down significantly from 2018. I am not really sure why if I am honest, I guess not as many movies took my interest as they have previous years and those which I did, were often those which I found out about after their cinematic release. However, just because my year in film wasn’t as exciting, that doesn’t discount the great year in film that was had in 2019.

Monumental box office, record-breaking movie Avengers Endgame was released with an extremely positive fan reaction (including myself). Superhero/comic book movies also triumphed this year through movies such as Joker, Captain Marvel and Spiderman Homecoming. One of the biggest movies of the year was South Korean film Parasite, which has taken the international community by storm labelling it as one of the best films this decade. Animation saw Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Frozen 2 (just to name a few) and Rocketman stunned the musical community! The horror genre saw US, Ready or Not, Crawl and Midsommar (which all were met with praise from critics). Quentin Tarantino released his 9th and second last film Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, which was one of my absolute favourite movies of the year! Unfortunately, not all film releases go as planned. Cats was probably the biggest failure of 2019, as well as the Charlie’s Angels remake which failed to gain the attention it had anticipated. In fact, remakes are one of my pet hates in most cases (there are exceptions) and I think this year people began to join the bandwagon. My issue with remakes comes down to one main point; Remakes take away the opportunity for new, diverse and fresh stories to be told through film. Why do we need the sheer number of remakes that are being produced yearly when we could be spending those billions of dollars on new stories and ideas? It is a waste if you ask me (anyway that is a rant for another time).

Onto the best picture nominees for 2019/20 and my individual reviews and ratings of each. I like to watch each of the nominees for best picture every year so that when the Oscars do come around I am prepared and can make active judgements and opinions on the films in question! So without further ado… here are my reviews for this year’s nominees;

Disclaimer: Film is both subjective and objective and everyone is entitled to their own opinions of these movies! These are simply my own thoughts on them and how I perceived them.       

Ford v Ferrari 

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Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: Ford v Ferrari blew far beyond my expectations. I would say it is most definitely underrated and for that, I am glad it was nominated in this category. This film is one of the most entertaining on this list in my opinion. Sometimes I don’t sit down and crave a sombre, slow movie with limited plot or action. Sometimes I feel like watching an entertaining, fast-paced movie that still has impactful and interesting themes, dialogue and characters. As someone whose interests don’t extend to cars or race car driving, this was just as much a history lesson as it was a cinematic experience. The acting of Christian Bale and Matt Damon was brilliant as always (some of my favourite actors) and the story that was told was both inspiring and emotional. I cried at the end of the film. I think the main criticism is that it is extremely long and could definitely be shortened in length, as certain scenes did tend to drag on for longer than necessary. However, as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this film which I feel may have been because I went in with Loe expectations (mainly because car-related movies are never usually those which I tend to watch). Nonetheless, while I don’t necessarily think it deserves awards over some of the films below, it is definitely a great movie with a brilliant cast and a really interesting and heartfelt story.

The Irishman 

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Rating: 3/5

Thoughts: Unfortunately, I am not going to come on here and lie and say that I loved this film and everything about it because that simply was not the case. Whilst I appreciated the phenomenal acting, screenplay and creative direction of Scorsese, this movie did not do anything for me. In fact, I would go as far to say it bored me (I quite literally feel asleep). And maybe my tastes are not advanced enough for a movie like this but I am not going to pretend as if I found this film enjoyable because I really didn’t. The concept was far from original for Scorsese and for a film that ran for over three hours I truly expected something far more monumental and exciting. Nonetheless, I still think Scorsese is one of the greatest filmmakers alive today and rightfully so. Sometimes the stories he directs just do not resonate with me and that is okay!

Jojo Rabbit 

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Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: Jojo Rabbit is probably the most surprising and unexpected movie for me on this list.  Going into this film I had low expectations, considering I had seen a lot of mixed reviews and I was worried about the comedy aspect of the film in relation to the serious subject matter. As the film began, what I had expected from viewing the trailer and reading reviews came to fruition and I settled in for a comedy. However, as the movie began, the incredible Taika Waititi did what he does best; blending comedic aspects with powerful or interesting undertones. With each progression in the film, you slowly get to see a very poignant story start to develop. With every laugh and comedic scene you become more and more aware of the undertones which surround each scene and the reality of the subject matter and time that the story takes place within. I was in tears by the end of the film and that is always how I know a movie deserves my praise. I am not someone who cries easily in movies. Thus, when a film comes along that changes that, I like to acknowledge it. I found the characters in this film to be fascinating, particularly Jojo Betzler himself (played by the incredible Roman Griffin Davis). Notably, the performances by Scarlett Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie allow for a truly affecting story and some emotional dialogue. When you are able to place this comedic story in the context of its setting as you watch, it really enables an impactful story that is anything but forgettable! Not only that, but you are also able to appreciate the creative and unique piece of art that has been created by Waititi.

Joker 

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Rating: 3.5/5

Thoughts: Joker is an incredible study of how this iconic comic book character became the villain everyone came to know. Led by an impeccable performance by Joaquin Phoenix (who has deserving, already won many awards for his leading role in the film) and his chilling laughs. The film deals with real-life struggles like unemployment, power imbalances, isolation and particularly the portrayal of mental illness. It really portrays psychotic behaviour on a whole new level and that is because of Phoenixes’ ability to embody this character and provide it with so much depth that does Health Ledger’s performance justice! The descent into madness is something to behold and its quite eye-opening. So much can be analysed about the psyche of the Joker and the human experience in general from this film. I think aside from the leading performance, the main aspects that I believe were commendable were the cinematography and the absolutely perfect score created by Hildur Guðnadóttir! This movie definitely had its flaws and the attempt to blend In so many deep and important elements without the run time to fully expand on each of them left much to be desired in some areas. The finale of the film is powerful, yet somehow messier than the first half of the film. I found myself confused at the treatment of the Joker post-De Niro death and the quick change in public opinion. From being a social outcast and hated, too praise in such a short time frame, did not sit right with me. The bleak world and completely pessimistic view that ultimately displays no hope of redemption is not a world I can relate too and while that doesn’t make the film bad, it just made my personal opinion less desirable of the film.

Little Women 

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Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: Hold up, I am adding a movie to my favourite films of all-time list. This incredibly well-directed film by Greta Gerwig (yes, Academy, since you must have lost Greta’s nomination) is an emotional, visually stunning masterpiece. It definitely helps when you have a cast featuring the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and Laura Dern. This remake is one of many that has adapted Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel Little Women and while I have not seen the other adaptations, this one I could not flaw. The story is old, yet the themes transcend the time they were made in and Greta adapts the themes to a contemporary-feminist era that brings the characters to life. Each character has so many layers and no matter how great their screen time is during the film, each one feels as though they have been developed. The story is so delicate and simple, yet so complex at the same time. There are are so many layers and so much analysis that can be Mae regarding the characters and the behaviours they exhibit. The film is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, but the ability for Greta to ever-so accurately portray the flawed human experience throughout this film is impeccable. You cannot help but fall in love with every second of it, or at least I couldn’t. I would love to see this win Best Adapted Screenplay

Marriage Story

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Rating: 4.5/5

Thoughts: Noah Baumbach’s powerful film about the lives and story of a divorcing couple is one of the rawest and emotional of the movies on this list. This movie isn’t a big blockbuster like the others on this list. It is quiet, subtle but presents a strong message about divorce and the ability for people to fall out of love. It shows the grief that accompanies divorce and the horrific process that it can be for all involved. It is an emotional whirlwind and heartbreaking to see such flawed but multifaceted characters be broken down. The addition of their child only makes matters more distressing and gut-wrenching. The acting in the film is beautiful and whilst twitter has collectively shunned Scarlett and Adam Driver’s performances, I felt they did an incredible job throughout this film. You could honestly feel the raw emotions and passion that they both felt towards the film. Due to the micro-scale of the films setting and the personal and intimate nature of the story, you really get to see all actors at their most vulnerable. Laura Dern stole the show as the divorce lawyer for Scarlett’s character in the film. She is fierce, unapologetic and worthy of every award she has been given this award season. Overall though, this isn’t a celebratory story, it is simply a story of one family and one incident and the hurdles that arise because of it. It feels stripped down and personal and that is what made it so wonderful to watch. I think what can be taken away from this film is that we can’t choose who we love and sometimes these things do happen but even at our lowest points there can always be a silver lining to every situation. You can and will find love again and sometimes first you need to find that love within yourself.

1917

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Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: A fear tears later… 1917 is an epic, emotional and heartbreaking war movie that is so much more than just that. Let me start by saying that this film is a must-see in the cinema. The big screen is the only place that will do this film justice. The sheer cinematography, editing and visuals that went into this production are impeccable and a sight to witness in its full glory. It was epic and knowing it was a one-shot film is crazy to think about and only makes you respect the cinematography more! While war movies often get me emotional due to the sheer subject matter being dealt with, this movie provides you with multiple angles to see the war from but never attempts to romanticise it for dramatic effect. You do not come out of this movie with positive thoughts about the events you just witnessed. It makes you think and while it is not on the level of Saving Private Ryan, it provided me with a very similar emotional response. Togetherness and brotherhood in such a horrific time are heartbreaking to watch. Sam Mendes knows how to create a stellar and emotional film. In particular focus, George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman delivered some extremely underrated performances in this movie! They captured so perfectly through the two main characters, how it was to be a young boy unaware of the horrors of a battlefield. I loved this movie and couldn’t recommend it highly enough! If anything, 1917 deserves Best Cinematography and Editing.

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood 

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Rating: 4.5/5

Thoughts: The incredible ninth film from Quentin Tarantino was one of my favourite cinematic experiences of 2019. Not only are the stylistic elements of this film mesmerising, I felt as if I had taken a step into the Golden Era of Hollywood. It was a tribute to Hollywood and was released during a time in the year where I had been researching film and gaining a greater insight into the history of cinema. Thus, the film was a perfect tie in with my research and probably added to why I enjoyed the movie so much. It was an experience that had to be undergone in a cinema. Brad Pitt was the stand out in this movie for me and showed his acting range and potential so clearly through his role as Cliff Booth. However, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie also gave stellar performances in their respective roles, with the help of an A-grade script and production. Another aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed was the uniqueness (as is Tarantino’s style) and how there were elements of fact and fiction that blended seamlessly together to create an odd but extremely engaging story. You would assume with the 2 hours and 40 minute run time it would become a bore but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. I really loved seeing some of the best up and coming acting talent featured in this movie in small supporting roles which gave the movie that extra bit of intrigue for me. Margaret Qualley, Maya Hawke and Sydney Sweeney all played small roles in this film and all three are names I keep my eye on regularly! Therefore, an impressive love letter to the Golden Age of film and one that I won’t be forgetting any time soon!

Parasite

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Rating: 5/5

Thoughts: Parasite is the final movie I watched on this list and it was spectacular. What a way to finish off my watch-list. I didn’t discover director Bong Joon Ho until 2017 when he directed the Netflix movie Okja, which I absolutely adored. Something about Okja captivated me and stuck with me through recent years! Parasite is no exception. This twisted story of class stratification, lies and greed is brilliantly acted and written with wit and so much passion. Each character (no matter their screen time) felt developed and multidimensional. I think what also makes this film so brilliant is how unpredictable and unique it truly is. I personally have never seen a movie like it in my life. It is a masterpiece and truly a work of art. The timing is perfect in each scene and each aspect of the film feels so meticulously placed. So well done that by the end of the film I did not feel like anything was missing. It wasn’t too long or too short. Everything was just right. In addition, aside from the technical aspects, the issue of class discrimination and divide is apparent once more and at the forefront (as it is typical of Bong Joon Ho). This movie is, at its core, a social satire and it achieves it’s aims gloriously and in the most suspenseful and entertaining way possible. Do NOT let the foreign language element deter you from this film. As Bong Joon Ho said in his Golden Globe acceptance speech for Best Foreign Language Film “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Who do I want to win Best Picture?

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Parasite or 1917 are my top bets to win and are all phenomenal choices and while Little Women was one of my favourite films of the year, I would prefer to see an original film win Best Picture (although I definitely would not be mad at Little Women winning – but it is so unlikely that I don’t have any hopes for it).

– Joshie

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