I’m a fan of movies in the most casual way possible. As long as I have excessively buttered popcorn and a large ICEE while reclining in one of those cushy AMC theater chairs, I really am not picky about whatever’s playing on the screen. And, I quite literally think that the Pitch Perfect franchise is peak cinema. With those things being said, I believe I am a very qualified candidate to give a definitive ranking of the best picture nominations at this year’s Academy Awards. Kidding! Kind of.
It’s hard to find any kind of rankings or reviews for highly acclaimed films from the perspective of your average movie-goer. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the importance of a more in-depth analysis done by a legitimate film critic–films of this caliber deserve to be appreciated in that way. But if you’re like me and just want to tune in to see what all of the hype is about (and have an excuse to snag that movie theater popcorn, obviously), I have you covered. I watched all 10 of this year’s best picture nominations at my leisure, and I’m here to give the very un-prestigious 411. While I think they’re all worth giving a watch, here’s my definitive ranking as someone who is far from being a movie snob:
10. Avatar: The Way of Water
To preface, I am a non-fiction girly ’til the day I die—so anything in the sci-fi genre usually isn’t my cup of tea to begin with. However, that was not my main qualm with this film. Overall, if you’ve seen the first Avatar movie and weren’t utterly obsessed with it, you can 150% skip this one. Let it be known that the run time is 3 hours and 12 minutes. Yes, you read that right. I don’t usually mind if a movie is a bit on the longer side, but in this case, it definitely did not need to be. So many of the sub-plots were way too drawn out, and I just couldn’t get into it. The projector could have broken at the 90-minute mark, and I would’ve gladly got up, left, and never looked back.
I will say that the CGI is absolutely a 10/10, and I really can’t think of another movie that has better visual effects. But alas, you can simply look up photos and watch the trailer if that’s what you’re into. It’s safe to say I’ll be a whole new level of shocked if this film takes home “Best Picture”—the math would simply not be math-ing.
9. All Quiet on the Western Front
In the simplest terms possible, this movie is a lot. Like, so much. As a film about a band of young soldiers fighting in World War I, I was by no means expecting sparkly rainbows and a heartwarming friends-to-lovers trope. But, the level of blood, gore, and graphic battle scenes actually left me at a loss for words. Sure, that could’ve been done on purpose as a way of portraying the physical and psychological impacts of war. Even if that’s the case, it was so overwhelming that I feel like I couldn’t fully appreciate the story that was being told. Maybe I’m being a baby about it, but that’s my truth.
I also don’t think it’s very different from any traditional war movie that’s already been done before. Have I seen a ton of the sort? Well, no—but definitely enough to believe that the concept isn’t necessarily groundbreaking stuff. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk, that’s basically what you’re in for. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that my critiques stem from not being the film’s target demographic (as I said, Pitch Perfect is my go-to), but the stomach-churning gore just wasn’t worth it for me.
I wish I could ask Austin Butler if his back still hurts from carrying this entire film on it. His performance as Elvis was truly a 10/10, and I’ll always be obsessed with the fact that he went so hard getting into character that his speaking voice is forever changed (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, definitely Google it). Other than Butler’s incredible job, however, I don’t have much to rave about. I guess it felt…messy.
The editing style seriously hurt my eyes with how intense and random the jump cuts were, and some parts just felt a bit random to go into such detail about. I feel like I literally could’ve made a better-flowing film if you gave me an hour on iMovie and a little moral support. I will say that it was definitely entertaining thanks to Elvis’ music and Doja Cat’s Vegas (bop) playing in one scene, but in terms of the movie itself? Not my fav.
7. Top Gun: Maverick
In all honesty, I only wanted to see this movie because A) everyone loved it, and B) Miles Teller. I’m also not going to lie and say I’ve seen the first Top Gun. I haven’t, and I probably never will. For having little to no background knowledge of the OG and not being a huge fan of action movies, I should’ve hated it. But guess what? I didn’t. It was so much fun to watch. The fighter jets, the drama, and the way it leaves you on the edge of your seat is enough for a #7 ranking in my book.
I think it’s also a huge deal that they were able to pull off a sequel to a movie that was made almost 40 years ago. I can’t think of many sequels as good as the originals, let alone ones released over three decades later. That’s what you call aging like fine wine, people. Overall, it’s an exciting and easy watch I think anyone from movie critics to bandwagons (like myself) can admit is, at the very least, entertaining AF.
For me, Tár is the epitome of one of those movies where I totally understand the deeper meaning and know what kind of societal commentary it’s providing, but that alone isn’t enough to keep me locked in for every second. I definitely appreciate how unique the concept of the movie is—a world-renowned female composer at the peak of her career, suddenly facing the consequences of events from her past? Now that’s interesting. But, the delivery wasn’t 100% what I think it could’ve been.
I think a good way to put it is this: on paper, it’s an incredible movie. The plot, the cast, and the message behind it are *chef’s kiss*. However, the final product just left me wanting more. I wanted to love it so badly! I definitely liked it, but love is a bit too strong of a word. Cate Blanchett’s performance, though? Wowza. She did not miss, and that definitely added a lot of the appeal.
5. Triangle of Sadness
I cannot explain how happy I am that I had zero clue what this movie was about before watching it, because it was truly the surprise of my life. Its satirical take on uber-wealthy elitists is very ironic for Hollywood, and it’s one of the only films out of all of the “Best Picture” nominations that had me laughing out loud the entire time (not that every film had that intention, but I’m a sucker for a good comedy). Although it’s a little long, I seriously wasn’t bored for a single second.
More than anything, I could tell it’s not really meant to be overly analyzed or taken very seriously like many of the other movies that are nominated. It gives off the vibe of simply being a super creative concept that all in all makes fun of incredibly snobby rich people. 5/5 stars.
4. Women Talking
It’s important to note that this movie centers around very triggering and traumatizing events that can be difficult to watch as women. If you feel as though you are in the place to watch it, I cannot recommend it enough. The entire film literally is just women talking, which kind of goes against my entire approach to this ranking in terms of focusing on a casual, low-stakes viewing experience. However, there’s a familiarity in what they’re talking about that any and all women can understand to some extent. And you don’t have to search for it, or think “too hard”—you just feel it in your chest.
There is such a power in its simplicity, and above all else, it’s something that everyone can learn something from. While there’s no flashiness or big blockbuster entertainment factors, the way it centers the dialogue makes it fascinating in a completely unique way.
3. The Fabelmans
Did I think that I, someone who isn’t a film snob, would love a two-and-a-half-hour-long movie about Steven Spielberg’s life story? God, no. Was I proven wrong? Oh, yes. In short, it checks all the boxes of what I want in a film. It’s heartwarming and inspiring without being cheesy, a perfect balance of happy and sad, and entertaining without being super flashy or over-the-top (*cough* Elvis *cough*). I even got a little teary-eyed at a couple of points, which doesn’t happen very often at all. You just wanna give little Sammy (young Spielberg) a big hug. It’s like my maternal instincts were subconsciously kicking in in the best way possible.
I think that overall, it just does a really great job at being very human, without being very boring. Movies that tell the story of a specific person’s life, in my opinion, are very prone to flop. But, The Fabelmans effortlessly hits the nail on the head. I loved!
2. The Banshees of Inisherin
Jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery? Check. Irish accents (my favorite)? Check. Making me laugh out loud? Huge check. An unexpected story of friendship and self-discovery? Big, fat check. It’s an understatement to say that I am obsessed with this movie. Imagine if your best friend cut you off one day, and told you if you ever talked to them again they’d cut their finger off. That’s literally the premise of the entire film. Sounds weird, right? Well, it is, but in a really good way.
It’s definitely the writing and acting that make the movie so enjoyable, as it’s focusing on a very special, yet strange, yet devastating, yet hilarious friendship. Without being overly vague or unclear at all, it says so much without ever saying too much. I definitely went into it thinking it was going to be a little too Academy Award-type for my liking, but I was very wrong. If you want a good laugh, then cry, then another laugh, then probably more crying, Banshees is perfect.
1. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
Remember when I said sci-fi movies weren’t my thing? This is my exception. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is my holy grail. My top pick by a mile. My #1. I’d definitely rank it higher than #1 if that was possible. This film deserves every single ounce of hype it’s received, and if there’s any movie that I think is an absolute must-see, it’s right here. When I read the plot on paper, it sounds like something I’d actually hate—over the top, a little excessive, and doing so much at all times. But from the second it started, I never took my eyes off the screen a single time. It’s like I was hypnotized, but of course, in a very good way.
Through all of the alternating universes and hot dog fingers (yes, and that’s not even a big deal compared to the other elements), it’s an incredibly real story about unconditional love that will leave you in a puddle of tears. I could really go on for hours, so I’ll just leave it at this: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once Oscars Sweep 2023. No notes!