Unlike last year’s crop of Best Picture nominees, I am actually rather pleased with this year’s nominees. Of the nine nominees, four of the films made my top ten of 2019, seven of the nine nominees were in my top 25 of last year, and there is only one nominee that I genuinely do not like. With the field being this strong, I would only get mad if the movie I did not like won. If any of the other nominees win, I won’t fuss about it. But, I do have my preferences when it comes to the nominees, so here is my ranking of the 2020 Best Picture nominees.
1 – THE IRISHMAN (Martin Scorsese)
- The Irishman was my favorite movie of 2019. Some have called The Irishman “Old Man Goodfellas” and though a very narrow view of the film, it is one of the reasons why the film is great. Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour crime epic is a film about loyalty and regret looks at the choices we make life and how we have to live with them, good or bad. It is quieter, sadder stuff from the director who just seven years ago gave us The Wolf of Wall Street, but Scorsese is dealing with his own stuff here, as The Irishman looks at getting old and what comes with it. Led by a trio of masterful performances from Hollywood legends Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino, The Irishman is yet another Scorsese gangster masterpiece.
2 – ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD (Quentin Tarantino)
- Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, yet it is probably his most personal. After a slight misstep with 2015’s The Hateful Eight, Tarantino came back with a fury, making a movie about a movie star and his stunt double who are on the backends of their careers. Terrific performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and soon-to-be Oscar winner Brad Pitt are coupled by some of Tarantino’s best writing to date and a gorgeous look.
3 – PARASITE (Bong Joon-Ho)
- We live in a time where a lot of movies are recycled or remade and as a critic, there really isn’t much that surprises me nowadays. And then a movie like Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite comes along and knocks our socks off. What an incredible achievement. A movie that is thrilling, funny, and shocking, filled with twists, turns, and every emotion you can feel. If there is one movie that really should win on Sunday, it’s Parasite. This would shake the Academy landscape and hopefully be a turning point for the future of the awards. It’s going to get its wins, but Best Picture would be a game-changer.
4 – FORD V. FERRARI (James Mangold)
- Ford v. Ferrari is a classic American sports underdog story. A movie that bleeds red, white, and blue and will have you wanting to stand up in your chair and cheer, “AMERICA!” Director James Mangold made a wildly entertaining, rousing racing movie that features stellar direction, excellent performances, and edge-of-your-seat races you won’t forget. This is going to be a movie that I rewatch a hundred times and will love every single time.
5 – MARRIAGE STORY (Noah Baumbach)
- I’m not the biggest Noah Baumbach fan, but I absolutely loved Marriage Story. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give two of the best performances in their impressive careers and there are a number of great supporting turns from Laura Dern (Oscar bound), Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta. Though the film is about a failing marriage, Baumbach’s script isn’t all sadness and anger. There are a lot of funny moments and even more sweet moments. It’s a well-told story about a something a lot of people go through, yet Baumbach finds the heart in all of it.
6 – LITTLE WOMEN (Greta Gerwig)
- Little Women is a classic story that has been told a number of times on the big screen. But Greta Gerwig’s version is so fresh and unique, yet still as warm and delightful as the previous reiterations. The wonderful ensemble led by Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, a great score, and gorgeous set design bring Louisa May Alcot’s novel to life. But it’s Gerwig’s direction and non-linear script that really elevate Little Women from just another remake into the best screen version of Little Women we’ve seen.
7 – JOJO RABBIT (Taika Waititi)
- I have Jojo Rabbit towards the bottom of this list, though I have a feeling this one could move up a couple notches upon rewatches. I’ve only seen Jojo Rabbit once and I liked the movie. This is Taika Waitit’s most impressive work as a director, as he made a Mel Brooks-esque satire about a young Nazi youth’s relationship with a Jewish girl during World War II. The movie is very funny and genuinely great, but takes a really hard turn to sad that just didn’t sit well with me when I saw it. I’m definitely going to give this one a rewatch and maybe it will move up a few spots, but for now, this is a good movie with Waititi at his best.
8 – 1917 (Sam Mendes)
- There is no denying that 1917 is a technical achievement. The “single-take” World War I movie is something to behold in terms of cinematography, blocking, sounds, and sets. However, their is a lack of emotion in the film. The film felt like a video game in that we were just watching two characters get from point A to point B while trying to stay alive. We didn’t get a good grasp of these characters and any other character in the film beyond our two main soldiers don’t really matter. I respect the hell out of this movie on a craft level, not on an emotional one.
9 – JOKER (Todd Phillips)
- The only Best Picture nominee that I do not like is, of course, the film with the most nominations. Joker is an abysmal experience. A one-note slog of sadness, depression, and anger with no point or message. This was supposed to be a grounded origin story about Batman’s greatest nemesis, yet it isn’t that. It’s just a movie about a guy who’s life gets worse and worse and worse until he decides to shoot someone. There are a couple things I liked, like the performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro and the location shooting, but the rest of the movie, including the ominous score (which is probably going to win an Oscar) really don’t work for me. This is far and away the weakest Best Picture nominee, yet one that is going to win a decent amount of awards.
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