It’s here. The grand finale of award season. The Oscars are tomorrow night. The discussion about what will and should win the Best Picture award is always hotly contested, and this year is no different, so I will be ranking all nine of the nominees. As always this list is just my opinion, and I would love to hear yours. What was your favourite movie of last year? What will win tomorrow night? And what should win tomorrow night? Let me know in the comments.
9) Joker – There are plenty of great aspects of Joker, but for me there was too much of the film that felt just ok. The screenplay and storyline feel extremely derivative of Martin Scorsese’s classic work such as Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy whilst Todd Phillips’ direction is really this film’s biggest weak point. That said Joaquin Phoenix is extraordinary, and will be walking away with an Oscar on Sunday, whilst the cinematography and score are exceptional as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the film winning in one of those categories either, particularly score. It just didn’t all come together in the same way as some of the top films this year did for me.
8) Jojo Rabbit – Much like Joker this was a film that’s had exceptional moments and aspects, but never truly coalesced into something great. I loved the moments between the core trio of Jojo Betzler, his mother, and the jewish girl they are sheltering Elsa Korr. There is so much heart and power there. But the comedy doesn’t always work, and is far less prevalent than the trailers would have you think, which is a shame. But the performance from Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa was incredible, and feels like a star making performance. Her chemistry with Scarlett Johansson and Roman Griffin Davis was fantastic as well, and those three are what make Jojo Rabbit.
7) The Irishman – Whilst The Irishman may be long (try having it be your 4th film of the day at a film festival) there’s no doubting that Martin Scorsese has created something truly epic. Featuring a gangster at the end of his life reflecting back on how he got to this point of being alone in his old age, particularly his relationship with union leader Jimmy Hoffa and mob boss Russell Bufalino. It is incredible to see Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, two of the greatest actors of all time, getting to act opposite one another for a substantial time, but it is actually Pesci as Bufalino who winds up stealing the show. Whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Scorsese’s greatest works, The Irishman is a superb film.
6) Ford v Ferrari – Known as Le Mans ‘66 around most of the world, a far more fitting title given that the film is actually about the employees of Shelby American trying to succeed against the corporate monolith of Ford Motor Company who hate their individuality and want them to succeed whilst also conforming. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are absolutely exceptional as Carol Shelby and Ken Miles, with Bale giving a most extravagant performance, whilst Damon is far more grounded beside him. Director James Mangold did an excellent job of bringing the racing scenes to life, something that can be hard to well cinematically.
5) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Tarantino’s love letter to 90s Hollywood is one of his finest films in years. Following an aging TV actor nearing the twilight of his career and his best friend, driver, and stuntman. The pair face the prospect of their careers fading very differently, and it really feels like Tarantino’s most tender and reflective film of his career. The finale when the pair wind up getting involved with the members of the Manson family who murdered Sharon Tate is spectacular, and exactly the kind of over the top stylised violence you want from a Tarantino film.
4) Parasite – Bong Joon-Ho’s First all Korean film in years is an incredible meditation on class differences all set within a genre hopping masterpiece. Parasite is thrilling, funny, and a great drama, and it balances these genres exceptionally. This is probably also the smallest scale of the nine films, confined almost entirely to just two locations, the houses of the Kim and Park families, yet thanks to the exceptional work from Bong and the fantastic cast it is one of the best cinematic experiences. Parasite is currently the film I have the least distance from, having seen it less than a week ago, and with time it may move even further up this list, and would certainly be a worthy best picture winner.
3) Little Woman – If you read my full review for Little Women then you’ll be wondering how it’s ended up this high on my list. By Greta Gerwig’s delightful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott classic novel has wormed its way into my head ever since. When I was still getting a warm and fuzzy feeling from Little Women a couple of weeks after seeing it I decided a second viewing was required, and I was so much more in love with it. This is probably my favourite of all the nominees, but the top two are that good for me that quality had to take precedence over favourite.
2) 1917 – I think it’s a really tight race for Best Picture this year but right now, a couple of days out, my money would be on 1917. Not only is this a staggering cinematic achievement technically, a masterclass of cinematography, editing, and direction, but it tells a power and heartfelt story alongside this. Sam Mendes did an exceptional job blending this idea of an apparently single take with an emotional punch and well told story alongside this. I fully recommend seeing 1917 in theatres to truly get the most out of it, but there shouldn’t be too many diminishing returns watching it at home, because it’s so much more than just the technical achievement.
1) Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story blew me away when I saw it at the London Film Festival last year. A look at a couple going through a divorce with their young son caught in the middle of it. The two lead performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are exceptional and so genuine. The way everything gets slowly bottled up throughout the film before it finally reaches breaking point is masterfully done, and the care and attention Baumbach puts into every moment of the film is exceptional. I know many people have been put off watching the film because it’s a heavy and upsetting subject, but Baumbach brings such heart and healthy dose of levity to counter this in what I believe is the best film from 2019.