The 94th Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” Nominees Ranked from Worst to Best

Academy Awards 2022

Well, 2021 wasn’t the return to normalcy I think we were all hoping it would be, but it still managed to be a step in the right direction if for no other reason than because vaccines allowed some form of agency. But, of course, some traditions carry on as scheduled, and like the years before it, I made a vow to see every single Oscar-nominated film so I can keep my ten-year winning streak alive (eleven-year by the end of this day). I apologize in advance, but unlike the last two years, however, I simply don’t have the time to review all of them, so we’re jumping into the “Worst to Best” list straight away.

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony saw ten films receive the much vaunted “Best Picture” award.  The nominees this time were Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, and West Side Story. Looking at those ten nominees and the people who directed them, I find this lineup is thematically similar to that of the 92nd ceremony. That is to say, the AAA domestic talent clearly wasn’t cutting it, so, once again, the Academy had to resort to indies, veterans, and international mavericks to bust the American film industry out of its protracted flop era. It’s a little disappointing because the new blood should be playing a more active role in this process, but there’s a Jane Campion film among the nominees, so I can’t complain too much.

But, before we can rank the films from worst to best, I find it necessary to address the elephant in the room. After all, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I think for a lot of people in a time of uncertainty, it’s comforting to remember that certain things always remain the same. The sun rises in the east, every fourth year has an extra day, and if an Adam Mckay production ever receives the “Best Picture” nomination, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be the worst entry in the lineup by a country mile. You know – things you can set your watch to.

Now, I didn’t even know of the existence of Adam McKay’s latest ego trip until one of my friends mentioned it. Considering its surprisingly low critical approval (55% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing), I likely would have missed it completely had I been keeping up with watching these films in theaters. However, the exact moment I found out who directed it, I was certain of three things.

  1. That it was going to be bad.
  2. Exactly how it was going to be bad.
  3. The Academy was going to eat it up.

I’d celebrate making three perfect predictions in a row, but that would imply it was challenging.

Watching the 93rd ceremony was an odd experience because I went into it with zero context for the big picture. As the only films I saw in theaters in 2020 weren’t even from that year, I had no idea at the time whether the choices for “Best Picture” in the 93rd ceremony represented the year fairly or if any snubs occurred. By contrast, I knew the 91st ceremony was a certifiable snub festival with Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace being the most notable victim of their apathy, and none of the other praiseworthy films from 2018 such as George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, or Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor even getting a passing mention. Meanwhile, 2019 was such a great year for films that the Academy – or anybody, really – simply couldn’t do it justice with only nine choices, though thankfully, they picked worthy contenders and kept the snubs to a minimum. Better yet, the greatest film from that year, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, emerged victorious in the end. It seemed as though the new, daring Academy – the one that had the audacity to crown Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water “Best Picture” in the 90th ceremony – was back.

Even so, because the COVID-19 pandemic cleared out theaters faster than the screening of a Dinesh D’Souza film, I found myself completely uninterested in keeping up with the new releases. Therefore, it wasn’t until after I saw Regina King’s One Night in Miami… I confirmed that, yes, even with 2020 being a catastrophically bad year for the film industry, at least one worthy contender had indeed been snubbed. There simply wasn’t an excuse for nominating, much less giving the “Best Picture” award to, the lightweight, unchallenging Nomadland over One Night in Miami… – or even The Father, for that matter.

My 2021 filmgoing experiences were very similar, as even after getting vaccinated and boosted, there simply wasn’t anything that piqued my interest enough to get me in theaters. Turns out pandemics aren’t conducive to your average filmmaking project. Who knew? Despite this, and unlike 2020, I am absolutely certain that at least one great film got snubbed. What film got snubbed? I have no idea, but I know it exists simply because Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up was nominated. You can’t nominate an Adam McKay project without snubbing a worthier contender. Fact. The alternative is that Don’t Look Up is worthy of its inclusion, which would, by extension, imply 2021 was one of the worst years in the history of cinema. Considering the high quality of the other nine entries, I’m not willing to accept such a premise. Plus, with ten nominees, which is two more than what the previous ceremony boasted, at least one person clearly felt there wasn’t a dearth of material to choose from.

Surprisingly, Mr. McKay ditching the mean-spirited, in-your-face, faux-documentary style of his last two films in favor of a mean-spirited, in-your-face, faux-satirical style was not the shot in the arm he needed to get over his clear case of arrested development. Like his last two films, Don’t Look Up is a product of an inflated ego who, like other burned out, mid-tier talents unable to hack it with original material anymore, turned to half-baked political punditry in a desperate bid to stay relevant. And he couldn’t even do that right – it left critics more divided than they had been with Vice. Considering the contemporary critic’s tendency to overwhelmingly praise works purely because they have messages they can get behind – subtlety or applicability be damned, this should’ve been a slam dunk for him, but it wasn’t because his writing has only gotten worse and more infantile with each new project. This is the filmmaking equivalent of drawing a royal flush with spades and still finding a way to lose.

So, I know a lot of my readers expected me to put this film at the bottom of my list considering my less-than-favorable review of Vice, but I’m not going to do that. And no, it’s not because I think it’s better than one of the other nominees. You see, one of my grading rules is that, in order for a film to be eligible for a review, it needs to have a narrative. Granted, when I came up with that rule, it was to point out how my criteria greatly depend on the film being a work of fiction or a fictionalized version of true events. This is as opposed to, say documentaries, which can obviously be good, but are a little difficult to grade in the same fashion as a work of fiction because they are made differently and serve their own distinct purpose. I did once try reviewing documentaries such as Free Solo, but I ultimately found grading them was like parsing reference works as pieces of literature. Obviously, they can be good or bad as well, but it’s not fair to hold them up to the same standards when they serve wildly different purposes from each other.

However, I assert that, despite being a work of fiction, Don’t Look Up fails to meet my criterion. There are no real characters, no real story beats, and no real point to it at all. What he wrote could have worked as a comic strip, but turning it into a feature-length film ensured the jokes were, without exception, torturously drawn out – to the point of making your average post-revival Family Guy gag seem succinct. There isn’t even an artistic flair to spice things up – it is one of the most artless films to have ever been nominated, utterly lacking in vision or imagination.

The ultimate problem is that Mr. McKay is an artist who made the fatal error of getting drunk off his own hype, and quite frankly, I’m not under any obligation to play along. Any artist who wants me to give them the time of day must put legitimate effort into their work, and Mr. McKay has been on autopilot since he let the nomination of The Big Short go to his head. Because he refuses to take his craft seriously, I, in turn, refuse to acknowledge Don’t Look Up as a serious entry for “Best Picture”; for the purposes of this list, it is officially beneath consideration.

Now, let’s move onto the nominations that actually matter, shall we?


9. West Side Story

WEST SIDE STORY

When writing my previous “Worst to Best” list, I remarked that with a few exceptions, you can get an idea of how good of a given Oscar lineup is by examining its weakest link. Granted, it doesn’t exactly work out if the weakest film is a clear outlier. For instance, the 82nd ceremony featured Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 alongside Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, which were, respectively, one of the worst films not directed by Adam McKay to have ever received the “Best Picture” nomination and one of the best efforts of 2009, if not the decade.

Nonetheless, I think it’s a good sign when Steven Spielberg’s film is the weak link in a “Best Picture” lineup. Musical fans must have been ecstatic to be in theaters in the last few years between Damien Chazelle’s La La Land and Bradley Cooper’s version of A Star Is Born. And Steven Spielberg’s interpretation of the legendary musical by the late, great Stephen Sondheim does not disappoint, being an incredible technical achievement in acting, singing, and dance choreography.

So, if it’s that good, why did I rank it last? The answer lies in the element of surprise – or in this case, the lack thereof. In fact, this is a rare instance where I find myself docking points from a quality production for having too many things going for it. West Side Story is a classic, beloved musical and this version was directed by somebody who had a provable track record and top-tier talent at his disposal. That it turned out well is merely to be expected; the only way this project could have been shocking is if it were a Cats-level disaster, which was never going to happen with someone as skilled as Mr. Spielberg at the helm. It’s a little difficult to get excited for a project when the questions of that and how it’s going to be good have been answered well before audiences even knew of its existence. Nonetheless, West Side Story is deserving of its nomination, and will serve as the base for this countdown.


8. Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley - Leads

Despite film Twitter’s insistence to the contrary, I maintain that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water was the best effort of 2017, showcasing a level of imagination the American AAA industry hadn’t known in decades. It is be expected from someone who once declared video games “a medium that gains no respect among the intelligentsia” and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to be masterpieces. Someone like that is naturally going to have more frames of reference than those who shun innovation. In fact, considering the film’s content, it was immensely out of character for the Academy to crown it “Best Picture” – not that I’m complaining, mind you. The stodgy, unimaginative Lady Bird fans subsequently blowing their stack over Mr. del Toro’s victory ensured the Academy’s decision was one of the most hilarious, if unintentional acts of trolling they ever committed.

I was therefore excited to see him back in the “Best Picture” lineup. And then I actually watched the film and realized it wasn’t the power move The Shape of Water managed to be. Now, make no mistake, Nightmare Alley is a good film. In fact, with the benefit of having been made after the expiration of the Hays Code, Mr. del Toro’s interpretation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel shines in ways Edmund Goulding’s adaptation couldn’t. The original was begging for the level of R-rated grittiness unthinkable in 1947, but had been rendered trivial by 2021.

Although he is regarded as one of his generation’s finest auteurs, Mr. del Toro has also been frequently labeled a one-trick pony. Therefore, in a way, this film was rather daring for him, as he eschews the fantastical elements in favor of a period piece character study of a carny trying to escape his past. However, even if I do give him credit for leaving his comfort zone, I kind of feel about Nightmare Alley the same way I feel about other creators such who tried to become more serious only to discard what made their work so appealing in the process. That being said, Mr. del Toro largely avoids the worst ramifications of this problem by having made dark fantasy his niche, so a transition into a realistic, yet still gritty neo-noir wasn’t a jarring one. Still, while it is less memorable than his more fantastical works, it outranks West Side Story by virtue of taking an actual risk.


7. King Richard

King Richard - Leads

After several years of appearing in faux-Oscar Bait films, Will Smith finally struck gold by depicting Richard Williams – the patriarch of the Williams family. This family notably includes two of the greatest tennis players of all time: Richard’s daughters Venus and Serena. Considering one of Mr. Smith’s last notable attempts at pandering for an Oscar came in the form of the monumentally awful Collateral Beauty, King Richard was a significant step up. It was such a striking transformation, I didn’t even recognize him initially.

Despite all it has going for it, King Richard is a film held back by the trappings of the early 21st century biopic formula in how it refuses to give a warts-and-all depiction of its main character and is written in a way that occasionally suffers from hindsight bias. Fortunately, these aspects don’t prevent the film from being good; they merely prevent it from being great. Nonetheless, because it didn’t have any built-in buzz like the previous two nominees, which were remakes, I feel confident ranking King Richard above them.


6. Dune

Dune - Leads

Believe it or not, Dune was the single most difficult film for me to rank on this list. It had nothing to do with its quality, but rather the fact that this story currently isn’t finished. All of the other entries have a definite beginning, middle, and end. Dune, by virtue of having only one part completed, only has the first and part of the second. Personally, I find it a bit odd the Academy would even allow it to compete in such a state. They did do the same thing with The Lord of the Rings back in the 2000s, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that only The Return of the King won “Best Picture”. By then, The Lord of the Rings had truly completed its run, and while purists may argue it was cheating given the third film had a scope the other entries couldn’t even begin to compete with, I counter that it equally made no sense to nominate the preceding installments in the trilogy for “Best Picture” in their respective years. Plus, once again, it was immensely satisfying watching a fantasy film win over the Academy.

Granted, the source material has obviously been completed and beloved for decades, so I can see why, if the nominators were thinking the same thing I was just now, they would treat the follow-up being good as a foregone conclusion. Even so, if the next part drops the ball, then this would retroactively be the worst film on the list. Who could recommend a story with a good first half but a garbage second half? However, considering that Denis Villeneuve is leading the project, I think we’re in good hands. Here’s hoping I didn’t jinx it just now.

Anyway, regardless of how the second part turns out, I can safely say Dune was the shot in the arm science-fiction desperately needed after a group of creatively bankrupt edgelords coopted and desecrated the genre in the 2010s. This is because Dune ultimately came from an age of scientific curiosity rather than people who grew up in an era whose leaders spent the last few decades waging a war on science. Some may call that curiosity naïve; I call it having an actual imagination. Therefore, seeing a science-fiction film in 2021 not vilify science or intellectuals was a breath of fresh air. As the first half of the story, Dune accomplishes what it needed to do, successfully establishing its characters and making the audience excited to see more. It is allowed to outshine the other remakes on this list by feeling more necessary. The original West Side Story and Nightmare Alley adaptations were solid in their own right, and would have been perfectly fine with no remakes. The 1984 version of Dune, on the other hand, simply did not do justice to the source material, so it was up to Mr. Villeneuve to bring it to the silver screen. So far, so good.


5. Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza - Leads

If you were wondering about the bizarre title of this film, allow me to enlighten you. Licorice Pizza was a record store chain based in Los Angeles. If you still think the title is odd, then one must draw their attention to the humble LP. You see, lateral-cut disc records were sometimes colloquially called licorice pizzas, referencing their round shape and their jet-black color. And no, this is not referenced once in the film at all – not even on the poster.

Over the past few years, I’ve found slice-of-life stories to be a bit of a gamble, as far too often, we’re made to follow immensely uninteresting people who proceed to do immensely uninteresting things for two hours. There’s something to be said for these quieter stories, but I argue that just because you can force your audience to follow a plot where nothing happens, it doesn’t mean you should. Most of the time I see a film like that, I feel the director could benefit from watching Robert McKee’s (played by Brian Cox) epic rant in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation on repeat until they get the message. Anyone who has seen that film knows what I’m talking about; anyone who hasn’t should see it at some point.

Fortunately, in yet another instance of someone with a provable track record stepping in to save the day, Licorice Pizza does not have this problem, for the most part. The film’s actual setup has rather bizarre implications if you think about them too hard, but despite that, Licorice Pizza succeeds with its witty sense of humor, throwbacks to New Hollywood, and an insight to a time in Californian history when it became a significant cultural rival to New York. It’s admittedly not the most memorable entry in Paul Thomas Anderson’s canon, but Licorice Pizza manages to alleviate the more annoying aspects of contemporary slice-of-life films while pitching a few interesting ideas in the process.


4. Belfast

Belfast - Theater

Licorice Pizza was good as far as contemporary coming-of-age features go because it ditched the mumblecore aesthetic that had been holding back countless indie directors for the past ten years. However, Belfast takes that improvement and brings to the table something it and it and many other films like it of them lack: an interesting life perspective. Most of the time, when watching these films, I could tell they were written by people who don’t have much in the way of experience, which is a real problem if you’re writing a slice-of-life story.

Fortunately, that is absolutely not a problem Belfast has. Set during the beginning of The Troubles, a thirty-year-long entho-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland, Kenneth Branagh, a native of Belfast, gives us an immensely personal film capable of inspiring and horrifying at the same time. The film really captures how difficult it was for anyone to live in those times, but there are plenty of moments of levity to lighten things up.


3. CODA

CODA - Family

CODA marks a bit of a turning point on this list. Up until now, I was discussing films that were good, but not fully surpassing the quality of those of the previous lineup. To be clear, I think even the weakest films from this lineup could give anything the 93rd Academy Awards had to offer a run for their money, but otherwise, they are all on that same level of “good, but not great”. That ends with CODA, which I can definitively say is better than any of last year’s nominees.

I have to admit the reason I haven’t been terribly impressed with indie films in the last ten years is the aforementioned lack of life experience or, barring that, a distinct dearth of imagination. As deeply flawed as it was, Upgrade did prove you could get a visually stunning film out of a microbudget, so these directors didn’t have any excuse whatsoever for being so unambitious.

CODA, on the other hand, is something I want to see more of from the indie scene. Rather than telling a generic story everyone has lived, CODA, examines the life of a teenage girl who is the only member of her family capable of hearing. It does a great job showing what kinds of challenges that would present while having a level of earnestness largely absent in contemporary indie films. In a lot of ways, I feel this is the standard one of last year’s nominees, The Sound of Metal, was going for but didn’t quite reach. To be fair, the manner in which these two films approach the subject matter couldn’t be more different, but CODA wins because it boasts the more polished script.


2. The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog - Leads

One of the absolute worst consequences of so many writers going the Adam McKay route when it comes to crafting their stories is that it doesn’t afford the audience a chance to think for themselves. It’s not impossible to write well in such a fashion, but I would argue a successful attempt is the exception rather than the rule. Nowhere is that more obvious than how The Power of the Dog was received by audiences. Many simply did not get what Jane Campion was going for. It’s nigh-impossible to blame your average Joe for not getting it with so many unsubtle creators out there having significantly dumbed down their content over the years.

I feel a lot of creators fail to realize that art is ultimately a communal activity, and the ingredients you give to your audience determines what you get back in turn. Naturally, if you flood the market with flavorless paste, you’re only going to get flavorless paste back out. And to be clear, those people weren’t alone, as The Power of the Dog caught me completely off-guard as well. At first, I thought the film was a bit overrated until I began reading into it and discovered so many subtle cues I completely missed. Suddenly, I went from thinking the film was overrated to realizing it would take a monumental effort to dethrone it from the number one spot.

I tend to watch films from various eras and cultures, so how could I have missed those cues? What threw me for a loop was that I simply didn’t expect an early 2020s film to have such a profound level of nuance to its characters. When I’m watching an older film or one from abroad, I find I’m usually more attentive to these kinds of things because I know the writing quality is higher and I must be on the top of my game. Not so much when watching an early 2020s film, although Jane Campion leading the project should’ve been my first clue it was going to be a cut above the rest.

One could say The Power of the Dog continues down the path original blazed by Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon and later followed by Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller by offering a striking deconstruction of the Western genre. Simply the idea of a Western taking place in Montana in 1925 when the Old West was effectively over is highly unusual by itself, but Ms. Campion managed to successfully update the genre with modern sensibilities. The best part is she doesn’t accomplish this by lionizing the past, but rather by exploring the period through the lens of the immense social progress that has been made in the years since the Western’s heyday. For having a level of respect for her audience many of her contemporaries lack and issuing a narrative that seriously challenges various preconceived notions, I find it fitting to deem Ms. Campion’s film the best English-language nominee.


1. Drive My Car

Drive My Car - Leads

If it’s any one moment that reminds me of the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, it would be when I saw Drive My Car. A film originating from the Far East barged onto the Oscar scene and managed to outshine every single one of its competitors. The early 2020s was an especially dismal period for the medium, so I find myself grateful for Ryusuke Hamaguchi and screenwriting partner Takamasa Oe for providing us with what is possibly the first truly great film of the decade. Or, at the very least, the first great “Best Picture” nominee.

Drive My Car is the story of a screenwriter who, two years after suffering a personal tragedy, winds up making friends with his new chauffeur. There are so many good things about this film, it’s difficult to explain in just a few paragraphs. The characters are great, the conflicts are compelling, and the cinematography is simply stunning. If you are looking for a multifaceted story that shines a light on the creative process and the interpersonal relationships one forms when going through it, Drive My Car has you covered. In fact, it manages to succeed in so many different ways, anyone watching it will likely find their own things to appreciate. With its sheer ambition and an erudite attitude that isn’t even slightly pretentious, I can see no better film to round out this list.


Final Scores:

  • Belfast (7/10)
  • CODA (7.5/10)
  • Don’t Look Up (Disqualified)
  • Drive My Car (8/10)
  • Dune (7/10)
  • King Richard (7/10)
  • Licorice Pizza (7/10)
  • Nightmare Alley (7/10)
  • The Power of the Dog (7.5/10)
  • West Side Story (7/10)

33 thoughts on “The 94th Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” Nominees Ranked from Worst to Best

  1. Honestly I think my possible appreciation for some of these movies is hurt by just generally being tired of overly long films at this point. I couldn’t even finish Power of the Dog or Don’t Look Up (thought that one wasn’t about the length). And it took me two nights to finish Drive My Car! But like you it didn’t overly surprise me with McKay I just generally don’t like his stuff.

    Though if Streep, Lawrence and Hill ever want to make a comedy together with a different writer/director I would be down for that 🙂 Hope you enjoy the Oscars!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am kind of glad the epic movie is making a bit of a comeback because I’ve felt films in the past ten years lacked ambition, but I see where you’re coming from. I do think, at the very least, that The Power of the Dog is worth getting through.

      And I don’t blame you for not liking Adam McKay’s stuff. He stagnated quickly with comedy and only became relevant when he started playing nicely with the Academy’s sensibilities. I think those three would be effective in a comedy together, but it needs to be written by someone more talented than Mr. McKay.

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  2. I wasn’t into Don’t Look Up, either; it felt like it couldn’t decide whether it would like to be a drama-led, serious take on very real topics (which I would have preferred), or a witty satire. I quite liked moments like DiCaprio letting loose in the interview scene and asking the public to realise what is going on, but there wasn’t much of that, and the ending joke-planet-scene-thing kinda summed up all my issues with the film.

    I’m glad you put Drive My Car at Number 1; of the selected nominees, that is my favourite too. I describe it as an introspective epic; a film that takes all the time it needs, with that late car conversation scene being a vivid example of just that.

    Also yay you mentioned Leave No Trace! I adore that film and always attempt to make people watch it, but always get non-committal responses that don’t go anywhere. I thought the welcome rise in prominence of (Harcourt-)McKenzie in films such as Jojo Rabbit and LNiSoho might’ve motivated more people but it doesn’t really seem to have happened.

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    • Yeah, I think in order to have done these issues justice, Adam McKay would’ve needed to have displayed more empathy than he does here (or has displayed in his previous projects). As it stands, his inability to commit to a tone really shoots holes in his mission. There were a few kinda okay moments, but it was too obnoxious to take seriously. Honestly, First Reformed handled these topics far more effecitvely. Granted, that film had its own problems – most notably the fact that the actors outside of leading man Ethan Hawke are very hit-or-miss with one sounding like he’s reading off a Wikipedia article and another who is so over the top she doesn’t even seem like she’s in the right movie (my guess is that, as a result of the film’s microbudget, they could only get one good actor). But, as much as I didn’t particularly care for that one, I do admit it handles its themes far better than Don’t Look Up.

      And yes, I had no doubt that Drive My Car was going to top the list when I saw it. It really is a cut above the rest in terms of ambition and applicability, and everything is fleshed out perfectly, not rushing, but also not dawdling. It’s also easily the best-looking film that was nominated (although The Power of the Dog could give it a run for its money there).

      Absolutely. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the press not drumming up hype for Leave No Trace was one of the most spectacular failures in the history of film journalism. Honestly, that film singlehandedly saved 2018 from being a total wash. I really enjoyed its show-don’t-tell brand of storytelling; it actually kind of reminded me of Shadow of the Colossus in a way given that it tells you just enough to know what’s going on, and leaves the rest to you. And Thomasin McKenzie was great in Jojo Rabbit as well.

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  3. I bet you weren’t expecting Will Smith to punch Chris Rock. That’s a movie in its own right. He immediately won an Oscar for it.

    Sheesh, that was a weird thing to wake up to this morning. The weird thing about the Oscars, being English, is they’re always on at a weird time so you wake up to the results rather than watch them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I did not, and if there’s ever a Will Smith biopic, that has to be included. Fun Fact: In other countries, it was uncensored.

      Yeah, I can imagine waking up to that was weird. Seeing it live was surreal enough. I’m actually kind of surprised the Oscars have that much of a following outside of North America; I’d have assumed it was considered something of a joke abroad. But a near-miss fist fight probably went some of the way in driving up the numbers, huh?

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      • It’s always covered in the press here, it’s a big deal. Especially when there are fist fights. Bearing in mind we usually have a lot of English talent in the ceremony as well. For Blighty!!!

        I know they’ve had dwindling viewing figures. This is clearly the solution for that – annual celeb fights!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah I can second that! Oscars are considered *the* Awards show in the UK. I also did not expect to wake up to that headline! Really sad that it overshadows a lot of really progressive winners, and indeed, the work Will Smith has done to get to the point of winning an Oscar.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Even more than the BAFTAs? That’s a bit surprising to me considering they seem to select from a greater pool of films than the Oscars, although there seems to be a lot of overlap between “Best Picture” BAFTA winners in relation to what got nominated for an Oscar. I’m actually kind of surprised they didn’t go for Parasite when that was released.

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              • As was I. 1917 was pretty good itself, but Parasite was definitely more of a power move, and I’m glad the Oscars went off the rails and chose that. It would’ve been even nicer if they continued that momentum by selecting Drive My Car, but CODA was a solid choice as well.

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  4. I’ve long been an advocate for films from all countries being nominated for Best Film rather than limiting certain titles by compartmentalising them, though I do understand that each country/nation will naturally want to honour their own output as a priority. That said, maybe a Best Domestic Film, Best international Film, and then Best Film could be the answer, with overlap allowed if necessary.

    Here in the UK, the BAFTAs has Best British Film and Best Film, and on a couple of occasions a British film has won both. Yet, if you were to extrapolate this, a film winning Best Foreign Film but not Best Film implies either Foreign films are inferior to domestic films or the other foreign film nominees are evidently inferior if they weren’t nominated for Best Film either. Sam for Best British film vs Best Film. Films are films they can all stand up against each other regardless of where they were made.

    Not that this will ever happen of course, Hollywood won’t ever change and even after The Artist and Parasite’s historic wins, it will remain as parochial as ever and keep flying the flag for homegrown films, which is understandable but not ideal for what is the biggest film awards in the world.

    And if Will Smith disagrees, I’ll happily meet him outside! 😉 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bet you weren’t expecting the slap, were you? I wasn’t and I saw it live – or at least until they pulled the plug (though it was uncensored in other countries).

      Anyway, I agree. I think that, even though the Oscars’ focus on domestic films is understandable, not acknowledging international efforts more is a big mistake. I like your proposed idea of having three separate categories for them. The way the BAFTAs handle them makes a lot of sense.

      Honestly, I kind of think that the Oscars have much of the same problem mainstreaming gaming critics have in that they way, way oversell the accomplishments of their big-name domestic scene to the detriment of ignoring international efforts, although to their credit, the film critics themselves don’t have this problem (if anything, some of their worst consensuses result from them paying too much lip service to domestic indie films). It’s especially bad when it’s clear as day that the domestic talent isn’t cutting it.

      That’s how you get Don’t Look Up as a serious contender for “Best Picture” as opposed to one of the other “Best International Picture” nominees. In the eyes of the Academy, the effort of a middling American director (Adam McKay) is worthier of “Best Picture” than the best Denmark, Italy, Bhutan, or Norway have to offer (I myself am really interested to see The Worst Person in the World now, speaking of which). That said, I did love how Amy Schumer made a jab at Don’t Look Up, quipping, “I guess Oscars ‘don’t look up’ critics’ reviews” because it was somebody flat-out admitting the film had no business being nominated (even if she did hastily backpedal a few seconds later). Unsurprisingly (and deservedly), it walked away emptyhanded.

      Like gaming critics, the Oscars try to present themselves as progressive and cosmopolitan, but their myopic focus on mainstream domestic efforts to the detriment of everything else ironically makes them come across as rather jingoistic. Maybe if the American filmmaking scene (or the AAA gaming scene, for that matter) wasn’t so insular, they wouldn’t have stagnated as much as they have? Just a thought.

      Oh well, at least they gave the “Best Picture” award to an indie film, and an actual good one at that (even if it didn’t have much buildup – I thought The Power of the Dog was going to win). That, at least, is one way in which the Oscars are ahead of the Game Awards, who put indie efforts in a separate, lesser category the way the Oscars separate international and animated films, showing no desire to promote new or visionary talent. Plus, if it’s any consolation, I noticed that an overwhelming majority of the “Best Director” winners in the past ten years have hailed from abroad. Even if English-language films continue to dominate, it goes to show where the real talent is coming from (hint: not here).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t see the show live as it airs at stupid o’clock here in the UK due to the time difference, plus it is on SKY which I don’t have. Like everyone else, I woke to the news on Twitter, which as you might expect, overshadowed the actual results, most of which I still don’t know!

        As you are probably aware by now, I am not a gamer so I can’t make any comparisons abut how the industry rewards its creators, but like a lot arts, there is always an element of “flavour of the month” involved on the one hand and sticking to the popular choices on the other when handing out awards. A bit like how here in the UK, TV duo Ant & Dec have won the National Television Award for Best Presenters 20 years straight!! Similarly, how is it Meryl Streep is always nominated for something even if it isn’t a good or starring role?

        On that note, I haven’t seen “Don’t Look Up” as I am boycotting Jennifer Lawrence films in protest of her being gifted the Best Actress award in 2012 over the late Emmanuelle Riva (whose birthday it was on that night) for “Amor”, clearly because they had already awarded Best Actor and Best Film to “The Artist” and couldn’t make it a French hat trick so they went for the flavour of the month American instead. But I was amazed “DLU” got nominated for best film as almost every review I have read for it was negative, making it something of an anomaly – unless it was it justify another Meryl Streep nod?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Argh, that’s annoying. And I thought the east-coasters had it rough. And yeah, I think the slap is going to overshadow pretty much everything else that happened. More people are talking about that than the film that actually won “Best Picture”, which is too bad because it was a pretty solid winner.

          I think you have a point there, in that there does seem to be a tendency to chase trends in these award ceremonies. Sometimes it works out alright – other times it’s just laughable in hindsight. Are Ant & Dec good enough to have won 20 years in a row?

          Good. You’re not missing anything important by foregoing Don’t Look Up – in fact, you took the high road in doing so. If you’re to the point where people who agree with the message are panning the film, you’ve done something seriously wrong. And it was nominated not for being a tour de force of filmmaking (it isn’t), but because, despite his best days being long behind him, Adam McKay has become something of a sacred cow due to becoming a mouthpiece for the Academy’s sentiments. It doesn’t matter what little effort he puts into his work; as long as he continues to play nicely, he will nominated. A lot of people say Meryl Streep was the only good thing about the film, but I’m not convinced because I maintain that, while even a middling performance can carry a great script, the best performance in the world can’t save a bad script.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ant & Dec have been around for nearly 30 years, starting off as actors in a kids show Biker Grove before trying to be pop stars. This got them a Saturday morning kids TV presenting gig which they proved good at and not long after, broke into the prime time mainstream.

            For 20 years they’ve hosted big shows like Britain’s Got Talent, Pop Idol, and their own shows but they’re most famous for I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here.

            I think it is because they have wide appeal across all ages and have been part of the nation’s psyche for so long, they are like Thanos – inevitable. Even when Ant took a year off for rehab they still won the NTA award!

            Unless they quit, split up, or one of them dies, they’ll keep on winning as it is a public voted award, which says it all really, although I’m sure some awards boards (BAFTA etc) would still honour them to keep the status quo happy.

            Sounds like Adam McKay is the Ed Sheeran of films! 😛

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hm, that’s really impressive. Seems as though some people were just made for the star lifestyle. Now that I think about it, I believe I saw a few clips of them on Britain’s Got Talent. That moment where they ate more Rocher chocolates than the guy attempting to beat the record onstage as part of his talent act was hilarious. I can definitely see that wide appeal.

              I never thought about it that way, but that’s a pretty apt comparison. If it’s one thing I’ll grant Ed Sheeran though, it’s that his willingness to star in that Yesterday film wherein the central thesis was that today’s (well, the 2010s’ anyway) music sucks so much compared to that of the 1960s and he was therefore the personification of that decay in quality is a level of self-deprecation I don’t think Adam McKay is capable of (or if he is, it’s in the shallow, “I know I have problems, but I’m not going to fix them” sense). He was smiling in that way people do when they’re seething with rage when Amy Schumer dissed his film, so yeah, point to Ed Sheeran for at least proving he is capable of not taking himself so seriously.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I don’t know how ubiquitous Ed Sheeran is in the US but he is everywhere all the time here.

                My point was more the fact that he sells millions of albums, fills stadiums, and is nominated for ever award yet you never meet anyone who is actually a fan of his… <_<

                Liked by 1 person

              • Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, I can kind of see that. I think Ed Sheeran is reasonably well-known here (albeit not quite as ubiquitous), but he’s still kind of one of those artists you use as a test to see how much of a music snob somebody is. Which is to say, he’s a bestseller, but the connoisseurs tend to roll their eyes at the mere sight of him, although he’s not as bad as, say, Nickelback in that regard, as the critical consensus tends to lean more towards indifference/polite applause than outright hatred.

                Adam McKay is slightly more of a critical darling than Ed Sheeran, but only in the sense that he actually has one critically acclaimed work under his belt (The Big Short), which is one more than what Ed Sheeran currently has. He was kind of on to something when he made that film (I personally think it was overrated, but that’s another story), but then he blew it by trying to capture lightning in a bottle with his next two films with diminishing returns on investment.

                Otherwise, yeah, I see what you mean in that his films do fairly well (other than Vice, which deservedly flopped), but I think if you were to ask a random person off the street who he is, the most common reaction you’d get is either “Who?” or “He was funny before he went off the deep end”. He strikes me as the kind of artist who is stuck with a pop audience, but desperately wants a Radiohead audience – you know, the type that will go with any weird idea he comes up with next. The problem is that he just doesn’t have the charisma required to pull it off, so the most common critical reaction to his films tends to be “Uh yeah, that was funny, I guess”. Fans may argue that The Big Short allowed him to finally find his voice, but his films are, and always have been, crowd-pleasers rather than auteur masterpieces; all The Big Short did was change his audience from the general populace to the Academy.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m curious what you would substitute Don’t Look Up for in the line up, if you could add your movie to the list? I’ll admit I had a few guilty laughs at the material but was utterly shocked to see it nominated for an oscar.

    As for the rest of these films I have a lot of catching up to do. Whenever the oscars come around, I find I’ve only seen 1-2 of the nominees at best. Maybe I’m just not on their wavelength.

    Good summary though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! On “Worst to Best” lists, I tend to play with the cards I’m dealt, and by their nature, they’re fixed, so I do not intend to update it with other films – however much that hypothetical good film deserves the nomination more, although from what I’ve heard, The Worst Person in the World (one of the “Best International Picture” nominees) is really good. The nominations for the 91st ceremony (for 2018’s films) were so astoundingly bad that I ended up writing a top ten list and didn’t include a single nominee, but I don’t think I could do that with 2021 given that I’ve barely seen anything outside of the nominees. I will say that both Shang-Chi and Spider-Man: No Way Home are better than Don’t Look Up, but I exclude MCU films from my personal “Best of” lists because it’s like putting a chapter of a large novel against a shorter, completed novel – it’s not a fair apples-to-apples comparison.

      I will say that, even though it was completely undeserving of its nomination, I knew the Academy would trip over themselves giving it recognition. It’s because Adam McKay is something of a sacred cow to the Academy – likely because he plays nicely with their sensibilities. He’s to the point where he could make the most critically reviled work imaginable, and the Academy will still insist he deserves that award, although granted, it hasn’t reached the point where they’ve actually given him the “Best Picture” award (so far) because even against the overall lackluster 91st ceremony nominees, he was so hopelessly out of his depth. Here, he had to contend with a much stronger lineup, so it’s not surprising the film walked away completely emptyhanded (it was barely mentioned at all, in fact).

      I’ve made it a yearly tradition to see all the Oscar-nominated films in a given year because I like the idea of having seen the “Best Picture” winner before it won. That being said, it’s a fairly recent tradition because while my winning streak has last for eleven years now, there were actually quite a few years in which I did not see all the nominees, but ended up seeing the winner anyway by pure dumb luck. It was actually starting with the 90th Academy Awards (for 2017’s films) that I decided not to leave anything up to chance and saw all the nominees, thereby guaranteeing I would keep the streak alive that year. Of this lineup, I’d say CODA, The Power of the Dog, and Drive My Car should be your top priorities.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: March 2022 in Summary: Slap Happy | Extra Life

  7. Late comment because I was traveling so I missed this post since I wasn’t online all that much.

    I expected you to dislike Don’t Loop Up, but I have got to say I didn’t expect you to keep it out of the list altogether. I was also not a fan of the film, by the way, and I am someone who actually liked Vice!

    Other notes on the list:

    – I enjoyed West Side Story despite not being big on musicals.
    – I actually prefer Nightmare Alley to The Shape of Water. Sadly, that movie never did much for me.
    – I thought King Richard was very touching, but you are right, the fact it is a somewhat “cleaned up” version of the story diminishes some of its power.
    – Overall, Dune was probably favorite of the bunch. It even made me begin reading the books.
    – I caught Licorice Pizza at the movies and I was under the impression that the audience was not entirely into it, but I guess that is to be expected from a movie that has such a charmingly odd brand of humor.
    – I loved Belfast! Maybe if I weren’t such a big Van Morrison fan I would complain about the excess of musical montages, but with Van the Man bringing in the tunes, I enjoyed them! The movie did a great job portraying a brutal period by simultaneously not hiding the atrocities and giving it some sort of lightness via the eyes of the main character.
    – CODA is a beauty! On one hand, it has the safe beats of a teenage movie (a very well-written one). On the other, it is absolutely emotional. A well-deserved winner.
    – After watching The Power of the Dog, I wondered if Jane didn’t lean too heavily on subtlety. It’s a powerful movie, that’s for sure, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have benefited from a bit more clarity.
    – I think Drive My Car had the proper level of subtlety, one that The Power of the Dog didn’t quite hit for me. It’s a slow and very long movie, but its emotional journey is beautifully told. I am glad you put it on top of the list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I hope you had fun travelling.

      And I felt, considering the high quality of the other entries, that including Don’t Look Up would have been an insult to the other directors’ hard work. You can’t sleepwalk onto this list – you need to put actual effort into your craft. I didn’t like Vice at all, but even I have to admit Don’t Look Up is a major step down (heh) from it. Plus, excluding it from the list allowed me to keep my word – I didn’t rank it last.

      In general, I’m not a big fan of these heavy-handed works because 99% of the time, they scream, “Well, I guess you gotta praise me or else you’re a backwards-looking troll.” Fortunately, in this instance, it backfired when the critics called his bluff. Honestly, if wasn’t for the message it was trying to convey, it would have been deservedly condemned as one of the worst films of the year. Hell, it may deserve that distinction in spite of its message, as there is no excuse for Adam McKay’s writing being this poor this late into his career. That he wasn’t able to charm said critics despite paying lip service to their sensibilities is one of the biggest (if understated) failures in filmmaking I’ve seen in quite some time. I have to admit I was expected to get more resistance to my ruling, but no – everyone so far seems to agree that the film is trash.

      Also, Adam McKay is not cool enough to use jazz motifs in his work – just saying.

      As for your other observations…

      -I’m not a big musical fan either. I just think they’re kinda neat, but I did like West Side Story.
      -I can see Nightmare Alley winning over people who didn’t like The Shape of Water because this is del Toro at his least del Toro. I think Nightmare Alley was good, but I still have to say there was more ambition in The Shape of Water.
      -Glad we agree there. The 2010s biopic formula is a very limiting one, and I think those attempting to make one could do to take notes from Raging Bull and its warts-and-all approach. The formula wasn’t bad when applied to King Richard, but it could’ve been so much more.
      -I think I ought to get into the Dune series myself because the adaptation was good.
      -My audience liked Licorice Pizza, but then again, I live in a pretty hipster-friendly community. It was good, but I have to admit I’m not sure why it was nominated for “Best Picture”.
      -Belfast was good, and if you are going to have excessive musical montages, it may as well be written by someone like Van Morrison. And that mixture of brutality and levity was executed very well.
      -CODA is a bit safe at times, but it has an emotional core I think most modern-day indie films lack. As I said, we need more films like it. The victory was well-deserved.
      -I am personally all for Ms. Campion’s subtlety; like CODA and its emotional core, it is something we desperately need more of in modern films. It allows her work to be a cut above the rest.
      -That being said, yes, I do agree that Drive My Car managed to find a good middle ground being subtle and making its plot clear. It also doesn’t fall into the same trap a lot of contemporary slow films fall into by being reasonably paced and not wasting the audience’s time with pointless meandering. There was really no other choice with which to top the list – even if CODA and The Power of the Dog were solid in their own right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, I had a blast on the trip! Too bad those things are over too soon. Now it’s back to regular business.

        I completely agree with you that Don’t Look Up got a pass in the eyes of many because of the message it was trying to convey. Without it, the critical reception would have been even worse. And as much as the Academy loves McKay, I also think it’s safe to say it wouldn’t have gotten any nominations.

        I also agree on the fact The Shape of Water is far more adventurous than Nightmare Alley.

        And Dune is an awesome series. I feel sometimes the books get so philosophical they lose the plot a bit, but overall it’s a great narrative.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, they don’t last long, but they’re always fun.

          And I think the reason the film didn’t go over well is because it was a clear regression on Mr. McKay’s part. Vice was a product of its time through and through, but Don’t Look Up, in spite of its attempts to be timely actually comes across as painfully behind the times. You could get away with the “both sides suck” rhetoric back in the 2000s, but that ship has since sailed. A clear case of arrested development.

          It’s kind of odd how Adam McKay is an Academy darling, but not really a critical favorite; I don’t think I’ve ever seen that combination before. The Big Short is the only film of his that was more or less universally praised; his other films tend to hover around the 50~60% range. Then again, he had to overperform to make The Big Short as acclaimed as it was, and even then, it still managed to be the weakest film in that year’s lineup by a pretty comfortable margin.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Listening/reading log #29 (March 2022) | Everything is bad for you

  9. I have yet to see most of the Best Picture nominations. I did try to see Don’t Look Up, and I thought it was pretty awful. Just having a timely topic and a cast of famous actors doesn’t a film make. And for it to be nominated for Best Picture?? Sometimes I think I live in an alternate universe.

    I did see Dune, and thought the cinematography was amazing. However, I was unimpressed with the story because – as you pointed out – it wasn’t complete, and I’d never read the novel. The film didn’t make me care enough to come back for part 2.

    However, I did see CODA and by the end, it left me cheering for Ruby and her family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Don’t Look Up is the single worst “Best Picture” nominee I’ve seen; Adam McKay really outdid himself here. And the irony is that despite trying to be timely, the film actually came across as behind the times in terms of its rhetoric. You could’ve gotten away with the whole “Both sides are bad” argument back in the 2000s/early 2010s, but that ship has sailed. Indeed, this is a man who hasn’t accepted that the 2000s are over, and he needs to update his argumentation to not come across as horribly tone deaf. It’s probably why the film got savaged by critics despite agreeing with the message overall. As I said, this out-of-touch political punditry is a very common refuge for creatively spent, middling talents who like being the center of attention, but realize they used up all their good ideas a long time ago. In Adam McKay’s case, he’s basically going, “Aha! I’m running on fumes here, but because I’m dropping hard truths, you’ll have no choice but to praise me! And if you don’t, you’re just part of the problem!” Sadly, that appears to have actually been his reaction when it didn’t go over so well with critics – a sentiment echoed by the film’s defenders. He should’ve known that wasn’t going to work because the critics called his bluff with Vice back in 2018, and proved more than happy to do it again here. It did get a lot of views on Netflix, so I will say that if it motivates people into effecting a positive change, then I will look back (heh) and say “Yes, it needed to be made”. However, regardless of whether it does or not, I can at least comfortably say that, as an actual artistic statement, it is completely worthless and has nothing to offer.

      I also don’t think the Academy appreciates the unfortunate implications of having nominated Don’t Look Up in lieu of a second international film. It gives off the impression that a mediocre American director is more valuable than the best other countries have to offer.

      To be honest, I think Dune could benefit from a second watch. It seems to be a very difficult book at adapt given how many technical aspects there are, although I’m still looking forward to part two.

      CODA was a very good film that deserved its win. I kind of wish its victory wasn’t overshadowed by Slapgate, but regardless, I feel it’s the kind of indie effort we need more of.

      Liked by 1 person

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