Another awards season has come to a close and it is time to celebrate Hollywood’s biggest night with the 95th Academy Awards. After a full uninterrupted year of films on the big screen, ten films are competing for the top prize. They include a sharp social satire on the wealthy, a furious examination of the patriarchy, a biopic of one of the most iconic music artists of all time, a new interpretation of a classic anti-war novel, a couple of extremely successful sequels, and one of the most original films of the year.
An impressive crop of nominees, but as usual, only one film will emerge victorious. So, without any further ado, here’s my ranking of these films from worst to best. We start with…
I’ve always found every time awards season rolls around, there is always going to be one film that I struggle to connect with. This year, this film is Tár. For his first film in 16 years, director Todd Field brings the story of Lydia Tar, a fictional composer whose life begins to fall apart when a series of scandals come to light. There is a lot of depth to Fields’ screenplay, it is so rich and detailed, with a lot to say about cancel culture and the pedestal we often put celebrities on, you could almost be forgiven for thinking the film is based on a real-life figure, brought to the screen superbly by Cate Blanchett.
However, despite Blanchett’s incredible performance, the film sits at the bottom of this list because, while the film is impeccably crafted, I found it a bit of a slog to get through. Furthermore, the character of Lydia Tár was a difficult one to connect with and the film left me feeling quite cold as a result.
Elvis Aaron Presley. The King of Rock and Roll and one of the most accomplished musicians to have ever lived. The popularity of musical biopics meant another film about the life of the singer was bound to happen sooner or later. In the hands of Baz Luhmann, a director whose previous films have certainly not been shy of extravagance and lavishness, he seemed like the ideal candidate to direct a film about the iconic singer.
Luhmann certainly goes all out for this depiction as he bids to capture Presley’s entire life, seen through the perspective of his controversial manager, Colonel Tom Parker (a severely miscast Tom Hanks). The film’s ambition cannot be denied, but even at 2 hours and 39 minutes, the attempt to capture Presley’s entire life feels too ambitious for its own good and drags the film down. However, what keeps it afloat is the extraordinary performance by Austin Butler whose dedication to bringing Elvis to the screen is so transformative, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the King himself on screen.
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
Throughout history, we have seen numerous examples of the horrors and brutality of war, and these horrors have often been captured in film in quite a brutal fashion. Indeed, those horrors have been brought into much sharper focus since the start of Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine last year, which makes this new take on the 1930 novel by Erich Maria Remarque feel all the more relevant in light of the brutality of the scenes we’ve all seen in Ukraine over the last 12 months.
The film recaptures the brutality of trench warfare and the unimaginable horror the soldiers on both sides would have gone through on a day-to-day basis, with millions sent to their deaths to make minimal gains. The film is technically flawless, boasting immaculate production design and cinematography. However, while it serves its purpose as an anti-war film, it suffered due to a lack of development of its lead characters who merely exist to hammer the film’s main point home about the brutal and unforgiving nature of war.
7. Triangle of Sadness
Ever since the COVID pandemic hit and the wealth gap between the 1% in our society and everyone else grew even bigger, satires of the super-rich have been in plentiful supply as of late, which has been joyful to watch and necessary. However, none have done so in quite a scathing, and simultaneously hilarious manner as this Palme D’Or winner from Ruben Östlund.
Focusing on a young couple who are invited onto a cruise ship for the super-rich, the film is not afraid to take shots at numerous aspects of society, from wealthy oligarchs to social media influencers. This all culminates in a hilarious and slightly nauseating second act during a fateful night aboard the cruise, a scene which was an absolute riot to experience at a packed screening during London Film Festival. The film’s three distinct acts all have a unique feel to them, and while it does begin to run out of steam in the third act, it retains that stinging rebuke of the wealthy.
6. Women Talking
The only film of this year’s contenders to be directed by a woman (more on this later). The very fact Sarah Polley’s powerful and furious examination of the patriarchal nature of our society and analysis of an ongoing problem in said society was at very real risk of missing out on a nomination is shambolic, and some serious conversations would need to have been had if it had missed out.
Focusing on an isolated community of Mennonite women who have been repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by the men in their community brings an urgent meeting where the women must decide whether to stay and fight or to leave. The film, as the title suggests, is very dialogue-driven. However, Sarah Polley’s screenplay, adapted from the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, is so powerful and so tremendously performed by every member of its cast, especially Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy, that when these women are talking, everyone in the world should be listening to what they have to say.
5. The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg, a director whose career has spanned over six decades, in which time he has provided audiences with killer sharks, killer dinosaurs, an extraterrestrial who wanted to phone home, an insanely cool archaeology professor who is arguably one of the best characters in cinema history, and so much more. Yet, as seems to be a trend among filmmakers in recent times, the legendary director has made his most personal film yet, about how he discovered his love of movie-making and the people in his life who played a key role in urging him to pursue his dreams of becoming a director.
Unlike some other films recently released this year which have tried to capture the magic of cinema only to completely miss the mark, Spielberg’s film captures the importance of family and how those around us can play a significant role in shaping the career we choose to pursue, as well as a passion for the art of cinema.
4. The Banshees of Inisherin
Full review here
There are not many directors who can combine a really (and I mean really) bleak situation and use that as a backdrop to provide utter hilarity quite like Martin McDonagh. On its surface, his latest film is the simple story of two men and the fallout when one of them abruptly decides he doesn’t want to be friends with the other one. Yet, there is so much more to McDonagh’s screenplay than this simple premise as it explores themes of toxic masculinity, nihilism, loneliness, and pursuing creativity over friendship all against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War.
The reunion (sort of) of In Bruges stars Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, both of whom arguably give the best performances of their careers, is fantastic to see. Yet, the show belongs to Jenny (the donkey to whom Farrell’s character holds dear) and Kerry Condon’s scene-stealing performance as the sister to Colin Farrell’s character. A fecking brilliant motion picture!
3. Avatar: The Way of Water
Full review here
The first of two films on this list which utterly dominated at the box office this year. It had been 13 long years since the first Avatar film came out, and after such a long wait, the question as to whether audiences would be interested in a return to Pandora raged. Several months, and nearly $2.3 billion dollars as of writing this later, it is fair to say audiences this debate has been settled. Audiences were interested and proved to the naysayers you should never ever bet against James Cameron.
With the visuals being a key selling point for the first film when it opened back in 2009, the question would have been how to surpass those this time around? And it would be fair to say they did just that, the use of pioneering new motion capture technology all while actually shooting these scenes underwater provided the film with some breathtaking visual majesty which is completely awe-inspiring to look at. Much can be said of the film’s script and how it is in many ways a retread of the first film, but when the last hour hits, it never lets up and reinforces Cameron’s talent for crafting terrifically compelling action.
2. Top Gun: Maverick
Full review here
The second sequel among this year’s nominees and the film which, before The Way of Water came along, was the undisputed champion of the box office in 2022. When it finally took to the skies last summer (after numerous delays), it was the film which as Steven Spielberg himself admitted to its star Tom Cruise might have just saved the cinematic experience as we know it.
Right from the very first moment when Kenny Loggins’s “Highway to the Danger Zone” blasts over scenes of jets taking off from a military warship, the film hits those nostalgic notes right off the
bat runway. Yet, what this legacy sequel pulls off so successfully is it adds a real sense of emotional weight to the story, particularly for Cruise’s Maverick and certain decisions he has made across a 30-year career as a naval aviator. Furthermore, I cannot talk about this film without mentioning the aerial combat sequences, which were utterly exhilarating to watch. A perfect example of how to do a legacy sequel, and one that takes my breath away every time I rewatch it.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Full review here
What more is there to say about A24’s highest-grossing film of all time? Ever since it had its premiere in March last year at South by Southwest, the word of mouth for this film, and the insane level of hype surrounding it, was simply unprecedented. Was it actually going to live up to the hype when it finally opened on our shores in May? As you might have guessed from its position on this list, the answer is an emphatic yes.
I genuinely have no idea how writers/directors The Daniels concocted such a wacky, bonkers, insane and genius script which threw everything into the mix and somehow made it all work. The film had everything, multiversal travel, hotdog fingers, tremendous kung-fu-inspired fight scenes, googly eyes, and a genuinely very emotional scene with two rocks. But above all else, an impactful and moving family drama with one of, if not the best performances the legend that is Michelle Yeoh has given throughout her extraordinary career, as well as a wonderful performance from Ke Huy Quan, who will be one of the best Supporting Actor winners we’ve had in a long time. It was, for many people, the film which defined cinema in 2022 and it fully deserves its status as the best picture frontrunner, and will be one of the best victories of all time should it crown its phenomenal awards-season success.
Could/should have been nominated…
So there you have it, that is my ranking of the ten films up for Best Picture. However, I always like to hypothesise what could have been, because for me there are some films which really should have been included in this year’s race. Therefore, if I was an Oscar voter, my ballot for the ten films to be nominated would be to remove, Tar, Elvis and All Quiet on the Western Front, and replace them with:
She Said (review). In the same vein as last year when Ridley Scott’s powerful historical drama The Last Duel was snubbed entirely across the board last year, the absence of Maria Schrader’s tremendous film about how two reporters from The New York Times broke the story about Harvey Weinstein’s rampant sexual abuse led to the rise of the important #MeToo and Time’s Up movements is bemusing, to put it kindly. The film had an incredibly difficult job, given this is very recent history, to portray this story in a careful manner, and they did exactly that. Had it been nominated (as it should have done), it would have sent a real message of support to those who suffered at the hands of Weinstein. A real missed opportunity by the Academy.
The Woman King (review). Another brilliant film directed by a woman, and another which has been inexcusably overlooked by the Academy. So often, when a historical epic is brought to the big screen, it is from the perspective of men, such as Gladiator or Braveheart. This is precisely what made Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film so unique, that it centred on one of the few all-female armies in recorded history. Yes, it does take some liberties with the true story of the Agoije, this is not uncommon when bringing a true story to the big screen. Its extraordinary cast, led by an exceptional Viola Davis all shine, and it was just an epic time at the movies. Like with She Said, this is an incredible film which should have been nominated in all of the above-the-line categories, but the very fact it wasn’t nominated for anything at all feels particularly egregious.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (review). A snub which is not as egregious as the ones mentioned so far, given that the brilliant sequel to Knives Out, got the adapted screenplay nomination it deserved. But, given the aforementioned screenplay nod, I am surprised to see it didn’t crop up anywhere else because it was definitely deserving of multiple nominations, given it clearly must be liked by the Academy. Supporting Actress for Janelle Monae did feel like a long shot due to how crowded that category is, but a nomination for costumes at the very least seemed a sure bet. Perhaps, the Academy is holding everything back for when the third Benoit Blanc film is released? Let’s hope so.