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The 92nd Academy Awards show is over and the winners in 24 categories chosen, including the Best Picture winner. I enjoyed a week of watching all of the Best Picture nominated films ahead of the Oscars. All nine films showcased extraordinary talent while offering unforgettable stories.
Which movie became the Best Picture winner? Read on. And discover why all of the nominated films are worth watching.
Best Picture Nominees
An amazing selection of movies received nominations for the Academy Awards’ top prize. Several focused on historical events or particular time periods. Others explored human nature. One examined the challenges of dissolving a marriage. All contained unique twists within their plots.
The nominees included: Joker, Ford v Ferrari, JoJo Rabbit, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, The Irishman and Parasite. Rather than write a full review of each movie, I chose to present them as a group with a brief summary for each and my thoughts about why these films are important.
Rated R Run time: 2 hours 2 minutes
Written and directed by Todd Phillips. Nominated for 11 Oscars, it won two, a well deserved Best Actor for Joaquin and Best Original Score.
Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy
In Gotham City, clown performer Arthur Fleck feels his purpose in life is to make people laugh and bring joy to others. Society sees him differently. His uncontrollable laughter and awkwardness in social situations brings Arthur cruel taunts and acts of bullying. Fed up, the wannabe comedian strikes out. A crime committed in self defense leads Arthur down a path that ultimately births his new identity as Joker.
My favorite among the nominees, this film is so much more than a nemesis story. Yes, we witness the events that created Batman’s enemy, Joker. However the story examines much deeper issues including mental illness, bullying, acceptance, compassion and the role society plays in helping or harming someone who has lost his way. The twist in Joker is seeing him as an anti-hero rather than just the “bad guy”. We care about what happens to him and recognize the freedom he feels as his alter ego emerges.
This film moves me deeply. Some scenes are violent, however look past that. Allow this powerful movie to stir compassion for everyone and especially those who feel invisible.
Ford v Ferrari
Rated PG-13 Run time 2 hours 32 minutes
Written by Jez and John Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller. Directed by James Mangold. Nominated for four Oscars, Ford v Ferrari took home two, for Film Editing and Sound Editing.
Stars Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas and Tracy Letts
Set in the mid 60s, Ford v Ferrari follows American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles as they journey toward the grueling 24 hour Le Mans race in France. There they hope to take their modified Ford to the finish line ahead of the mighty Ferrari.
Although I’m not an avid race car fan, the sport holds a special place in my heart because of my dad. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Don’t let the race car theme deter you from watching Ford v Ferrari. The pleasant twist is, it’s not primarily a movie about fast cars. Rather, it’s about the best things in life…doing what you love, being who you are and traveling through life with good people by your side.
You might cheer during the exciting race scenes. You’ll definitely applaud the friendship and loyalty between Shelby and Miles.
Rated PG-13 Run time 1 hour 49 minutes
Screenplay by Taika Waititi, based on the novel by Christine Leunens. Directed by Taika Waititi. Nominated for six Oscars, JoJo Rabbit won one for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson.
JoJo is a 10 year old boy living in Germany with his mom during WWII. More than anything he longs to be part of Hitler’s Nazi Army. Indeed, JoJo’s imaginary friend is Der Fuhrer himself. The earnest boy finds his world turned upside down, however, when he discovers a teenage Jewish girl hiding in the attic, secreted away by his mother.
This film, like Joker, impacts me strongly. I expected a quirky comedy. JoJo Rabbit is that, and so much more. What a performance Davis gives, as a lonely boy who wants to belong to something bigger than himself. This coming of age story twists the film’s dark humor into something profound, piercing the heart as JoJo grasps that people are more alike than they are different. You’ll laugh…and cry…and cheer this little hero on as he understands the sacrifices the goodhearted make, to create change in the world. Watch for a full review of this thought provoking movie from me soon.
Rated R Run time 2 hours 17 minutes
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach. Nominated for six Oscars, the film won one, for Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern.
Stars Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Scarlett Johannson and Alan Alda.
Marriage story is a powerfully insightful look at how a marriage can come apart while a family stays together. The players in this story involve more than the distressed couple. Other key roles belong to the couple’s son, extended family members, friends, co-workers and attorneys whose tactics sometimes seem contrary to what Charlie and Nicole want.
Anyone who has been married for more than a minute knows this truth: marriage is challenging. Yep, even the best marriages experience gripping sorrow and pain along with great joy and intimacy. Marriage Story often feels like a punch to the gut, so raw are some of the scenes. And yet, watching the growth the characters undergo as their relationship unravels feels so authentic. The wonderfully redemptive twist in this story is this…all that chaos and emptying of emotions and soul searching can result in a different kind of relationship. Does it require work too? Absolutely.
Rated R Run time 1 hour 59 minutes
Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns and directed by Sam Mendes. Nominated for 10 Oscars, 1917 won three: Cinematography, Visual Effects and Sound Mixing.
Stars Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch
On a battlefield in Northern France, two young soldiers are selected to carry an urgent message to an isolated regiment. The message revokes orders to attack German troops that are supposedly retreating. It is a trap. At risk are 1600 men, including the brother of one of the young men. Time is of the essence and the journey harrowing as the two soldiers cross dangerous territory to reach the regiment.
War movies are one of my least favorite genres. I was tired when I plopped into my theater seat and hoped I’d stay awake. Truthfully, 1917 kept me on the edge of my seat. Cleverly shot in such a way that the camera never leaves the boys during their perilous journey, this film deserved the Cinematography Oscar. The effect is stunning and makes the viewer feel a part of the trek through enemy territory. Inspired by the stories of Mendes’ grandfather, a WWI veteran, 1917 is hauntingly beautiful. Its focus is on friendship, determination and courage. I intentionally had no idea what happened on the shared journey or how it all ended. Therefore, a surprising twist in the story caught me off guard. See if it does the same to you.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Rated R Run time 2 hours 41 minutes
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood earned 10 nominations and took home two Oscars, one for Production Design and the other Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt.
Stars Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Mike Moh, Luke Perry and Al Pacino
A fading television actor and his aging stunt double attempt to capture fame in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. As a subplot, Cliff the actor lives next door to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. He and his stunt double friend unwittingly tangle with the Manson Family.
As a child of the 60s, I found much to enjoy about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I love the references to popular shows on television during that time and the portrayals of so many familiar celebrities. The huge twist in this film is the Manson Family/Tate element. I had no idea it was part of the story and its inclusion created tension during the movie. As the infamous and horrific incident involving Sharon Tate approaches, that tension increases drastically. Let me just say, the ending of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood surprises and at first left me full of questions. Tuck this hint away: remember the title of the movie. It is an important clue when you reach the final moments.
Brad Pitt is a charming actor who easily assumes roles. He deserved the Best Supporting Actor award.
Rated PG Run time 2 hours 15 minutes
Screenplay by Greta Gerwig, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Directed by Greta Gerwig. Nominated for six Oscars, Little Women took home one, for Costume Design.
Stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern and Timothee Chalamet
Jo March reflects on her life as she tells the heartwarming story of the March sisters. Each girl desires to live life on her own terms and develop her gifts. In a post Civil War era, independence is not accepted in young ladies and certainly not encouraged, except in the March household. Jo finds her voice through her writing and seeks to publish her work.
This film is, I believe, the 7th adaptation of Alcott’s much loved story. The actresses perfectly captured their characters. The bond between sisters…and sometimes the rivalry…propels this beautiful film. Scenes alternate between an earlier and a later time period, which is a bit confusing initially. The girls do not change much in appearance, in that relatively short span of years, so one is forced to identify which time period the story is in by the situations in the girls’ lives. I got the hang of the back and forth narrative about half way through the movie.
The marvelous twist in this version of Little Women is the ending. Interpretation is left somewhat to the viewer. However, Greta Gerwig intentionally gave Louisa May Alcott the ending the author wanted for her story…and did not get, due to publisher demands. Taking to Google to fact check a few things, I appreciate Greta’s gift even more. If you enjoy period pieces and authentic costumes, you’ll love this film. And I’d like to know what you think about the ending.
Rated R Run time 3 hours 29 minutes
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian based on the book by Charles Brandt. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Nominated for 10 Oscars, The Irishman didn’t take home a single one.
Stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Ray Romano.
Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran looks back on his life and the many hits that defined his career with the mob. Connected to the Bufalino crime family, Sheeran claims a part in the disappearance of his friend, and the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa, who mysteriously vanished in 1975, has never been found. Sheeran shares the story of what really happened and how the friendship with Hoffa affected him.
I’m not a fan of mob movies. However, I enjoyed watching De Niro, Pacino and Pesci flesh out their respective characters and interact with each other. Through the wonders of de-aging technology, we even get to see these amazing actors as they were in their 40s.
The movie is long. I’m grateful that it’s a Netflix production. I watched The Irishman in two sittings. While I often flinched over the violent ends that many characters met, by the end of the film I felt invested in the outcome. And that is the twist for me. I genuinely wanted to know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa and The Irishman. Curiosity led me once again to Google to research the movie’s claims. If you appreciate historical films, curiosity will grab you by the hand and run with you through this one, to the very end.
Rated R Run time 2 hours 12 minutes
Written by Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han. Directed by Bong Joon Ho. Nominated for six Oscars, Parasite captured four of them, including Production Design, Film Editing, Best International Film and…ta da…it earned the Best Picture winner title.
Stars Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Jeong-eun Lee and Hye-jin Jang.
Kim Ki-taek, his wife and two adult children are all unemployed. Living in a musty basement, the family barely scrapes by, using their wits and wily schemes to bring in small amounts of money. And then through an unexpected opportunity each family member finds employment with the wealthy Park family. As the Kims ingratiate themselves into a different lifestyle, feeding off of the trust and generosity of the Parks, a secret arises that threatens everything.
Parasite is an astonishing film that highlights the division between classes of people, in this case, the rich and the poor. What begins as a story with comedic overtones shifts into something much darker and grittier, with sinister elements. There are oft repeated words spoken about “not crossing the line”. At first it’s implied that the line represents personal space or even morals. But the division is stronger than that, more complex and more difficult to cross. The comedy becomes a tragedy with an unforgettable message. Parasite haunted me for days after viewing it.
Best Picture Winner
What an amazing group of strong films. Although 1917 held a slight edge as the projected best picture winner going into the award show, anything seemed possible. I wanted Joker to take home the Oscar. I predicted 1917 as the winner, and yet, Parasite seemed poised to claim the ultimate prize. After seeing Bong Joon Ho’s film, I left the theater thinking “Best Picture Winner” right there.
Parasite won, amid cheers and applause and a standing ovation from the audience. History was made. Parasite is the first non-English film to win the Best Picture Oscar. Bong Joon Ho and his cast and crew received the award with grace and genuine surprise and humble words. The news made the front page in South Korea, and well it should. The world is shifting.
Love these films or hate them, viewing them is like placing a finger on the pulse of the world. Do you want to see the shifts occurring around the world? Do you want to gauge the health of humankind? Watch these nine best picture nominated movies. You’ll know…
Check out the full list of Oscar winners HERE.
And purchase or rent these films below at Amazon:
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