The 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominees range from a true-blue blockbuster to a movie you definitely didn’t even know existed before the nominees were announced. Some are watchable, some are too hoity-toity for their own good, and a couple are just not worth your time.
Watching all of the 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominees was quite the feat to accomplish this year. With 10 total nominees, and at least three titles very close to the two-and-a-half-hour mark, one that leapfrogs right over it to more than three hours, and only one clocking in under two hours, you had to devote a lot of time to completing this endeavor.
We should probably get to talking about these movies. When you have 10 nominees, at least a few of them won’t reach all audiences. And I definitely was not the target demographic for a couple of these, because, whoa, a few of these were hard to watch. But let’s start with the positives. There are a couple movies on this list that are most definitely worth your time.
Five 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominees you should not miss:
‘Top Gun: Maverick’
I am in no way saying this is the Best Picture of the year. Okay, maybe I am. Maybe this year, I firmly believe that the movie that surprised us all by being a thoroughly enjoyable sequel 36 years after the original staked its claim as one of the ’80s most popular action movies. Or, at least, it’s worthy of the title if it can get enough votes. We all got what we expected from it. The surprise came in the form of the emotionally moving story beneath the story that no one saw coming.
No matter what your feelings may be about Tom Cruise, the man, Top Gun: Maverick is a monster feat of blockbuster proportions. The story is approachable and interesting, bouncing from the personal issues of the American Navy’s most prestigious pilot figuring out how he fits in a modern warfare style, to the intimate storyline of a man and his best friend’s son finding peace in their grief.
Then, you look at the lengths to which this cast went to get an honest, authentic experience. Actors do not always get to experience the actual danger and stress of these types of roles, but seeing the young actors of Top Gun: Maverick get a chance to get behind the controls and challenge themselves in all kinds of new ways was inspiring. It shows that there are still new heights for filmmaking to reach. The current state of technology is not yet the pinnacle. While we’ve come a long way since black-and-white silent films, we have not yet peaked in this art form.
This might be the most underrated film of the year. I haven’t heard much talk about it, but seeing it definitely had me sitting up and paying attention. I was completely taken in by this group of women, whose lives in the 21st century still look superficially much like those of the 19th. But the film is all about this group of women deciding how they will handle the corrupt actions of the men of their community. Not only did a portion of these men commit sexual assault on multiple women and girls, but the rest of the men have decided that admitting the perpetrators back into the fold is more important than considering the women’s concerns.
This debate, how perpetrators of sexually criminal actions should be treated once their behavior has been made public knowledge, has been quite the controversial topic in the last decade. Brave women have stepped forward to accuse powerful men of misconduct, and still it’s cancel culture that receives the lion’s share of the public ire. Watching these women debate how they will react as a collective is undeniably fascinating and moving. More of these actors should have been considered for acting awards, because I was more moved in the one hour and 44 minute runtime of Women Talking than I was in pretty much any of the two-and-a-half-hour-plus movies.
‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’
The kookiest, craziest, most fun movie you are gonna see this decade, Everything Everywhere All at Once surprises with every turn it takes. You won’t see the next twist coming, and you wouldn’t want to try and predict it. It’s too much fun to just sit there and take it in. There are a couple of films that I would consider groundbreaking this season, especially with the technical aspects, but Everything Everywhere All at Once takes narrative filmmaking and launches it into the stratosphere.
The story follows its own lead when it comes to the plot, jumping realities and timelines like they’re hurdles in the Olympics. It may feel chaotic at times, but that’s the point, really. It’s meant to be busy and complicated. Every time you watch this movie, you are bound to discover details you never noticed before. It’s not often that a movie like this comes along, so I’m glad the Academy chose to honor it with a nomination. I’ll be even more excited if it pulls out the win.
‘Triangle of Sadness’
Once of the stranger, yet easily watchable offerings of the 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominee list is Triangle of Sadness, which takes an irreverent look at the uber-rich and the lifestyles they portray to us all on social media. We watch as they are inundated with the realities of weather and bad choices. We see how a few mistakes can have devastating consequences, and yet, their entitled nature is barely ruffled.
This dark comedy definitely hits better than the other “dark comedy” that made the nominees list this year, but more on that later.
Triangle of Sadness has something to say, and it doesn’t say it quietly or subtly. Its three acts are bold, defined, and leave very little to interpretation. And hey, the bottom line is, I was entertained, which is way more than I can say for a few other films this year.
My least favorite of the best five movies the 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominees have to offer was The Fabelmans, which is still definitely worth watching. And that is especially true if you’re a major film buff. And even more true if Spielberg is in your top 10 favorite directors.
Getting a look into the history of Spielberg, seeing his family dynamic unfold on screen, and watching how the events of his life informed so much of his earliest movies and projects is well worth the two-and-a-half hours you will spend with it.
As a pretty dedicated Spielberg fan, I found this movie a little bit fascinating. We get to see the many places where Spielberg’s interests could have diverged from the path we know they obviously take, but watching as film continues to dominate his interests from a very young age is incredible for someone who is a fan of his movies.
The Fabelmans isn’t perfect, though, and it feels a little long for the story it tells, which is why it isn’t my first pick for the 2023 Academy Award for Best Picture.
Three 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominees that probably won’t make you feel like you wasted your time:
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’
This movie is fine. I didn’t know there was a remake until the nominee list came out. I can’t say I’ve seen the original, but I don’t believe this movie did a lot more than its predecessor. It’s a war film. A decent war film. It has the ups and downs you’d expect, and is beautifully shot. However, having loved 1917 a few years ago, I think All Quiet had some big shoes to fill, and it just never managed it. The connection to the main character isn’t quite there, despite following him for a good portion of the movie. There’s a bit of a disconnect that keeps me from completely appreciating everything All Quiet on the Western Front is trying to accomplish.
But mostly it left me asking, why did we need this remake right now? As I said, we’ve had some pretty impressive WWI movies in the last few years, so it seems redundant to remake this one. But, if you like a good war movie, or just enjoy watching history unfold on screen, you won’t be disappointed by All Quiet on the Western Front.
‘Avatar: The Way of Water’
There is a lot to enjoy in the Avatar movies. Unfortunately, I am just not the target audience. The first one had some truly redeeming moments, but I never fell as in love with it as its superfans did. However, I am aware of the technical brilliance that goes into creating the world of Avatar: The Way of Water. I can appreciate the beauty of the underwater sets we didn’t get to see in Avatar 13 years ago. I just don’t believe it deserves its spot on the 2023 Oscar Best Picture nominees list. And it’s waaaaaaaay too long. The movies do not need to continue to get longer. If the third film breaches the four-hour mark, I will straight up refuse to see it. Even if it is nominated in whatever year it’s released.
There is one bit of this story that entirely grabbed me and had me invested. It involves a boy and a giant water creature. His bond, his fierce loyalty, and his dedication to repaying the favor owed to this beastie had me fully invested, but considering it’s not exactly the main storyline, it couldn’t hold my attention for the entire runtime.
This movie was a bit of a disappointment for me, mostly because I usually love Baz Luhrmann’s style. I love his flashy, over the top musicality and the way sound and melody inform his distinct movie-making style. So, it felt odd that I never truly got emotionally invested in Elvis. I found myself wishing someone else had taken this story on, someone who would have stripped back so much of the flash and vibrancy to get to the heart of the man at its center.
The other problem may have very well been that Tom Hanks was the wrong actor for the Colonel character. He did a fine job with what he was working with, I guess, and it feels wrong to besmirch the actor who has given me so many fantastic movies from Turner & Hooch to The Post, but I just didn’t love his portrayal. It just felt off, almost dishonest. And that should have worked, bringing this criminal of a man to life, but something never clicked.
There are plenty of scenes that make this one a passable watch, and Austin Butler is a talented kid. It’s not all bad, just not as infectiously exhilarating as Moulin Rouge or any of Baz Luhrmann’s more career-defining work.
And two you can DEFINITELY skip:
I will be the first to admit that Cate Blanchett is quite impressive in this movie. And if watching her glide from set to set crushing spirits, making people feel inferior, and only giving you pieces of the story Tár is trying to tell is enough for you, then Tár will probably rank higher on your list.
Basically, I couldn’t tell if the film was only giving me half the story on purpose, or if it was just a failure in the narrative structure. The former of which could be really interesting, say if Blanchett’s Tar is simply an unreliable narrator telling us her story, but as it is, I found it mystifyingly vague. Scene after scene, you get stories truncated before you’ve learned all you want to know. You don’t get to see moments you think you’ve more than earned by the end of the film. Frustration was the most prevalent emotion I felt while watching this film. If that was the maker’s intent, then mission accomplished, but that begs the question, why would you want to leave your viewers feeling like that?
I say skip it. It’s just not worth the time.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’
And that brings us to The Banshees of Inisherin. I expected to really like this movie, especially because I had heard tons of great things about it. It’s called a dark comedy, and while I may have laughed once or twice (one of which involved adorable donkey antics, so I have a hard time giving the movie credit for that), I would not classify it as such.
I found Banshees lacking, and in more than just the comedy department. I could have abided the aimless wandering in this film if it answered one or two more questions before it embarked on its meandering journey. I just never found out the main antagonist’s reasoning for arbitrarily changing a pivotal relationship in his life. He just… did. It’s not realistic. People usually have some sort of motivation for cutting friends out of their life. And if they are dedicated to making the change, it’s usually on the relationship cutter, not the cuttee to enforce the rules. I’m honestly sad I didn’t enjoy this one more, especially with the cast being so wonderful. The story just wasn’t there for me.
So, again, I say skip it. There are much better dark comedies to spend your time with, even from this very director. Try In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths instead.
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