Best Picture Nominees: A Definitive Ranking
Written by Jocelyn Illing
For the first time in my twenty years on this earth, I have succeeded in viewing every single film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (I’ll wait until the applause die down). For me, being a major movie buff and, hopefully, a future film critic, this is a big deal. I can say that, for the most part, I enjoyed all of this year’s nominees. While saying this, it doesn’t mean that some films aren’t more deserving than others. The list below is my definitive ranking of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture; from the okay to the sublime.
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
Roma. Roma, Roma, what a film to behold! Cuarón’s eye for visual storytelling is one that should be cherished and celebrated by all. Not only was this film a strong piece of narrative, but also a true work of art. The images in this film are some of the most impactful and beautiful I've seen all year. For example, Cuarón made a tile floor soaked with soapy water mixed with feces seem to be the most beautiful and symbolic image I have ever seen in my life. His ability to take mundane pictures such as these, and find their beauty is extraordinary. A truly Excepcional film! Make sure you watch Roma regardless if it wins or loses this years Best Picture award.
To all the Oscar nominees this year I wish you good luck and may the odds be ever in your favour.
If the Academy Was A High-School Stereotype...
Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)
If you read the Film Society’s Best of 2018 article, you know that Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You was my favourite film of the year. The story was fresh and fun, the acting was superb, and it tackled some of the most prevalent issues of today’s society. Because of this, I was baffled when I saw that it received zero Oscar nominations. I knew the chances of it receiving a Best Picture nomination were slim, for the Academy seems to favour larger budget classical-Hollywood films, but I hoped that Riley would at least receive a nomination for his brilliantly original screenplay. Additionally, Lakeith Stanfield gave one of the best performances of the year as a man struggling to maintain his identity while trying to survive in the completive, capitalist climate, that was undoubtedly Oscar-worthy.
John David Washington
John David Washington did a tremendous job portraying the real-life Ron Stallworth in the Spike Lee directed Blackkklansman. Another one of my favourite films of 2018, Blackklansman received six Oscar nominations, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Achievement in Directing. You know what is missing from this list? A Best Actor nomination for Washington. I’m happy that Adam Driver was recognized for his supporting role, but Washington was truly the star of the show. His performance was funny, cool and believable. Like Fisher, Washington received a Golden Globe nomination and was wrongfully snubbed by the Academy.
Eighth-Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018)
Yet another indie-darling that was overlooked by the Academy. Never has there been a coming-of-age film that has gotten the struggles of being a pre-teen so right. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut captures the awkwardness of middle school with extreme honesty. While other films have tried to glorify this stage in life, portraying epic stories of trial and triumph, Eighth-Grade doesn’t sugar-coat it. Kayla Day is just your average girl, complete with acne and an addiction to her cell-phone, who is just trying to fit in. When watching the film, I completely forgot that I was watching a fictitious story; that’s just how good the writing, and Else Fisher’s performance, was. I was hopeful when Fisher received a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress, yet the Academy failed to follow suit.
I’m just going to go out and say it; I love Timothée Chalamet. I believe that everything he does is absolutely brilliant and I’m not just saying this because of his amazing cheek bones. Chalamet’s dedication to his roles, how he approaches each character with complete honestly, is outstanding. His follow up performance to last year’s Call Me By Your Name, for which he received a Best Actor nomination, and Lady Bird, as a young man struggling with addiction in Beautiful Boy left me in tears. The true tragedy, however, was that he didn’t receive as much screen-time as his co-star Steve Carell. In the perfect world, his and Carell’s characters would be equal, and Chalamet would receive another nomination for Best Actor. Alas… this isn’t a perfect world. Sigh.
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018)
Okay, I loved Black Panther just as much as the next person. However, unlike Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I don’t think that it took the super-hero genre to another cinematic level. The story was predictable, the characters weren’t very interesting, and the special effects were standard. I understand that this is the first Marvel film with an all-black cast, and I commend them for this, but it wasn’t spectacular. The Best Achievement in Costume Design nomination was well deserved but, when compared to some of the other films that came out in 2018, it isn’t Best Picture worthy.
I don’t really have an issue with Sam Elliot’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in A Star is Born. He did a fine job. I just didn’t feel as if his character had a significant effect on the story. Elliot is a fantastic actor; this role just wasn’t anything special.
Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer, 2018)
Aside from Black Panther, I think that the public was mainly surprised to see the praise that this film received from the Academy. Again, like Black Panther, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I just don’t think that it held a candle to films like Sorry to Bother You, Roma and The Favourite. Although I do not have an extensive knowledge of Queen, I have heard from my peers that Bohemian Rhapsody wasn’t that accurate, leaving out important aspects of Freddie Mercury’s life. Rami Malek’s performance as Mercury was great. The film… not so much.
Finally, a pleasant surprise! Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for giving recognition where recognition is deserved. Maybe I just have little faith in them, but I thought that the Academy would ignore the amazing performances in last year’s foreign-language films. Aparicio’s performance as the stoic Cleo in Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece Roma, was outstanding.
Girlhood is a coming of age story from the perspective of 16-year-old girl growing up in a rough neighbourhood trying to navigate her way from childhood to adulthood. Through the film the protagonist is thrust into situations that challenge her ideas about race, class, and sex. Not to mention it has one of the best uses of a Rihanna song ever captured on film. Girlhood is very accessible and offers a perspective that distinctly French.
Inspired by the MGM musicals of the 1930s and 1940s, director Jacques Demy creates a world full of rich colours, heart-wrenching music, and unforgettable beauty. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is an operatic style musical that is inspired by Hollywood, but remains French to its very core. It’s a film about first love, compromises, and futures that can never be. Damien Chazelle has even said that La La Land (2017) was directly inspired by this film.
Finally, we’ve reached the French New Wave. There are so many films that I could have chosen to represent the New Wave. Breathless (Godard, 1960) or Cléo de 5 à7 (Varda, 1962), but The 400 Blows is the most accessible and maybe the most resonant to this very day. The 400 Blows is timeless; It tells the story of a lost and confused adolescent, something each and every one of us can relate to.
The Double Life of Veronique is quirky, introspective, and entrancing. Kieslowski not only blends the two main protagonists’ lives, but he also blends cultures. The film is set in France and Poland, and you can immediately pick up on the distinctive vibe of both countries. This film is as mysterious as it is thought provoking. Not to mention there are puppets in it.
If you want to be challenged, Ingmar Bergman is a great place to start. Bergman’s films are typically slow, but Persona has an energy which sparks life and excitement into each frame and in every cut. Watching Persona feels like a perverse experience, but it leaves you feeling bad in all the best ways. Also saying you’ve watched this film will earn you points with any artsy person.
Italian neorealism is an essential stop on anyone’s film journey and nothing encapsulates the movement quite like Di Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. Filled to the brim with raw humanity, Bicycle Thieves will leave you feeling all of the feelings. It’s a film that will stick with you for a very long time. Not to mention it has quite possible the best child in all of film in it.
At this point almost everyone has heard of or seen a Studio Ghibli film. From Spirited Away to My Neighbour Totoro, Studio Ghibli creates beautiful animated films; but if you have a thirst for more Japanese animated films, the films of Satoshi Kon are a great way to dive in. Kon likes to play with dreams and reality in a way that will leave you completely shook! Paprika is no exception, it’s colourful but at the same time dark and dreadful.
Even if you’ve never seen a foreign film, you’ll fall in love with Tampopo. It’s a film about ramen that makes you feel warm and satisfied. It follows the eponymous on her quest to create the perfect bowl of ramen. The film diverges into subplots, each one exploring a different aspect of food. Tampopo is easily one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen of any cinema in the world, including American.
If you need a film to fill your campy horror needs, House will fill it and then some! House will have you bent over laughing with its strange gore and creative special effects. This Japanese film is chaotic and bizarre and after you watch it you’ll want to share it with all of your friends. An added bonus for the film is all of its excellent cat content.
I highly recommend any Wong Kar-wai film if you’re just starting out with international cinema. Chungking Express (1994) is also a good option, but it’s much harder to find than In the Mood for Love. The film follows two neighbours who discover that both their spouses are having an affair together. Wong Kar-wai tears your heart to pieces in the most beautiful way that will make you want to come back for more. It’s a film that helps you understand what love really is and the deep ache of heartbreak.
Nobody’s film education is complete without a stop in Bollywood. Probably one of the most acclaimed Bollywood films ever made, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge fully captures the experience and joy of watching a Bollywood film. It’s a perfect movie to watch in a group and collectively laugh, cry, and yell at the screen. The film is bright, exuberant, and overflowing with life. Good luck trying to get those catchy songs out of your head!