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Academy Awards Best Picture: Yet Another List of What Could (or Should) Have Been

Another year of arguments about the Academy Awards will come to its conclusion tonight with the 92nd Oscars. As usual, the Academy voters got some things right and a lot of things wrong. Of course, Hollywood and American pop culture as a whole could just stop giving such importance to the Oscars as compared to the arguably more accurate guild-specific awards. But what’s the fun in that?

No matter how hard any viewer or critic may try, it is impossible to watch any movie objectively, let alone attempt to rank or choose between films without bias. Every film touches every individual person differently, and that’s part of the beauty of watching movies. I know none of this is a shock to most people, but I don’t think it can be said enough that the only way to have more diversity in the Academy Awards nominees is to improve diversity in every facet of the filmmaking process, from screenwriting to the voters and critics.

Nevertheless, here’s another white guy’s list of the 10 Best Picture nominees if I had total control of the Oscars. These are listed in alphabetical order; I don’t know if I have an easy favorite from this year. This is out of the 55 2019 films I’ve seen, and I’m still missing a few that are beloved by many. And again, I am as biased as everyone else. But I will be mad if Joker wins Best Picture tonight. Anyway, as usual I’ll give my semi-comedic tweet-length summary and some thoughts for the films below.

Captain Marvel

Ok. Seeing this picture on this list may make some people immediately click away. I get it. But there is more emotional resonance in the kitchen table scene alone than in most other Avengers films put together. I loved the story, the 90s era setting, and could watch the climactic cheat-code level fight scene over and over again. It’s also one of the few superhero films my wife has enjoyed as well, so it gets points for that too.

Honeyland

A Macedonian beekeeper gets bad new neighbors. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I started watching Honeyland, but getting nominated for both Best International Picture and Best Documentary Feature is quite the feat. Honeyland certainly deserved it, and Best Picture too. The way it lovingly filmed its subjects, and was able to find such a compelling narrative without overdramatizing things, made it such a unique spectacle. Both painfully personal and incredibly universal in its reverence for nature and the effects humans can have on it, Honeyland is a must see.

Honey Boy

Shia LaBeouf wrote a semi-autobiographical film while in rehab in order to process trauma caused by his dad that’s about an actor writing a semi-autobiographical film while in rehab in order to process trauma caused by his dad. Oh, and LaBeouf plays the role of his father. Honey Boy gracefully slides between being true-to-life and fictional with ease. It is a beautiful look at the cycles of trauma and healing. I’ve been a fan of Shia since I was 9 years old, and seeing all the little nods to various roles were both humorous and tragic when seeing what was happening behind the scenes.

John Wick 3

Keanu Reeves runs, karate chops, and shoots for 2 hours straight. John Wick 3 is the best superhero movie of the year, if not the entire decade. It may not be billed as a superhero movie, but much like John McClane the later Die Hards, Mr. Wick is clearly a superhero, albeit not invincible. This film has numerous beautiful set designs and the action sequences are some of the most well-choreographed I’ve ever seen. The story is shaky, sure, but my god that action! It is a darn shame that action films get such little attention from the big awards shows.

Knives Out

A whodunit, but doesn’t feel like a retread of whodunits past. I haven’t heard a single person who watched Knives Out and didn’t enjoy it (nor would I listen to you if you suggested you didn’t). There isn’t much to say other than that it is a perfectly written story with quick-witted dialogue and great acting from all involved. Rian Johnson is the man.

Little Women

Saoirse Ronan acts in a Greta Gerwig picture. As if that’s not enough to be a Best Picture nominee, you also get brilliant performances from Laura Dern, Florence Pugh, and Emma Watson. And wait, was that Bob Odenkirk? Scorsese getting nominated over Gerwig was just pure disrespect. Little Women has been done a hundred times, but Gerwig brought new life to it, and I loved it. I did have a little trouble following the timelines and was a little bored in the first 30 minutes, but once real stakes started forming, it got better and better.

Parasite

A poor family forms a parasitic relationship with a rich one. While I said in the intro that I don’t really have a top movie of the year, I think Parasite is as close to an objective best as there comes. The film style, acting, pacing, storytelling, everything is top notch. My only regret is that, as an American, I wish i could more fully understand the social commentary that Bong Joon-ho was going for. The rich vs. poor vs. poorer theme was universal enough to have an impact to audiences worldwide, but you can tell there are some subtleties that a South Korean audience could get. Again, not a critique of the film at all, and I appreciate what it taught about their unique brand of social strife, I just wish I was more educated in the intricacies of that world. Or maybe there wasn’t anything more and I’m overthinking it. Also a distinct possibility.

Rocketman

Elton John’s life is portrayed in fittingly over-the-top fashion. Rocketman made me feel joyous as the credits rolled. It was as colorful and magical as you’d imagine a biopic about Elton John would be, and Taron Egerton crushes the portrayal. I loved how it went into full-on fantasy territory at times, while also being grounded in the pain and addiction Elton struggled with.

Toy Story 4

Woody, Buzz, and friends have to cope with loss, both literal and metaphorical, and lots of miniature chaos ensues. Is this 4th iteration of Toy Story that different than the last three? Not really. I would argue, however, that it is the best since the original. A huge part of this is the introduction is Forky, who ups the ante for meta-consciousness and is constantly good for some laugh out loud gags. Having a Keanu Reeves cameo doesn’t hurt.

Uncut Gems

A loser lucks into a good life and screws it all up. Probably the biggest snub of the Oscars by far, Adam Sandler’s acting is brilliant and the soundtrack swirls around the fast-pace destruction of one man’s absurd choices.

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