Ranking the Best Picture Nominees at the 92nd Academy Awards

The Oscars are here, and it's one of my favorite nights of the year.  I'm always excited to see how the night will play out, and as per TVRG tradition, I'll be ranking all the Best Picture nominees once again this year.

9- Joker
In a fantastic year for film, Joker doesn't come close to earning a Best Picture nomination, at least not in my eyes. A strong leading performance does not a Best Picture nominee make, and that's one of the few things I can praise Joker for. The story wasn't particularly original or all that interesting and the script wasn't anything special. The creative team took a different approach to making a comic book film, and while I appreciate that, it still felt like something I'd seen before. I don't think it's a bad film, I just don't understand the hype behind it. It's a fine movie, a decent way to spend two hours but nothing more.

8- 1917
This movie is an absolute masterpiece from a technical standpoint. The direction, editing, and, in particular, the cinematography is worthy of the praise and it certainly deserves the Oscar buzz it has in those categories. Even beyond the technical aspects, the film is very solid. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the movie and found it to be extremely well put together. War films aren't generally my thing, but this was actually interesting. I definitely preferred it to Dunkirk from a few award seasons ago. The story didn't completely wow me, however, and for that reason, I have to put it as one of the weaker picks this year. A great movie for sure, but not one of the better ones from a very strong crop.

7- Marriage Story
A deeply touching film, Marriage Story stands out in this pack. Between the loud, showy movies clearly made for the big screen (1917, Ford v Ferrari) and the buzzy films with massive ensembles (The Irishman, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood), this film is far more reserved and simple. That doesn't mean it's not great. A film doesn't need to throw in all the special effects and loud sounds to be good. This film is just that. It's a story of a couple going through a divorce, but it manages to make as much of an impact as those bigger movies, thanks to a spectacular script by director Noah Baumbach and great performances by Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern. It wasn't at the top of my list among these Best Picture nominees, but it's still very impressively crafted.

6- The Irishman
The three-and-a-half-hour runtime may have given me pause, but once I got past it, The Irishman is a very strong film. Even though it could've been shorter, it's hard to point out what I'd cut out of the film, and therefore I don't see its runtime as a negative. The film put three acting legends back in their element, giving De Niro, Pacino and Pesci a good, old-fashioned gangster movie that features some of the best performances by all of them in many years. Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors working today, and he works his magic again with this film, adding his unique flair to what could've been an extremely boring film. The film is a fascinating look at the lives of gangsters over the years, and is one of the best films of the genre that I've seen.

5- Jojo Rabbit
Of all the movies nominated this year, this one by far has the biggest heart. It's a movie with something to say, and what it has to say is extremely important. It's about learning to love those that are different from you, even when it goes against everything you've previously been taught to believe, a necessary message in these times. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell both deliver scene-stealing performances that are worthy of praise, but I was most impressed by the film's child actors. This was the first film for lead actor Roman Griffin Davis, though you couldn't tell by how experienced he seemed. A film that relied so heavily on the talents of a young actor could have fallen flat, but Griffin Davis rose to the challenge. The rest of the young cast was equally talented. The film's production designers deserve ample credit for bringing the film to life, doing what I'd crafter what I'd consider one of the best sets of any film in 2019. The script of the film (based on the book Caging Skies) was sharp and masterfully-written, and the sum of all of these parts led to a heartwarming and beautiful film that is one of the year's best.

4- Parasite
I haven't seen many foreign-language films (I've only watched some of the recent Oscar nominees), but Parasite is the best one that I've seen. It's darkly funny and thought-provoking, and it leaves you guessing as to what it's even about for the first quarter of the movie or so. Featuring some of the best writing of any film last year and one of the most intriguing storylines, this film draws you in from the start, even if seemingly nothing out of the ordinary happening. Once it gets going, though, it is one of the wildest rides of any movie this year. Director/writer/producer Bong Joon-ho truly created a masterpiece here. If you haven't seen it, do so. I won't say anything further about it so I don't spoil it, because it's extremely difficult to talk about this movie without discussing the twists and turns that make it so great.

3- Ford v. Ferrari
When I first heard that this movie was being made, it wasn't something I was interested in. It's certainly not a movie that was made for me. However, the trailer was enough to reel me in and I gave it a shot, and I loved it. The film was fast-paced and easy to follow if you aren't knowledgable about cars or car racing, but nothing about it was dumbed down or overly simplistic. Christian Bale, coming off a stellar turn as Dick Cheney in last year's Best Picture-nominated Vice, gave a great leading performance as he always does, as did Matt Damon. The two were able to make a lengthy scene involving a car race interesting even for those that don't usually watch races. That's a hallmark of a great film: managing to make something you wouldn't otherwise care about into something that leaves you on the edge of your seat.

2- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors. His films always have a special quality, managing to be so dark and gritty but also give you something to laugh about and find humor in even when they are dramatic as a whole. I thought his previous film, The Hateful Eight, was woefully underrated, and so I'm glad to see OUATIH getting some recognition from critics and award shows. This is my favorite film of Tarantino's because it's about something that Tarantino and I are both fascinated by - old Hollywood. The two lead characters in this film are some of this year's best, fully formed and easy to foot for despite their flaws. Brad Pitt gives the performance of the year while Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the movie's huge cast are able to easily hold their own while on-screen with him and shine in their own right. I was hooked from the moment it started to the moment the credits rolled.

1- Little Women
As much as I loved most of the rest of these nominees, none of them stuck with me as much as Little Women did. The film was made so carefully, and every little detail of the film is perfect, from the costumes to the production design. Saoirse Ronan is one of my favorite actresses working today, and she shines in the film's lead role. The actresses behind the rest of the "little women" also give admirable performances that all help make the film into something truly great. Even if the differences in age between the actresses and the characters they play was a bit confusing at first, I still don't know if I could pick anyone better to play them. Greta Gerwig's last collaboration with Saoirse Ronan was spectacular, and I think that this one may be even better than Lady Bird, thanks to an even better script this time around. Gerwig's direction was also terrific and deserved recognition from the Academy. I adore every single thing about this film and it truly is my favorite of all of these nominees. There isn't a single thing about it that I could criticize or that I would change, it's perfect.

Top Picks in Other Categories:
Best Actor: Adam Driver - Marriage Story
Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan - Little Women
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Supporting Actress: Kathy Bates - Richard Jewell
Best Director: Martin Scorsese - The Irishman
Best Original Screenplay: Knives Out
Best Adapted Screenplay: Little Women
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 4
Best International Feature Film: Parasite
Best Original Score: Little Women
Best Original Song: I'm Gonna Love Me Again - Rocketman
Best Sound Editing: Ford v Ferrari
Best Sound Mixing: Ford v Ferrari
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Bombshell
Best Costume Design: Little Women
Best Cinematography: 1917
Best Production Design: Jojo Rabbit
Best Film Editing: Ford v Ferrari
Best Visual Effects: The Irishman
Best Animated Short: Kitbull

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