Which five movies SHOULD be Best Picture nominees?

The stars of my fave.

I see that the Academy Awards are being broadcast as I type this. So, let me go ahead and get to my point before the Oscars do. Which should be easy.

As y’all know, I don’t follow this stuff, at least not in this century. I’m not going to bore you yet again with why. But I do have a new thing to say — new to me, anyway.

Because I haven’t followed this nonsense since the late 1990s, I didn’t know that nominations for Best Picture had been expanded from five to 10, back in 2009. I ran across this fact when reading about something else, and since it was new to me, I was shocked and appalled.

Oh, I’m not one of these people who goes around griping and moaning because all the kids in Little League get a trophy. They’re kids. They should get a trophy just for showing up at the games.

But with the Oscars, we’re talking about grownups. Rich and powerful (within their own little world) grownups. You don’t have to give them all a trophy. And you don’t have to pretend that ten films — more new movies than I’m likely to see in a year, now that I don’t worry about seeing all the nominees before the Oscars show — are worthy of serious consideration for the highest honor (to the extent that the Academy is capable of confering honor).

And yes, I know that there were 10 back before 1945. But that was during the Golden Age. Ten nominees made sense in 1939. Not so much now.

Anyway, as it happens, I’ve actually seen four of the Best Picture nominees. My wife and I watched the fourth of them just last night, on Peacock. I haven’t seen the rest, because from everything I read and heard about them, I was content to wait until they became available for free, which they haven’t yet. Nothing I’d seen about them in any way suggested “must see.” So, in presenting the five I’m about to list, I’m giving a gift to those who wish to disagree with me. You get to yell, “He hasn’t even see the others!” That’s fine. You go ahead. I’m pretty sure I chose the right ones to spend my time on — mainly, the ones acclaimed on all sides as Best Picture material since the moment they came out.

But I know I can be wrong, and I look forward to seeing your alternative lists. I was wrong abtou this sort of thing once before, back in 1998. That was when I dismissed the idea that “Life if Beautiful” could be Best Picture material. I was appalled by the idea of a comedy about the Holocaust. But it worked, and it was wonderful. I would have been happy to see it win in that highest of categories. It’s made me more open to films that fit more or less into that category. Before I learned that lesson, I might have avoided “Jojo Rabbit.” MIssing that would have been a sad loss.

So maybe you, too, will give me a gift, and turn me on to something I had overlooked. Please do, if you possess such a gift to share.

But for now, here are my five:

  1. The Holdovers — This is the one I saw last night. Yeah, it’s a little small and quiet to be the winner, but at least at this moment, it’s my fave.
  2. Oppenheimer — The most impressive film I’ve seen this year, so the one I would choose if “impressive” were my only criterion. I meant to write a detailed post about it, but haven’t gotten to it.
  3. Maestro — Also a very impressive biopic, about an impressive guy. Hard to watch sometimes, but then so was Oppenheimer. That’s not a disqualifier for a Best Picture.
  4. Barbie — Lots of creative fun.
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon — The only one I haven’t seen, and only because it was on Apple TV+, and I cancelled that service (once I finished the most recent seasons of “Slow Horses”) before getting to it. I still intend to see it, but… I love Scorcese, and I was SO disappointed by “The Irishman.” I don’t want to go through that again…

That’s it for me right now. I’m going to go get some dinner now…

The one I’d have gone with, had impressiveness been my one criterion.

19 thoughts on “Which five movies SHOULD be Best Picture nominees?

  1. Randle

    I just finished watching the Oscars. Kind of predictable this year, but I enjoyed it. Jimmy Kimmel’s a good Oscar host. 7 pm is too early, though.
    But Michael Keaton was there. And Mark Ruffalo. The Ken song was fun and well-done. The dresses were mostly dumb. Ariana Grande’s dress looked like a collection of unexploded airbags.

    Brad, the Academy can nominate up to 10 movies, if they so choose. The number has varied since they changed the rules. I didn’t see them all so I can’t say if all were deserving this year, but there have been a few years when I wish they would have filled out the top ten with some I liked that didn’t make it. I didn’t like Anatomy of a Fall, which won for best original screenplay, but I fell asleep during the middle, so maybe I missed the good part.

    We didn’t get out to see many movies this year, but I did stream some. I saw Oppenheimer on the big screen, and knew it was a lock immediately. It was a good movie, and more to the point of the Oscars —
    it was a really good Oscar movie. I liked The Holdovers. Great cast. The director said he was going for a 1970s-style movie. Shot it to look like a 70s movie, he said. I’m not technically astute enough to know what he’s talking about, and I’m old enough so that 70s- style movies just look like movies to me.
    Barbie surprised me. It was really good and smart on a lot of levels. I watched it again and caught some of the stuff I missed the first time. I was quite taken with the sets and costumes the first time and paid a lot of attention to that. I wanted to see how faithfully they recreated that world I spent so much time in growing up. They did a great job, and they didn’t make Barbie an idiot. Or Ken, for that matter.

    I want to see the other nominees as time permits. Except Killers of the Flower Moon. I know what it’s about, and I’ve see enough home-grown awfulness these past few years. I’d rather watch Barbie again. Or The Martian. Why wasn’t that ever nominated?

    My list:
    1. Oppenheimer
    2. Barbie— glad at least the song won.
    3. The Holdovers
    4. Rustin — stellar cast and I learned something about our history. Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama.
    5. Nyad — Would the Academy please give Annette Bening an Oscar already?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Re The Holdovers… “The director said he was going for a 1970s-style movie. Shot it to look like a 70s movie, he said.”

      The one throwback touch I noticed was the opening frames showing the studio logos at the beginning. It grabbed my attention, because it was so obviously meant to evoke an era. But then I forgot about it, until I read things like this after seeing and enjoying the film. Turns out the logo above was a particularly quirky twist — 70s style, but Focus Features wasn’t founded until 2002.

      I love little touches like that.

      Other than that, it just looked normal because the kid was supposed to be 17, and it was set in the school year that was my senior year. So to me, this is how the world looks when you’re 17. Except that I was in Hawaii, so we didn’t have all that snow…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Also, “I saw Oppenheimer on the big screen, and knew it was a lock immediately.”

      Well, yeah. If you asked me which movie would WIN, it would obviously have been that.

      But I didn’t see it on the big screen. I didn’t see ANY of the four I saw in a theater. I saw them at home, on a 4k screen that’s plenty big enough for me. I was at home and comfortable, in the perfect environment for really WATCHING a movie. Nobody eating popcorn around me, or kicking the back of my seat. I watched with subtitles, which helps with my hearing problems. And I could pause or replay at any time, to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

      And while I’m shelling out for the streaming subscriptions, I didn’t have to pay a penny to get in to see any of them.

      Sure, you don’t have the “immersive experience” of the theater. But the distractions in a theater outweight the advantages of that effect.

      Back in the 70s when I reviewed movies for my paper — something I did on top of my paid job as a copy editor — I went out of my way to avoid those distraction. First, I drove to Memphis (82 miles away) to see the movies before they came to Jackson. Then I made a point of attending matinees, seeking a deserted theater. Of course, the paper reimbursed me for the ticket price. But it would have been SO much better, and I could have done a much better job, if I could have just streamed them at home…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Of the films I saw, the only other film that even seemed to be competing for “obvious Best Picture winner” was “Maestro.” And it lacked the size and scope of “Oppenheimer.”

      2. Barry

        “Sure, you don’t have the “immersive experience” of the theater. But the distractions in a theater outweight the advantages of that effect.”

        For a movie you really want to see, take the time to go to a matinee and watch it in the early afternoon.

        No crowd. Might only be 2-3 people there. No distractions. Great way to watch a movie.

        Yes, you have to take time off, but it’s worth it to enjoy something like a matinee.

        My experience with them is you really remember those movies you see at a matinee. I saw GLORY at a matinee with about 5 other people- none were together- all single- spread out.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, as I said, back in my reviewing days, I made a point of going to matinees whenever possible. If you must see it in a theater, that’s the way to do it…

      3. bud

        I don’t go to the theater anymore, but for different reasons. It’s just too expensive. The distractions aspect is actually worse for me at home. The phone rings constantly. The dog needs attention every 15 minutes. The sirens and noise from outside are palatable. But I do get to pause it when necessary to use the bathroom or get a drink. The immersive aspect of the theater really isn’t a thing anymore with big screens a great sound systems. Advantages to both.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “I don’t go to the theater anymore, but for different reasons. It’s just too expensive.”

          And for me, ALL the distractions at home you mention are taken care of by the fact that I can pause it. I can also multitask — watch a movie while working out om my elliptical trainer, right here in my office.

          I can also obsessively look up details about the film on my IMDB app.

          But most of all, I can watch everything with subtitles. Ever since I suddenly lost hearing in 2012, that has become critically important. It’s also greatly expanded my range of content, since it really doesn’t matter what language something is in originally. I’ve gotten into a lot of French, German and Scandinavian cop shows. The other night, I watched parts of both “Seven Samurai” and “Rashomon“…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I was just clicking around, and only watched part of each of the Kurosawa films. But I saw something interesting….

            The character who I think maybe Yul Brynner’s character was later based on appears early in “Samurai,” and in his first scene has some shave his head.

            So of course, Hollywood had to cast Yul Brynner…

            Of course, I didn’t watch enough to make sure — but since he’s the first samurai to agree to help the villagers, that’s probably him. I didn’t spot Steve McQueen…

  2. Randle

    This may be a repeat of a post I sent earlier. It showed up again, and I remembered that The Martian was nominated, so I cut that ending out. So if you’ve got two, delete the first one please.

  3. Dr Hugo Z Hackenbush

    American Fiction was my favorite landing just above The Holdovers. Smart and funny satire.

  4. Bill

    Best Book:
    An Elephant in the Garden: Inspired by a True Story,Paperback – October 8, 2013

    1. bud

      Just watched The Holdovers. Just an OK movie. But I did enjoy the ’70s vibe. I was taken aback by the crackling noise during the opening credits. But that was pretty common in movies made in the early 70s. Also, did anyone catch the Roman numeral release date during the opening credits? It said MCMLXXI or 1971. I can imagine 30 years from now people thinking this was made in 1971.

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