Ranking this year’s notable Oscar Nominees (2020)

This year is the first time I’ve seen all 9 best picture noms! It was a great year — much better than the past two IMO.

***DISCLAIMER: This list does not include (because I haven’t yet seen) Pain & Glory, The Two Popes, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Harriet, The Lighthouse, or Richard Jewel.

Here’s my ranking of the notable nominees.

The Irishman

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects

De Niro, Pacino and Scorsese are obviously legends. There’s no doubt about that. But this almost felt like Babe Ruth suiting up at 75 and trying to play in the World Series.

De Niro is 76, Pacino 79, and while both are still as incredibly talented as they’ve always been, in Irishman they’re playing guys who are at one point in the film supposed to be as young as 39. No amount of makeup or CGI made me forget that. And granted, I should’ve done some research before hitting play, but I honestly don’t remember a single thing about this movie. Its length was self-indulgent. Who can pay attention that long?

It’s not that I didn’t like it, it just wasn’t made for me. Mostly it just made me want to watch The Godfather and Dog Day Afternoon again!

Marriage Story

Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score

This movie had all the right ingredients: Noah Baumbach (writer/director) co-wrote and directed Frances Ha! We have the unconventionally handsome Adam Driver as the romantic lead! Scarlett Jo in a cute bob! LAURA DERN. I poured myself a glass of wine and prepared to shed them tears.

But to me, Marriage Story felt more like a master class on acting than a truly gripping (marriage) story. My favorite scene was the long shot of Scarlett Johansson’s monologue to Laura Dern’s character — it was written and acted beautifully. And who doesn’t love to see Driver sing Sondheim. But at the end of the movie that’s all I remembered…scenes. Good scenes! No story. No chemistry. No reason (that we, the audience, know of) why Adam Driver is screaming and sputtering and punching his sad LA apartment’s dry wall. I didn’t feel invested in this couple at all and that connection was necessary.

Ford v. Ferrari

Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

I loved seeing Matt Damon and Christian Bale onscreen together. I honestly just have no commentary on this movie other than that it was a solid movie, but not anything special to me. To quote Mary Siroky, this movie was “Thanksgiving for dads.”

Joker

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Joker was so unsettling and unpleasant to watch, as it should’ve been given the material, but even though Joaquin was amazing and the movie did affect me, I don’t know if it was a film worth making. If the message is a cautionary tale against marginalization and unresolved mental health issues, I can support that. But I fear parts of it seemed to mock and/or glorify embracing ones psychopathy.

The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the joker is one of the most interesting and effective villains ever created, but Dark Knight worked as it was a superhero movie with dark, psychological undertones, where as Joker was the the other way around — and this overall tone didn’t fully work for me.

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Once Upon A Time was long and slow for sure, but I was prepared for that. I was glad I did more research for this one prior to watching than I did for Irishman. One of my favorite roles I’ve seen Brad Pitt inhabit and it gave me all those old Hollywood nostalgia feels.

Margot Robbie should’ve been utilized way more than she was, but I loved Margaret Qualley’s and the powerful little tyke Julia Butters’ performances.

Bombshell

Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Makeup & Hairstyling

I thought the tone of Bombshell was fun, the performances were great (particularly Charlize) and any movie with Kate McKinnon is worth watching in my book. I think its controversial portrayal of Megyn Kelly was well-researched and I hope it continues to give women the courage to speak out against manipulative power dynamics in the workplace.

Judy

Best Actress, Best Makeup & Hairstyling

I loved Judy. I’d always been a Judy Garland fan (I mean, who isn’t), played the lead lollipop guild member to my older sister’s Dorothy in the late 90’s, but I did not know the full extent of her tragic childhood, and I think Judy portrayed this so effectively and empathetically.

When I think of this movie I think of the heartbreaking phone booth call she makes to her children — you feel so strongly for both sides, and it was such a revealing moment of her tragic through-line. While the ending was a bit too crowd-pleasing and feeble, I think Zellweger whole-heartedly deserves the best actress award this year.

Knives Out

Best Original Screenplay

Knives Out sports an incredible cast and a whip-smart script, and doesn’t go a predictable route story wise whatsoever. While I had wished it to be more ensemble-driven than it was, this movie was fun, funny, and relevant. One of my favorites this year.

Jojo Rabbit

Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

This is the movie I’ve seen most recently and I just loved this off-beat, anti-hate satire film. I thought utilizing Adolf as Jojo’s imaginary friend was brilliantly unsettling in the best way and loved how his demise was inversely related to Jojo’s growth.

Roman Griffin Davis was incredibly impressive as Jojo and I loved that Waititi used an adorably innocent boy as the vehicle for his antithesis of unprejudiced societal, cultural acceptance. I loved the journey the characters take and the ending was perfect. *chef’s kiss*

1917

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Although I believe the only one true shot lasted about 9 minutes, Sam Mendes (director) and Roger Deakins (cinematographer) somehow made the entire film feel like one shot, and it was simply one of the most impressive strategies I’ve ever seen in film.

I thought the two leads did an incredible job of exemplifying bravery, fear, humanity, and innocence, and its portrayal of war was so effective. I’m not sure where I read this but someone said: “It’s not exciting, it’s just gross. And that’s how war is.”

Little Women

Best Picture, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score

Greta Gerwig has become one of my favorite modern directors and it’s so incredibly frustrating that a film that was not only so enhanced and elevated by its direction, but wouldn’t even exist in its form without it, wasn’t given a best director nomination. But I digress…

I knew the big, spoiler-y moments of the story, but this was my first Little Women. I read an article on how that scene in Lady Bird (with Lady Bird and Sister Sarah talking about the similarities between love and attention) serving as the film’s thesis statement is also why Gerwig did such an incredible job with Little Women. She pays attention to the right things.

I loved the juxtaposition of the warm, nostalgic past with the colder, stark future, its message on femininity and how not marrying “the love of your life” doesn’t always mean it’s the wrong choice, and of course, the incredible cast. Saoirse Ronan was born to play Jo, Florence Pugh was incredibly funny and poignant as Amy, and the chemistry between Chamalet and Ronan was heartbreaking. Also, we all loved Laura Dern’s bad ass roles this year (from Big Little Lies to Marriage Story), but I loved seeing her as the warm, sensitive Marmee.

Gerwig made a Civil War era film feel timely — not only due to its obvious themes of female empowerment but also in its sub-themes of sister dynamics, the relation of marriage with economic ideals, and the very real and confusing feeling in your 20's and 30's of wanting to be a self-sufficient human, narrowly focused on goals and dreams, while also feeling the crippling weight of insecurity and loneliness.

Gerwig’s choice of making the film anachronistic enhanced its characters (particularly Amy) and its themes ten-fold. Closing out 2019 with this modern classic was perfect.

Parasite

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature Film, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

Parasite was a dark comedy turned thriller with such a unique screenplay and incredible cinematography that somehow managed to make a statement about classism amidst the chaos.

The word “parasite” comes to represent so many thematic elements and the ensemble-driven story places its individual parts so perfectly and purposefully in the canvas of the story and its statement. I’ve truly never seen a film like it, it’s so technically proficient, and it was one of the most audience-engaging movie experiences I’ve ever had.

Monica Moser is an Austin-based singer/songwriter, podcaster, & freelance journalist working in digital marketing in the music industry. TW/IG: @monicamoser

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