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Photo: Academy Awards/Oscars
Forget about the nominees’ controversy for a minute. 2019 has been a stellar film year. At the end of the day, whoever takes home the gold doesn’t matter, and will not, fifty years from now. Films like Citizen Kane, Saving Private Ryan, and Brokeback Mountain, just to name a few, were clearly snubbed out of deserved wins and yet those films live on regardless. A great film is a great film, and no piece of metal will change that. With that out of the way, I thought it would be fun to give my personal rankings of this year’s Best Picture nominees. No matter what happens on Sunday, I hope many, if not all of these nine films, will live on in history. All opinions are subjective and this is my personal list. If you disagree that’s wonderful. If everyone thought the same thing we’d be robots and that would just not be fun in any way, right?
9. Little Women
I have seven sisters and a mother who watched the different adaptions of Little Women yearly, and being the youngest, I was there to watch every year. To me, this is by far the best adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name. As my mother put it, “Little Women was delightful and fun.” Its placement here is more of a testament to how unique and crazy good the other 8 films are ahead of it. Is Little Women a game-changer? No. Is it well made? Absolutely. Have there been six other adaptions before this? Yep. Am I more biased to original films? Unashamedly so. Little Women takes a different approach to the story and makes some changes to the novel for sure and deserves praise for that. Director and writer Greta Gerwig is a clear heavyweight talent in the industry and should be regarded as such. Was Lady Bird better than this film? In literally every way. Gerwig’s 2017 film is one of the best of the century; Little Women is not. For those upset with her lack of nominations this year, there were other more innovative, game-changing, and transformative movies nominated while Little Women is simply clever and fun. Lady Bird fits those aforementioned attributes while this film doesn’t come close. Timothee Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan and the gang are at their best.
Can It Win: Nope. And for the very reason I just described. The Academy will go for something more out there and original. This is the seventh telling of Alcott’s novel and is happy just to be up there with the other contenders.
Full Commentary & Reactions From Stars on Little Women
This film was exciting and left me all smiles. Due to my overjoyed experience with this epic, I had it closer to number one, though reality eventually set in. That doesn’t change the fact that James Mangold is on a hitting streak with Logan and now this. His style works on many levels and couldn’t have been a more perfect fit to helm this project. Ford v Ferrari smartly stays character-centric which organically creates tension in the smooth chase scenes which thankfully aren’t dizzying. Christian Bale is a top two actor in my opinion (right alongside Leonardo DiCaprio), and for the first time in his career, seems to play a role that is more Bale than not thanks to the British, anger-filled rant racer Ken Miles. Bale’s co-star, Matt Damon, is criminally underrated here as Caroll Shelby and stood out as the better performer in many ways. The dialogue and subsequent chemistry between the two showcases the crazy star power flowing from the duo, matched only by the high levels of horsepower that drives this film to victory.
Can It Win: Definitely not. Like Little Women, Ford v Ferrari is just happy to be here. It’s lack of legitimate nominations in literally any other category sunk this film’s chances the minute it set foot in the discussion.
Behind The Scenes – Ford V Ferrari
7. The Irishman
Despite the impressively captivating 3 hour and 30-minute runtime, there’s a lot of “been there done that” about Martin Scorsese’s biopic. Luckily, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino are special in their own ways, overcoming some, at times distracting, but mostly mesmerizing de-aging effects.
I didn’t have to do multiple viewings which is what really struck me. Netflix’s familiar color palette and high-value production design are evident and have proven Netflix needs to be taken seriously in Hollywood. Scorsese hasn’t given his absolute greatest work with The Irishman, but man did I feel for Frank Sheeran and the paths he chose in life. Scorsese’s normal high violence and profanity are subdued here, as he shows more finesse in The Irishman than maybe ever before. It makes me think that Scorsese is tapping into another level of filmmaking and leaves me wanting more. Let’s just say I can’t wait for Killers of the Flower Moon.
Can It Win: Unlikely. People love nominating Scorsese but never enough to give him the top prize. He’s been snubbed multiple times (1 for 9), but they won’t right those wrongs by snubbing another film Sunday. I’d say he’s in the running for Best Director, but I’m even skeptical of that.
Related Article: Video: ‘The Irishman’ – Rendezvous At The Premiere of Netflix’s Oscar Buzzed & Golden Globes Nominated Film With Reactions From Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci & Team
Behind The Scenes – The Irishman
In the same way I had Ferrari at number two when first seeing it, such was the case with 1917. Sam Mendes’ war epic is a one-trick pony. But boy does it pull off that trick in truly awe-inspiring fashion. The cinematography, production design, lighting, and editing were by far the best of any film in 2019. It sucks you right into the film’s story in a way that stops you from breathing at times. I watched it by myself and realized it felt like being in a Call of Duty game, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. When films cut back and forth as they do, it subconsciously reminds us it is not real. Yet 1917‘s world feels all too real. It isn’t too loud, bombastic or violent. In fact, it uses those types of moments sparingly which elevates the story of courageousness.
Can It Win: Yes. In fact, it has been regularly ranked within the top three for various sites, and now sits at number one with the oddsmakers. Thanks to its wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, I really do believe it could pull off a complete sweep on Sunday and find a way to win all ten categories it is nominated for. Do I think it will? No. But I do see it going seven out of ten. Not a bad rate by any means.
Full Commentary & Reactions From Stars – 1917
5. Jojo Rabbit
I love Taika Waititi. That said I had super low expectations for this film. And when it got all the various nominations, I was definitely surprised. Then I finally saw the film when it showed up in my theater last week. And can I say, expectations demolished?
Next to a certain Clown Prince of Crime, Jojo Rabbit is arguably the most controversial film here. A satire on World War II was always going to generate heat on some level, but I think many like myself were surprised by the touching dramedy and focus on the central character, young Jojo. The humor and social commentary were smartly sprinkled throughout the story, becoming a more feel-good film than expected. For some that was a detriment, but those expecting a hardcore satire miss the main point: the story’s protagonist learns to love those he has been taught to hate. Jojo hit me in all the right spots and comes in right in the middle of the pack.
Can It Win: Jojo is a wild card yes. It’s got a better chance than almost any of the other films mentioned thus far except for 1917. That said, it will probably finish around fifth or so in voting, and I cannot imagine a world where this takes home Best Picture.
Reactions From Stars – JoJo Rabbit
4. Marriage Story
Perhaps the most realistic film I’ve witnessed in recent memory, Noah Baumbach has a knack for letting true aspects of life dictate his storytelling in a natural and heartbreakingly beautiful way. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver give career best performances here, allowing neither to feel like monsters or the victim. You go back and forth with both characters, shifting blame and heartbreak until the end you feel for both, even when neck-deep in their own flaws (aren’t we all?)
The script is incredible in its ability to mirror real life by going from humor and heartbreak at the flip of a switch. Life can do that to you, and Marriage Story understands this better than almost any film I’ve seen.
Can It Win: Yes, but a very distant yes at that. To me, my first and third picks alongside 1917 are way ahead of Marriage Story and the rest of the pack, but I do think of the films not expected to win, this has the best shot to pull the massive upset. If it weren’t a Netflix film, it would have a much better chance, but too many voters still believe the streaming service doesn’t deserve to be here…
Related Article: Is It Still Netflix Versus Oscars? Is The Academy Ready To Accept Netflix Based On Talent And Merit? ‘The Irishman’, ‘Marriage Story’, ‘Uncut Gems’, ‘The Two Popes’, ‘Dolemite Is My Name’
This would have been number one if not for one teensy tiny aspect: the ending was really, really good. Just not wow. In fact, the ending was, for me, predictable – albeit a satisfying one. I was genuinely shocked at how a film like Parasite hasn’t been made yet. So simple yet so genius. The humor completely balanced out the thrills and by the time the suspense kicked in, I had to stand up. Bong Joon-Ho has become distinct for his big endings, and Parasite is no different. That said Snowpiecer, which is one of my all-time favorite films ever made, had a better more subverting ending, elevating the overall story, while Parasite plateaued with its ending. Parasite’s finale does nothing to hurt the film, I just wasn’t wowed, and for me personally, I’ve learned endings pretty much decide my overall view on a film. They make it or break it. Parasite neither makes nor breaks, but instead, uses what it had built thus far and logically concludes its story on social class and family.
Can It Win: Absolutely. This is my favorite to win. At first, I assumed Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood would take home the gold, then I switched to 1917, and now Parasite. All three are neck and neck, but I’ve recently felt Parasite has gotten the late push needed to just barely overtake the other two. It’s not definite, but a gut feeling. Either way, you won’t see me complaining if it does indeed give Bong Joon-Ho a well-earned win.
Yes. I am an avid – scratch that – mega-huge avid Joker defender. What’s interesting is I wasn’t really that blown away on opening night. When Joker was first announced, I was not excited. The Joker is my favorite fictional character of all time, and DC’s track record is not stellar. Then the trailer came out and by God, I was a believer all over again.
When I saw Joker, I was very unconvinced by Joaquin Pheonix’s take on the titular character but was more or less satisfied. I had no intention of ever seeing it again, but a promise to a friend that I would see it with her forced me to give Todd Philips another chance. I’m not sure why, but my second viewing gave me a whole new perspective on the film. From the thematic elements to Philips’ direction and Pheonix himself, Joker suddenly worked on literally every level that it didn’t before. The first time around, Arthur Fleck was a cheap copy of the most captivating villain ever. But my second time, there wasn’t a moment where he didn’t convince as the Clown Prince of Crime. His performance came together and led a film that is hated for all the wrong reasons and sadly won’t have a chance to win come Sunday. But that’s okay, Joker will be talked about for years to come, especially with its one billion dollar take. Critics may be pouting, but Warner Bros. is laughing uncontrollably.
Can It Win: There is absolutely no way this would ever win in any universe. Philips spat in the face of the system and should be rewarded, but like most unique minds, received just enough praise to get nominated but will get zero awards outside of Best Actor and Original Score. When asking the general public their favorite films, Joker is consistently number one for many which speaks volumes to the public’s opinion versus the Academy’s. However, the odds for Joker have skyrocketed to fourth behind the three-headed monster recently. Maybe we will get a miracle? Cross your fingers Joker believers, there’s still hope.
Rendezvous At The Premiere – Joker
This will likely end up as one of my favorite films ever. I went to see Once Upon A Time in Hollywood three times at the cinema and multiple times at home. Like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino has a special brand of violence and profanity that takes a back seat to this subtle and thoughtful homage to Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” It is much less prideful than many Hollywood films however as Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie lead an all-star cast that fit right into this semi-fictional world built by the visionary director. Every time I finish watching I have to ask the question, “Is this QT’s best film?” And every time I turn it on, the answer is yes. Brad Pitt is, of course, the most talked-about actor in the film, and rightfully so. The moment Pitt’s Cliff Booth laughs in the face of evil was the moment Pitt won the Oscar. He deserves it too. The final climactic scene elevated the film and was the dagger in the heart of all other 2019 films, at least for me it was. This is must watch cinema that blends film, humor, emotion, and even a dream-like quality that stands above its competition.
Can It Win: Yes. The three-headed monster that includes a war epic (1917), a Hollywood tale (OUATIH), and a story of social class (Parasite) taunts the rest of the nominees this year. With every passing week, everyone changes their mind as to which of these three heavyweights will take home the prize, which comes as no surprise. Though my gut has shifted to Parasite, this still feels like Quentin’s year, and unlike many other celebs who win Oscars because of past snubs, the legendary director actually deserves this win by delivering his swan song of a film.
Rendezvous At The Premiere – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
By Merrick Sinclair
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Merrick Sinclair is a film journalist with a passion for cinema, Hollywood and filmmaking since a young age. Merrick focuses on reviews and features here at Hollywood Insider, and takes careful thought as to the impact cinema has on culture and what that means for us. Whether they be old or new, blockbuster or independent, Merrick understands the role movies have on society and how each individual has their own unique experience with movies. Merrick hopes to unpack his observations with clarity for readers while allowing them to walk away with their own opinions on any given topic.