9. Top Gun: Maverick (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Original Song)
Remember when anybody who believed that Top Gun: Maverick’s chances at a coveted Best Picture nomination were little more than a pipe dream when it first premiered at Cannes last year? Tom Cruise and Joseph Kosinski proved week after week, through consistent box office receipts and audience enthusiasm, that the film had more to offer than impressive techs and the patented Cruise charisma. But what makes it such a strong film is the surprising blend of heart, character intrigue, and action. Sure, it didn’t receive any acting nominations, but every actor within the film – from Miles Teller to Glen Powell to Jennifer Connelly to Val Kilmer and more – understood the assignment at hand. This could have easily been a naked nostalgia-based cash grab but all involved took the job with the utmost sincerity and, rather than dump the film on streaming at the onset of the pandemic where it would quickly be lost in the ether, it’s a serious Best Picture contender.
8. All Quiet on the Western Front (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best International Feature, Best Production Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling)
Why remake one of the first Best Picture winners, beyond the modern advancements in technology available? Director and co-writer Edward Berger has said that the rise of fascism and nationalism around the world is what prompted his All Quiet on the Western Front, and viewed from that lens, it makes for perhaps the most urgent film of 2022. Netflix’s sudden Best Picture contender continued to surprise Oscar pundits once awards body after awards body started recognizing the technical achievements of the film, and all are more than warranted. But the newest adaptation makes its own anti-war argument by repeating similar moments in different situations with similar outcomes. Consider the various “No Man’s Land” attacks that recur from the beginning to the end, and how they almost uniformly end in tragedy. We may be over a century removed from the horrors of World War I, but the sentiments that led to it are still frighteningly prescient today.
7. The Banshees of Inisherin (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Original Score)
The Banshees of Inisherin is a film so Irish that a ticket for admission should include a pint of Guinness and a potato. (So Irish, in fact, that one audience member at my screening walked out in the film’s opening minutes because she couldn’t understand the dialogue through the thick accents.) But Martin McDonagh’s latest, and perhaps best, film contains a universal sentimentality that anyone outside the Emerald Isle can relate to. It’s specifically a film about a friendship on the brink, and it has some grand statements to make about kindness that transcends its time and place. McDonagh’s screenplay is razor sharp and is brought to life by his In Bruges friends Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, plus fantastic supporting turns from Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. Darkly humorous but undeniably tender, The Banshees of Inisherin is one worth coming back to as much as any film on this list.
6. Everything Everywhere All at Once (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Original Song)
Any plot description of Everything Everywhere All at Once will only capture a fraction of what makes the film so special. I had revisited the film late in 2022 after the Oscar hype had only grown and become even more real, expecting my enjoyment to be diminished thanks to an overwhelmingly enthusiastic – to be generous, in some cases – fanbase. Instead I found myself won over to the film once again, just as amazed that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert could put so much into one movie and have it all coalesce into something so profound. From the costumes to the editing to the fight choreography to the (Oscar nominated) performances of all four of its leads, this could be one of the most unique Oscar winners in history. This isn’t some multiversal fluke – Everything Everywhere is the real deal.
5. RRR (Best Original Song)
Nothing has me more excited for the Oscars ceremony than the prospect of seeing Naatu Naatu performed live, and the live reaction to it. The best story in cinema of 2022 was the word-of-mouth buzz that built up for India’s action epic RRR. From the increasingly insane stunts to the intricately choreographed dance numbers, the film took our preconceived notions of action blockbusters and opened our eyes to a world of possibilities. But what sets RRR apart, and what generated genuine Best Picture potential, was the sheer earnestness with which the film takes its admittedly silly material. The action scenes are good enough to make the film great, but the emotional backbone of two lonesome souls fighting against tyranny is what makes it an instant classic.
4. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Best Documentary Feature)
I knew little about photographer and activist Nan Goldin before watching All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, but watching the Golden Lion winner gave me a new understanding of both the subject and her documentarian. Director Laura Poitras previously won for her documentary Citizenfour, a look at Edward Snowden and his crusade for exposing injustices within the government. And Goldin is a powerful activist, whose work against the Sackler family (of Purdue Pharma infamy) has affected a powerful change in art museums across the world. While some argue against Bloodshed saying it’s two separate films spliced into one, it comes together as a powerful portrait of a life of activism in different forms throughout a shifting American landscape.
3. Aftersun (Best Actor)
A24 pumps out many smaller, more critic-friendly films every year, and I had believed all the way until nomination morning that Aftersun would be just another one of those. Especially considering the film was the debut of director Charlotte Wells, and it barely made a dent at the box office. But Best Actor nominee Paul Mescal’s heartbreakingly nuanced portrayal of a struggling father clearly resonated with enough voters to warrant a nomination. Aftersun’s strength lies not just in its performances but in the way it portrays its dueling themes. Wells doesn’t spoon feed her thesis to the audience, often deferring to let scenes play out quietly and on the fringes. Whether you view the film as a coming-of-age tale for a girl on the brink of adolescence or a portrait of a man barely holding onto himself, or something more, there’s bound to be something rewarding within Aftersun.
2. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Best Animated Feature)
I don’t know if it will ever be possible to divorce myself from the euphoric experiences of seeing Marcel the Shell With Shoes On in the theater. But such is the nature of any list of ranked art. Nevertheless, Dean Fleischer Camp and Jenny Slate’s adaptation of their YouTube shorts contained an enormous degree of heart and a poignant message about community and loneliness. While it’s easy to point to the film as being too cute or too quippy, there’s a dark underbelly – especially to Fleischer Camp’s “Dean” character – that saves it from diving into schmaltz territory. I’ve already written profusely about Slate and Isabella Rossellini’s incredible voice work, but suffice it to say the film wouldn’t nearly pack the same emotional punch without them. More than any other film from 2022, Marcel will be one I return to again and again, and it’s one that should belong at or near the top of any Oscar list.
- TÁR (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Editing)
Nobody and nothing in TÁR is replaceable. (Exhibit A: it opens with the complete credits of cast and crew.) Not Todd Field’s screenplay, whose extensive research can be felt throughout every minute of this semi-fictionalized world. Nor, for that matter, Field’s direction, utilizing the camera to create a dynamic story – just watch the virtuoso ten minute one-take Julliard scene early in the film. Not Cate Blanchett, whose performance is, somehow, the best of her already great career, and whom Field specifically had in mind when he wrote the film. TÁR is the year’s best Oscar-nominated film because it speaks so eloquently to how we view celebrity, and how celebrities view themselves. In Lydia Tár’s case, she’s a perfectionist living in an imperfect world. Oscar history is full of unlikeable protagonists, including a handful this year, but TÁR is the most nuanced, complete vision, one that wouldn’t be as effective without every piece that put it together.
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