Oscar Predictions and Picks 2023

I love the Oscars. For the past six years, I have made it my goal to watch every single film nominated for an Oscar, and while it took me until today to do so, I’ve once again made that goal. This year I’m not posting my non-nominated picks, but just assume I’d have Aftersun listed for all eligible categories. Now, in time for Sunday’s ceremony, here are my predictions and my personal picks for this year’s event.

Short Film, Live Action

My Prediction: Le Pupille
My Pick: The Red Suitcase

It’s hard to predict against a film that has major representation in this category, and Le Pupille’s Disney backing as well as Alice Rohrwacher behind the helm should see it an easy win. If I had a vote though, I’d be going for The Red Suitcase, one of the best tension building exercises of the year.

Short Film, Animated

My Prediction: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse
My Pick: My Year of Dicks

Similar to the Live action category, it’s hard to predict against Idris Elba’s voice acting in The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse even though I found it overly saccharine, but My Year of Dicks was a really fun watch and gets my nod.

Short Film, Documentary

My Prediction: Stranger at the Gate
My Pick: Haulout

Much like the other short categories, I’m assuming the award goes to the film with the biggest name (Stranger at the Gate is executive produced by Malala). My personal favorite however is Haulout, an interesting take on the climate documentary.

Visual Effects

My Prediction: Avatar: The Way of Water
My Pick: Avatar: The Way of Water

I genuinely can’t imagine leaving the theater after seeing Avatar: The Way of Water and not asserting that it has the best visual effects of the year.


My Prediction: Elvis
My Pick: Babylon

While I loved the classic Hollywood cosutmes from the Babylon, betting against Catherine Martin (Elvis) is never a good bet.

Makeup and Hairstyling

My Prediction: Elvis
My Pick: Elvis

The best actor race plays out in makeup and hairstyling as well as both actors find themselves covered in prosthetics during their respective movies. I’m leaning towards an Elvis win as that’s the more beloved film, and the aging of Austin Butler will likely garnish more votes.

Production Design

My Prediction: Babylon
My Pick: Babylon

While Babylon may have been met with lukewarm responses, it seems to be a favorite for the production design award with its recreation of classic Hollywood.


My Prediction: Top Gun: Maverick
My Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

This race may end up being closer than most people think, but I do believe Top Gun: Maverick will pull out this (and maybe only this) Oscar, even though All Quiet on the Western Front is my favorite and is nipping at its heels.

Original Song

My Prediction: Naatu Naatu (RRR)
My Pick: Naatu Naatu (RRR)

I normally hate picking this category, as I feel that I have a good eye for what makes a film good, but this category is about the quality of the song. That said, this year is an obvious pick as RRR will win the award for it wonderful Naatu Naatu which it’s performance should be a highlight of the evening.

Original Score

My Prediction: Babylon
My Pick: Babylon

I know it’s been losing ground and hasn’t won all the precursors, but I don’t want to live in a world where Justen Hurwitz’s score doesn’t win.


My Prediction: Everything Everywhere All At Once
My Pick: Everything Everywhere All At Once

As we get closer and closer to Oscar night, it really appears that Everything Everywhere All At Once will walk away from the night with quite the haul of gold statues and editing will be the hallmark that it’s happening.


My Prediction: All Quiet on the Western Front
My Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front is an extremely beautiful film and should run away with the Oscar over Elvis.

Documentary Feature

My Prediction: Navalny
My Pick: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Navalny hits well in the current cultural zeitgeist as the war in Ukraine passes the 1-year mark and the discontent with Russia remains at an all time high. I personally loved Laura Poitras’s All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, but it’s odds of winning are very low given the narrative.

Animated Feature

My Prediction: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
My Pick: Turning Red

The year that the Disney/ Pixar monopoly on this category will finally come to an end, is the only year that I wish it would win. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a beautiful dark fairytale that is a deserving winner, but I loved the unabashed period allegory that was Pixar’s Turning Red.

International Film

My Prediction: All Quiet on the Western Front
My Pick: The Quiet Girl

This category is getting to be one of the easiest to predict. The picture that receives a bunch of nominations outside of this category will be the one to win, and this year that goes to All Quiet on the Western Front. And while I did very much enjoy that film. Ireland’s pastoral The Quiet Girl moved me in ways that the war film was incapable of.

Adapted Screenplay

My Prediction: Women Talking
My Pick: Women Talking

I really loved Women Talking and was saddened by it’s relative poor performance at this year’s Oscar nominations (though the best picture nod was a welcome surprise). Sarah Polley’s screenplay was the highlight of the film and should result in her winning the Oscar.

Original Screenplay

My Prediction: Everything Everywhere All At Once
My Pick: Everything Everywhere All At Once

With a heavy emphasis on the word “original” Everything Everywhere All At Once will continue its domination of the night by winning a screenplay award.

Supporting Actor

My Prediction: Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
My Pick: Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

Even though he didn’t win all of the precursors (what was that BAFTAs?), the most obvious award of the night goes to Ke Huy Quan for his wonderful performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Supporting Actress

My Prediction: Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
My Pick: Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin)

I just don’t see a Marvel film winning an acting award, and I think Bassett should be happy with just the nomination given how much of a long shot it was. With her win at SAG I think Jamie Lee Curtis is in the best position to win this category even though I personally think Kerry Condon was the best part of Banshees and would love to see her win.

Lead Actor

My Prediction: Austin Butler (Elvis)
My Pick: Paul Mescal (Aftersun)

The 3-way race between Butler, Farrell, and Fraser (my personal choice of Paul Mescal was never in contention) finally comes to an end, and while at many times this looked like Fraser’s to lose, I think the general animosity towards The Whale will end up being his downfall, and the much more loved Elvis will see Austin Butler his first win.

Lead Actress

My Prediction: Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
My Pick: Cate Blanchett (TÁR)

The hardest category to pick this year is Lead Actress where Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett are locked in a 2-horse race for the gold. While I and I believe the majority of Oscar voters believe that Blanchett’s performance was superior, Yeoh being a part of the Best Picture winner (spoiler) and having various narratives on her side will I believe push her over the edge to the win, but I won’t be the least surprised to hear Blanchett’s name called.


My Prediction: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
My Pick: Todd Field (TÁR)

When Daniels won the DGA, they assured themselves this win. The film is a glorious piece of direction balancing the originality of its script with some spectacular performances. I personally would have voted for TÁR as Todd Field created a deep nuanced feature about the current world, but I don’t begrudge the Daniels their win.


My Prediction: Everything Everywhere All At Once
My Pick: TÁR

Capping off an award heavy night will be Everything Everywhere All At Once winning the night’s final and biggest award. Some people are trying to predict Top Gun: Maverick as a black sheep contender, but with EEAAO winning PGA, SAG, WGA, and DGA it is all but impossible for anything else to win including my personal favorite TÁR which much like director will lose to the Daniels behemoth.

Oscar Nomination Prediction 2023

The Oscar nominations go live early Tuesday morning, so in the tradition of online movie reviewers, I’m giving my predictions on who will see the nomination.

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front has proven to be the international film that will make this year’s list after it’s stellar performance at the BAFTAs. After that, it’s only the 10 slot with a big question mark. My heart wants Women Talking, but my brain thinks this year women directors will find themselves shut out.

  1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
  2. The Banshees of Inisherin
  3. The Fabelmans
  4. TÁR
  5. Elvis
  6. Top Gun: Maverick
  7. Avatar: The Way of Water
  8. All Quiet on the Western Front
  9. The Whale
  10. Triangle of Sadness

Best Director – The top 4 are all locks, and again after the BAFTA nomination performance, it’s hard to count out Edward Berger as the final slot. Another unfortunate major category without a women included (sorry Sara Polley and Charlotte Welles).

  1. Daniels – Everything Everywhere All At Once
  2. Todd Field – TÁR
  3. Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
  4. Martin McDonagh – The Banshees of Inisherin
  5. Edward Berger – All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Actress

After the big 2 up top, the rest of the slots could give. Deadwyler gave a performance more than worthy of her slot, but the question is how many people saw Til? Michelle Williams used to be a lock, but some poor showings in prior awards nominations puts her on the chopping block, but I assume we’ll see her on Tuesday morning. With the last slot, I’m guessing Viola Davis will get in over Ana de Armas in the reviled Blonde, and Margot Robbie in Babylon (which would be my personal pick for the 5th slot).

  1. Cate Blanchett – TÁR
  2. Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All At Once
  3. Danielle Deadwyler – Til
  4. Michelle Williams – The Fabelmans
  5. Viola Davis – The Woman King

Best Actor – Another category with 4 slots locked up, the question comes to the 5th slot. While most outlets are predicting a Tom Cruise nomination for Top Gun: Maverick, I feel this will be the lone acknowledgement for the best film of the year with Paul Mescal sneaking in for Aftersun.

  1. Brendan Fraser – The Whale
  2. Colin Farrell – The Banshees of Inisherin
  3. Austin Butler – Elvis
  4. Bill Nighy – Living
  5. Paul Mescal – Aftersun

Best Supporting Actress – An interesting batch this year, I’d call the first 4 relatively safe, but anything could happen in this category. The big question mark is who will take that last slot with Stephanie Hsu attempting to get Everything Everywhere All At Once two nominations in this category, but I’m going with Dolly De Leon from Triangle of Sadness.

  1. Kerry Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. Hong Chau – The Whale
  3. Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All At Once
  4. Angel Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  5. Dolly De Leon – Triangle of Sadness

Best Supporting Actor

Ke Huy Quan is the easiest bet for a win now. The Banshees of Inisherin look to be a lock to get 2 nominations in with Gleeson and Keoghan both looking obvious. The main question in this category is the 5th slot, which will be a large step down from the top 4. It’s looking now like Eddie Redmayne (who I still secretly can’t stand after his The Danish Girl performance) will provide The Good Nurse with it’s only nomination of the night.

  1. Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once
  2. Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
  3. Barry Keoghan – the Banshees of Inisherin
  4. Paul Dano – The Fabelmans
  5. Eddie Redmayne – The Good Nurse

Best International Feature Film – An interesting category this year, The top 3 slots are pretty much a given (and their order is as well). I’m predicting a bit of an upset with Corsage, but I think a stellar performance from Vicky Krieps will propel the film into the conversation.

  1. All Quiet on the Wester Front
  2. Decision to Leave
  3. Argentina, 1985
  4. The Quiet Girl
  5. Corsage

Best Animated Feature

Another category with 4 slots locked in. The 5th slot could go to a variety of options, but I’m putting faith in GKIDS to get a foreign film into the category with Inu-Oh (it helps that I really connected with the film). I see it just beating out Wendell & Wild for the slot.

  1. Tuillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
  2. Turning Red
  3. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
  4. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
  5. Inu-Oh

Best Documentary Feature – The real question with this category is whether the voting block will break their unofficial veto on musical documentaries to nominate the wonderfully innovative Moonage Daydream. If it doesn’t get in look to The Territory or Descendant to fill the last slot.

  1. All The Beauty and the Bloodshed
  2. Fire of Love
  3. All that Breathes
  4. Navalny
  5. Moonage Daydream

Best Original Screenplay – All of my predictions for this category show up above in my best picture guesses, with Elvis being the lone film on the outside looking out (it is much more about the imagery than the writing). It’s hard to imagine any other film breaking into this category with Babylon and Aftersun looking quite a way up from the 6 and 7 slots.

  1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
  2. The Banshees of Inisherin
  3. The Fabelmans
  4. TÁR
  5. Triangle of Sadness

Best Adapted Screenplay

The category for Sarah Polley’s revenge after being snubbed in the above categories. All Quiet on the Western Front will continue it’s post BAFTA dominance as an international film. The 5th slot will likely go to Living even though She Said found a surprising BAFTA nomination.

  1. Women Talking
  2. The Whale
  3. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front
  5. Living

Best Cinematography – This is the hardest category to predict with the precursor awards being all over the place. Top Gun: Maverick is the only lock with the other 4 being any of about a dozen options. I leaned closer to the films that would receive a bunch of nominations, but don’t be surprised if films like Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Empire of Light, and The Batman find their way in.

  1. Top Gun: Maverick
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front
  3. Avatar: The Way of Water
  4. The Fabelmans
  5. Elvis

Best Editing – Similar to Cinematography, this category is pretty wide open. The top 2 are obvious but after that it opens wide up. Elvis, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Fabelmans all fall into the category of most-editing equals best-editing which Academy voters tend to fall for.

  1. Top Gun: Maverick
  2. Everything Everywhere All At Once
  3. Elvis
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front
  5. The Fabelmans

Best Production Design

The first category that the commercial flop though visually stunning Babylon has a real chance in, and it is a frontrunner.  The rest of the category is filled with Oscar favorites for other categories.

  1. Babylon
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water
  3. Elvis
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front
  5. The Fabelmans

Best Sound – The consolidation of the sound category makes it much easier to guess, and this year the top 5 seem pretty solid, though I guess The Batman could sneak in if the Academy really takes to that film.

  1. Top Gun: Maverick
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front
  4. Everything Everywhere All At Once
  5. Elvis

Best Visual Effects

The backlash on Marvel movies appears to be strong in this branch this year between the VES and BAFTAs shutting out Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Maddness. So that leaves the 5th slot wide open. I’m taking a wild guess on the slot and predicting an upset from Nope.

  1. Avatar: The Way of Water
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front
  3. Top Gun: Maverick
  4. The Batman
  5. Nope

Best Original Score – This is Justin Horowitz category to lose and finds Babylon locked for the top slot. My main question for this category goes to the last slot. John Williams may seem like the obvious pick for The Fabelmans, but I have to go with the most atmospheric and innovative score of the year in Volker Bertelmann’s work for All Quiet on the Western Front.

  1. Babylon
  2. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
  3. Women Talking
  4. The Banshees of Inisherin
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Costume Design – Is now where I admit that I haven’t seen Black Panther: Wakanda Forever yet? Regardless I have to go with the expects and put this as the front runner. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris gets in with the “only for costumes” slot that pop up once every year or two, and sits around some heavy Oscar contenders. As mediocre as it was, don’t be surprised if Amsterdam finds its way into one of these slots on Tuesday.

  1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  2. Elvis
  3. Babylon
  4. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
  5. The Woman King

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Makeup and Hairstyling tends to be all about the prosthetics and my high contenders all make substantial use of them. Crimes of the Future might be a long shot at my number 5, but I just feel in my ear covered body that it will get in.

  1. The Whale
  2. Elvis
  3. Amsterdam
  4. The Batman
  5. Crimes of the Future

Best Original Song – Time for my standard “I’m not a music critic” stance, but this year’s list of songs seem pretty easy to guess with the RRR sensation “Naatu Naatu” looking like an easy frontrunner. Diane Warren will continue her undeniable streak at the Oscars and will force me to watch a film I’ve never heard of before in Tell it Like a Woman.

  1. “Naatu Naatu” – RRR
  2. “Hold My Hand” – Top Gun: Maverick
  3. “Lift Me up” – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  4. “Applause” – Tell it Like a Woman
  5. “Ciao Papa” – Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

Best Narrative Short/ Animated Short/ Documentary Short – I haven’t seen these films and can’t make a comment.

The Best Films of 2022

It’s list time again! I love films and I love sharing my love of films with others. As I’ve done for the past decade, I’ve put together a list of what I consider to be the best films of the year that just ended. This was a rather average year for film. I genuinely adore my number one film, but the rest of the list is primarily a 3 ½ to 4-star level, so good to great, but not exceptional. Of the films on this list, 8 of them were directed by women, which while not as high of a percentage as I strive for, it substantially beats the industry average which continues to hover around 10% penetration for women. As always, living in Seattle there are some films that don’t make it out here in time, so films which may have made this list, but I was unable to view include: The Blue Caftan, Broker, Close, Joyland, Living, No Bears, One Fine Morning, Return to Seoul, Saint Omer, and Women Talking. Now without further ado, the list.

25. Triangle of Sadness (Dir. Ruben Östlund)

Swedish director Ruben Östlund follows up his Palme d’Or winning The Square with another Palme winning condemnation of the rich in Triangle of Sadness. The film is broken into three parts, and each elevates the prior while becoming more and more class conscious. The highlight sequence is what the trailer made infamous, a stormy night on a yacht ends in the repeated vomiting of the rich guests all while the captain (played by Woody Harrelson), seemingly unaffected by the turbulence, quotes Marx over the intercom to the highly capitalist boarders.

24. After Yang (Dir. Kogonada)

Five years after his debut film Columbus, director Kogonada returns with After Yang, a film just as deliberate and ponderous as his previous work, but this time with a science fiction twist. The film takes place in the near future where a family A.I. stops working and a man’s journey to fix it. The film uses this journey to turn a mirror on the human condition from the viewpoint of an impartial observer. Colin Farrell continues to deliver stellar performances in off kilter science-fiction films (think his work with Yorgos Lanthimos), and After Yang might be his best yet.

23. Turning Red (Dir. Domee Shi)

Disney and Pixar have frustrated me over the past handful of years. The story telling which had been a strength of Pixar in general had gotten stale as the same voices created film after film. Thankfully Turning Red changes things up by looking to the up-and-coming Domee Shi (known for the short film Bao) for direction. The film is an unabashed first period allegory, and its honesty about the embarrassing moments in any true coming of age story is heartwarming from a studio that can often feel too polished.

22. Elvis (Dir. Baz Luhrmann)

As a rule, I don’t love, or even really like, the music biopics that have been in vogue the last few years, but Elvis has director Baz Luhrmann as a wild card to elevate the film from the tired genre. Luhrmann’s films all have a frenetic energy and Elvis is no different. The film makes use of an extremely short average shot length to heighten the story of the rock star’s life. Austin Butler gives a miraculous performance as the legendary singer, and Tom Hanks gives a memorable, though debatable if good, performance as well.

21. Inu-Oh (Dir. Masaaki Yuasa)

Part anime folk tale, part larger-than-life rock opera, Inu-Oh was the best 2022 animation had to offer (Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio just misses this list). The film combines beautiful hand-drawn animations with a soundtrack of hair metal inspired jams that is surprisingly catchy despite being entirely in Japanese. The film does start a bit slow before the two main characters meet, but once they do its nonstop sensory bombardment is a joy to behold. An innovative take on the power of storytelling Inu-Oh captivates the imagination.

20. The Fabelmans (Dir. Steven Spielberg)

From a craft standpoint, The Fabelmans is unimpeachable. The editing is exquisite and the cinematography brilliant. Michelle Williams is the obvious standout actor as the highly emotional matriarch of the Fabelman family. The energy she brings to the family dynamic provides much of the conflict for the film, and a less ambitious performance would not have served the film nearly as well. The only think keeping The Fabelmans so low on this list is that the script comes off awfully self-aggrandizing. Spielberg may be a genius, but one would hope he had the humility to not boastfully declare himself so.

19. Hit the Road (Dir. Panah Panahi)

First time filmmaker Panah Panahi (he previously worked as an Editor on the Jafar Panahi film 3 Faces) created a wonderfully personal story of a family on a road trip to say goodbye to the eldest son. The three other family members maintain a highly chaotic energy throughout the trip in the face of the upcoming loss. These energetic dispositions allow a lot of introspection into the lives of these people and creates a loving picture of a family on the precipice of a major change.

18. Babylon (Dir. Damien Chazelle)

Damien Chazelle’s most ambitious and messiest film is a depiction of Hollywood excess and debauchery during the rise of the talkie films. Babylon is the most uneven film to make my year end list, but when the film is on, it’s one of the best films of the year. The first half of the film in general left me speechless by its adoration for what Hollywood can be. Margot Robbie while already a star proves she deserves the honorific. Even when the film slows down, the driving beats and squawking horns that make up the best score of the year leave the film in the highest regards. It is only a monumentally awful ending that keeps Babylon so low on this list.

17. Fire of Love (dir. Sara Dosa)

The first of this year’s documentaries to make my list, Fire of Love is as much an informative documentary on the destructive power of volcanoes as it is a heart wrenching love story of two soul mates who died doing what they loved together. Fire of Love is full of warmth from focusing so intently on the Krafft couple. Miranda July lends her unique voice to the film as narrator and transforms the film into something deeply emotional, but while the love story is what stands forward, the dangerous reality of the couple’s occupation is never forgotten.

16. EO (Dir. Jerzy Skolimowski)

The spiritual successor to 1966’s Au hazard Balthazar (dir. Robert Bresson) EO is simply a story of a donkey. Despite the almost complete lack of dialogue, EO is a highly scripted film. Director Jerzy Skolimowski does not seek to tell the story of a random donkey but a very specific, fictional donkey who is constantly given the power to roam the countryside and find various slice of life vignettes. Through the eyes of the animal Skolimowski turns the camera on Eastern European culture. A deeply heartwarming film EO deserves to be spoken of with its predecessor.

15. Cow (Dir. Andrea Arnold)

Andrea Arnold (American Honey and Fish Tank) leaves the world of narrative film making to make her first documentary in Cow. The storytelling Arnold achieves using no dialogue and no human actors is commendable. Cow 29 (we’re never given a name aside from the branding on the left butt cheek) lives the tragic story of a cow forced to give birth and then separated from her offspring. While normal for a dairy cow, Arnold knows that the audience won’t be able to help but personify the girl and feel for her as they would a human in the same situation. All this is done with nothing but closeup photography and careful editing.

14. The Northman (Dir. Robert Eggers)

Revenge tales have been around for decades, but while most use an awful circumstance as a basis for delivering later catharsis, The Northman subverts this formula and focuses on the self-destructive nature inherent in making revenge your only goal in life. Alexander Skarsgård expertly captures this desperation and believably refuses to acknowledge the reality of the situation that has motivated his entire life. Eggers combines this innovative take on the revenge film with his immaculate style to create a fully unique piece of filmmaking.

13. Avatar: The Way of Water (Dir. James Cameron)

Spider as a character didn’t work for me, I didn’t buy Sigourney Weaver as a teenager, and Neytiri was completely wasted, but when it comes to what people expect of an Avatar sequel, the spectacle, The Way of Water delivers and then some. Pandora is once again realized in perfect clarity, and the movement to the water for this sequel just makes the visuals more impressive. This combined with 3D the best it has ever looked create a cinema watching experience that is unmatched.

12. All Quiet on the Western Front (Dir. Edward Berger)

French auteur François Truffaut is credited with saying that “there’s no such thing as an anti-war film.” The implication being that any depiction of war would inherently glorify it. 2022’s All Quiet on the Western Front argues the opposite as every moment of this beautiful film makes war seem completely miserable. This is accomplished not only with meticulously crafted visuals, but with a year’s best sound design creating a hellish soundscape through the non-diegetic decisions highlighted by the eerie Volker Bertelmann score.

11. Armageddon Time (Dir. James Gray)

A small yet deeply personal coming-of-age tale about a young boy growing up on the right side of the tracks witnessing the difficulties of his friend on the other side. Paul (Banks Repeta). a young jewish boy, finds a comradery with Johnny (Jaylin Webb), a young black boy, as they both find themselves in constant trouble at school. Through their friendship, Paul comes to terms with the racism that’s still heavily present in 1980 America. While this could take on a preachy tone, Gray centers the viewpoint on Paul who is wide-eyed enough to keep the film full of innocence.

10. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Dir. Laura Poitras)

A stunning documentary about both the life and current activism of photographer Nan Goldin. Untwisting the two throughlines, it is clear that Nan agreed to the documentary as a way to amplify her fight against the Sackler family and their contribution to the ever-growing opioid epidemic that ravishes the country. Through that access though Laura Poitras is able to bring to light the decades long work of one of the nation’s most important cultural photographers. Poitras blends these two topics seemingly only connected through Nan herself in a way that provides more power to them both.

9. Decision to Leave (Dir. Park Chan-wook)

Park Chan-wook’s foray into neo-noir filmmaking proves that he is a master of all genres with a darker hint to them. Decision to Leave employs many of the genre’s staples: it stars a grizzled detective who falls in love with a femme fatal while attempting to solve a case she is related to. What the film utilizes that separates it from a sea of neo-noirs is a deft hand with melodrama. The melodrama never feels saccharine in Chan-wook’s hands, but they do elevate the attachment to characters and intrigue of the mystery.

8. The Quiet Girl (Dir. Colm Bairéad)

The Quiet Girl follows Cáit (Catherine Clinch) one of many siblings living in an overstuffed and impoverished household. Neglected by her family, she struggles in school and altogether lives a poor life. It’s only upon going to spend the summer with distant relatives that she is shown what love is and she begins to flourish. Watching Cáit slowly accept love into her life and emerge from her shell is the highlight of the film. The Quiet Girl manages to capture warmth and familial love in an extremely special way.

7. She Said (Dir. Maria Schrader)

Just as good if not better than Spotlight in my opinion. By centering the film on women reporters and victims, She Said enhances the Oscar winning, investigative journalism film by adding a deeper sense of heart. Zoe Kazan is excellent as the lead reporter Jodi Kantor and plays up the reporter in over her head quite well. Her performance is supported perfectly by Carey Mulligan’s more experienced and hard-edged Megan Twohey. Together they deliver a powerful one-two punch in this important retelling of recent history. Special callout to Nicholas Britell and Caitlin Sullivan who put out one of the best scores of the year even if it appears they won’t be getting any awards recognition for it.

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once (Dir. Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan)

In their combined follow up to Swiss Army Man (2016) (Daniel Scheinert did have 2019’s The Death of Dick Long as a solo film in between), Daniels delivered a film just as if not more heightened than their feature debut, yet somehow more relatable to the mainstream. Everything Everywhere All at Once hinges on the performance of its lead Michelle Yeoh to take audiences on a journey to the edge of the world and to worlds beyond that. Yeoh delivers on those lofty goals and creates a perfect viewer conduit for the wild imaginations of Daniels.

5. Girl Picture (Dir. Alli Haapasalo)

I don’t have a great explanation for why this Finnish lesbian romance is so high on my list, but upon leaving the theater after watching it I was all smiles. The film’s focus on female friendship and a young lesbian romance was refreshing in a heteronormative movie landscape. Mimmi‘s (Aamu Milonoff) volatile nature as she gets in fights at school, messes around at work, and falls in and out and back in love make her the standout performance, but all three young leads are remarkable in their honesty.

4. Vortex (Dir. Gaspar Noé)

If provocateur Gaspar Noé releases a film it will indubitably make my year end list, and Vortex is no different, even though this one has a much more somber tone than his standard fair. The film utilizes a unique dual screen setup to capture the day-to-day goings on of a couple dealing with the women’s onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Notably, Italian auteur Dario Argento plays one of the leads in a stunning declaration that he can act just as well as make excellent films. Like many of Noé’s films Vortex is a brutal watching, this time just for more emotional reasons.

3. TÁR (Dir. Todd Field)

I’m an auteurist at heart, I believe most films are a product of their director first and foremost, but TÁR is one of those few exceptions. TÁR is 100% Cate Blanchett’s film. The film focuses on one of our greatest working actors for the entire three-hour duration of the film while she slowly begins to reckon with the decisions she’s made over the course of her career. Blanchett’s perfectly captures the fictional composer who exudes charisma while preparing for a new performance and pursuing affairs.

2. The Eternal Daughter (Dir. Joanna Hogg)

The third feature in director Joanna Hogg’s Souvenir series adopts a more mysterious tone than its grounded predecessors. It also trades a mother daughter casting choice of Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne for dual roles for Tilda as both mother and daughter. While the film is full of Hogg’s trademark slow conversations with meaning carefully hidden behind meticulously chosen dialogue, the aforementioned changes lead to a single static shot that’s the most emotional moments of the year (at least that doesn’t come from the next film).

1. Aftersun (Dir. Charlotte Wells)

Number one with a bullet, the directorial debut of Charlotte Wells is a meandering memory captured largely on standard def camcorder. What makes Aftersun so special is the underlying emotionality of the film. What may look like just home movies of a father/daughter trip to a Turkish resort takes on a much deeper meaning because of the implications of the present. It’s likely that this is the last time the two main characters ever saw each other and witnessing their personal mostly, but not completely, hidden feelings feels like prying into things which should never be shared. Calum (Paul Mescal) is doing everything in his power to create a wonderful memory for Sophie (newcomer Frankie Corio), but his personal dramas have a way of seeping out in a way that affects Sophie for years to come. Aftersun is the best cinema had to offer this year, and is the best film of the young decade thus far.

2022 Oscar Predictions and Picks

I love the Oscars. For the past five years, I have made it my goal to watch every single film nominated for an Oscar, and this year I finished with a week to spare. In time for Sunday’s ceremony, here are my predictions and my personal picks for this year’s event.

Visual Effects

My Prediction: Dune
My Pick: Dune; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

A lot of the technical awards are going to be easy Dune picks and predictions. The film is beautiful and much of that comes from the visual effects.


My Prediction: Cruella
My Pick: Cruella; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

While I didn’t love Cruella as a film, the creative costuming throughout the film, especially as Cruella was making her name are fetes to behold and are a good choice for a winner.

Makeup and Hairstyling

My Prediction: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
My Pick: Cruella; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Spencer

Makeup and Hairstyling tends to be highly correlated with prosthetic usage, and while I think that trend will continue with The Eyes of Tammy Faye, I don’t believe the prosthetics looked especially convincing. I would personally recognize the unnominated Spencer for it’s excellent natural looks transforming Kristen Stewart into princess Diana.

Production Design

My Prediction: Dune
My Pick: Dune; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – The French Dispatch

Another technical win that should be a sure thing for Dune, but in a year in which Wes Anderson directed a movie, it feels wrong not to give it to The French Dispatch.


My Prediction: Dune
My Pick: Dune; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Another easy to predict and well-deserved technical category for Dune to run away with.

Original Song

My Prediction: No Time to Die (No Time to Die)
My Pick: No Time to Die (No Time to Die); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

I hate picking this category. I feel that I have a good eye for what makes a film good, but this category is about the quality of the song, the movie is an afterthought. That said, this year is a pretty easy pick of the most recent Bond themes, No Time To Die by Billie Eilish.

Original Score

My Prediction: Dune
My Pick: The Power of the Dog; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Jonny Greenwood’s other worldly scores are not the type that may resonate with the academy, but the mood inducing musical snippets were the perfect accompaniment for Jane Campion’s neo-western. Instead, I think the academy is much more likely to embrace the more standard Hans Zimmer score for Dune.


My Prediction: Dune
My Pick: The Power of the Dog; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Another technical award that I anticipate Dune walking away with at the end of the night, but I believe that The Power of the Dog has a much more subtle but effective editing technique. Every shot in the later film feels personally plucked to build the mood and accentuate each character.


My Prediction: Dune
My Pick: The Power of the Dog; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Similar to Editing, Cinematography is another technical category that will go to Dune, and not unwarrantedly, but I personally found more joy in the quieter craft work of The Power of the Dog.

Short Film, Live Action

My Prediction: The Long Goodbye
My Pick: The Dress; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

This category tends to go to the most heavy-handed message film, and The Long Goodbye fills that quota for the year. The Dress was the more nuanced film that I’d love to see win, but will sadly lose to the more forceful short.

Short Film, Animated

My Prediction: Robin Robin
My Pick: Bestia; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Robin Robin is a cute, animated, animal film and will likely win because of that. Bestia on the other hand asks much more of the audience but delivers a richer experience for those willing to meet the film where it is at.

Short Film, Documentary

My Prediction: Audible
My Pick: Audible; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Gold Derby may not agree with my prediction, but in the year of CODA I find it hard to believe that Audible, the short film about a deaf high school football team wouldn’t resonate with voting academy members. It doesn’t hurt that it is the best film of the bunch either.

Documentary Feature

My Prediction: Summer of Soul
My Pick: Flee; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Summer of Soul is an excellent concert documentary expertly edited to include historical context with amazing performances. The film is an masterwork of editing, but Flee is the stronger overall film.

Animated Feature

My Prediction: Encanto
My Pick: Flee; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

The Disney/ Pixar monopoly on this category has become a little ridiculous. Encanto was the best they put out this year and as such is the odds-on favorite to win, but Flee used the medium to tell a story that couldn’t be told any other way. The documentary telling the life story of a refugee was heartbreaking and would win from a fairer academy.

International Film

My Prediction: Drive My Car
My Pick: Drive My Car; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

In any other year, the wonderful The Worst Person in the World would be an easy frontrunner with its Best Original Screenplay nomination boosting its name recognition, but this year both the Academy and I will agree that Drive My Car is just a little bit better. It is hard to bet against any international film that also has a Best Picture nominee, and the slow burn meditation on grief will justifiably take home the award at the end of the night.

Adapted Screenplay

My Prediction: CODA
My Pick: The Power of the Dog; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

The Power of the Dog is too subtle for its own good to win this category. The deliberate pacing that Campion uses in creating the slow burn drama shows incredible restraint and precision in screenwriting. Such finesse is likely to be overlooked in favor of the more traditional plot structure Sian Heder implements in CODA.

Original Screenplay

My Prediction: Belfast
My Pick: Licorice Pizza; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Belfast is a middling film that seems to have an unending supply of good graces in its corner. That support will once again block Paul Thomas Anderson from receiving his first Oscar for a tightly delivered coming of age comedy that deserved to have its screenplay recognized.

Supporting Actor

My Prediction: Troy Kotsur (CODA)
My Pick: Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Early this season this award seemed to be a given for Smit-McPhee, but now everything points towards Troy Kotsur. Kotsur did a great job, but I feel like he was limited by the simplicity of the screenplay. Smit-McPhee on the other hand really got to show off his acting chops with the nuanced role of Peter Gordon in The Power of the Dog.

Supporting Actress

My Prediction: Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
My Pick: Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Ariana DeBose is the easiest prediction of the night. She has won everything up until now, and it will be no surprise when she takes home Oscar Gold. That said, I think Kiki’s performance in The Power of the Dog had an otherworldly quality to it that moved me more than any other supporting performance this year.

Lead Actor

My Prediction: Will Smith (King Richard)
My Pick: Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Peter Dinklage (Cyrano)

Will Smith seems to be running away with this award because like normal the Academy is confusing “best” with “most”. Smith’s Richard Williams is certainly the most acted performance of the year, and while it is not bad, it is not what I would choose as the best. For best I would personally vote for the much quieter performance by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog, or if an option the wonderfully emotional rendition of the titular Cyrano by Peter Dinklage.

Lead Actress

My Prediction: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
My Pick: Kristen Stewart (Spencer); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

This category has been a mess to predict all award season. I personally believe Kristen Stewart put in the best performance (by quite a large margin) as the troubled Princess Diana on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and she seemed like the early frontrunner. After a series of nomination snubs however it seems more likely that another actress would take the win and treading lately is Jessica Chastain for the mediocre film The Eyes of Tammy Faye.


My Prediction: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
My Pick: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

While the winds have largely moved away from The Power of the Dog, and Campion’s speech at the Critics Choice Awards didn’t do her any help, this award is still going to go to Campion for her phenomenal directing work. The film succeeds primarily because of the controlled approach of Campion’s direction.


My Prediction: CODA
My Pick: Drive My Car; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

I’m buying into the late surge that last weekend foretold and predicting a CODA win over The Power of The Dog. I think CODA is a really good film (I would rank it right in the middle of the best picture nominees), but it didn’t blow me away like a few films did this year. The film that left me speechless after viewing it, that I would have voted for best picture is the three-hour slow burn masterpiece that was Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. That film’s deliberate pacing to contemplate grief will stick with me for years to come.

Top 25 Films of 2021

This was an odd year for my movie viewing. I started the year by making it nearly 6 months of watching and reviewing one movie a day. SIFF 2021 was a huge highlight seeing me watch and review 30 films through the 10-day festival. Near the midpoint of the year, however, depression hit hard, and I went months without even watching a film and spent 7 weeks in a partial hospitalization program. In the past couple of months, I have been able to start watching movies again, but writing has still escaped me. My hope is that with this list I can get back on the writing train; maybe not everyday like I was last year, but at least more often than never.

As far as this list goes, I’m going to be honest. I did not fall in love with many films this year. Because of that, this list is going to be a little on the weird side. I have many films in my top 10 that most sites do not have anywhere on their list, but I liked what I liked this year, and I am not going to change my list to better match the critical consensus. A few caveats of films that I was unable to see but could likely have made this list: Cyrano, Memoria, Red Rocket, West Side Story, and The Worst Person in the World. With all that under consideration, this is what I think were the best films of the year in 2021.

25. Mass (Dir. Fran Kranz)

Mass' Understands the Longevity of Trauma - The Atlantic

An acting tour de force, Mass tells the story of a pair of couples who confront each other for a very emotional conversation. While the film is mostly unremarkable visually, the devastating performances from each of the four co-leads carry it onto this list. Martha Plimpton and Ann Dowd in particular standout delivering some of the best performances of the year. If the Oscars were better, they would find room for both leading ladies in their nomination process, but as Mass went largely unseen it will be lucky to see a nod for either.

24. The Hand of God (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino)

Review: Paolo Sorrentino's 'The Hand of God' - Awardsdaily - The Oscars,  the Films and everything in between.

Paolo Sorrentino’s most recent feature plays out like two distinct halves that work together to create a complete coming-of-age story. The first half is a familial comedy film as the young Fabietto (Filippo Scotti) navigates the outrageous cast of characters that make up his large extended family. This is then abruptly changed by the death of Fabietto’s parents forcing the football obsessed young man to confront his future a little earlier than he hoped. Even as the film confronts death, it maintains an amount of levity throughout that ties everything together and makes the film a joy to watch.

23. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Dir. Radu Jude)

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn - Official Trailer - YouTube

With the award for the most ridiculous film title comes an equally ridiculous film. Contemplating the real-world conundrum of to what extent schoolteachers have a right to their private lives, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is also a humorous contemplation of Romanian life. Consisting of three extremely unique parts, the film builds up to the most farcical PTO meeting in all of cinema. Funny and provocative, though decidedly unsexy (despite beginning with non-simulated amateur porn), Radu Jude’s most recent film is a fully singular viewing experience.

22. Azor (Dir. Andreas Fontana)

Azor movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

One of many slow burns to make the list, Azor does a lot to make the insanely rich seem subtly dangerous. Following Swiss banker Ivan de Wiel (Fabrizio Rongione) and his wife Inès (Stéphanie Cléau) as they meet with potential clients in Argentina, Azor jumps from afternoon luncheons at lavish estates to the stables at the racetracks and other locations unavailable to the general public. While much of this feels banal, the underlying rumors of Ivan’s partner’s disappearance provide just enough tension to keep the film moving. It is only with the final scene that the reality of Ivan and his partner’s scenario is made apparent delivering on the constant building apprehension.

21. The Lost Daughter (Dir. Maggie Gyllenhaal)

The Lost Daughter' review: Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut a searing  portrait of motherhood - nj.com

The last film I watched this year had to make the best of list. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is a dark story of a woman whose summer vacation sours when she is forced to confront her past relationship with her children. Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley co-play Leda in the two different eras with Colman taking the lead and delivering the most memorable performance. Her flirtation with madness upon taking note of a young girl on the beach in which she’s spending her vacation highlights the film, and her borderline psychopathic secret betrays a woman with serious baggage.

20. The Father (Dir. Florian Zeller)

The Father' Sets New Release Date - Variety

While eligible for the Oscars last year, The Father did not officially release until February 2021 so it makes the list this year. Anthony Hopkins delivers a performance worthy of the Oscar he won as Anthony a man slowly coming untethered from reality as his dementia worsens. Filled with creative editing to warp the viewers sense of time, the drama plays almost as a thriller at times. Anthony’s desperation to understand his surroundings becomes increasingly horrific as the film progresses. This combined with a stellar supporting performance from Olivia Colman creates one of the most memorable films of the year.

19. The Green Knight (Dir. Dabid Lowery)

The Green Knight review roundup: why critics are raving about Dev Patel's  new movie | GamesRadar+

Taken straight from Arthurian legend, The Green Knight is a faithful retelling of the 14th-century poem yet is anything but a traditional fantasy film. Instead, the film feels very much a product of its production company A24. Dev Patel plays Sir Gawain and understands his role for the film that is being made. Staying largely silent he imbues his character with the depth required of him. Beautifully spacious, the cinematography is the hallmark for the epic. Each shot is crisp and with colors saturated to create the fantastical edge to the northern England woods.

18. The Beatles: Get Back (Dir. Peter Jackson)

The world owes Yoko an apology! 10 things we learned from The Beatles: Get  Back | The Beatles | The Guardian

If O.J. Made in America (2016, Dir. Ezra Edelman) counts as a movie, so does The Beatles: Get Back. At least that is the logic I am using. The Peter Jackson documentary taps into something extremely special in telling the story of The Beatles – four men whose story has been told many times before. The documentary consists primarily of candid moments during The Beatles’ Let It Be sessions. This captures both the creative process but also the personal moments between each of the four. Experiencing the geniuses as they were is unprecedented and makes for engrossing watching even for the lengthy eight hour run time.

17. Annette (dir. Leos Carax)

Annette (2021) - IMDb

In a year with quite a few blockbuster musicals, the best one was also the weirdest. The combination of writing by the Ron and Russell Mael, better known as the musical group Sparks, with Leos Carax directing resulted in something with just the right amount of surrealist absurdity to captive while still delivering an emotional melodramatic story. Adam Driver stands out as comedian Henry McHenry. Frequently acting beside a puppet infant, he delivers a memorably charged performance. While not a flawless film, it makes up for that by being memorable and unique.

16. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)


The first appearance on this list of director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi who had an amazing year, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy consists of three thematically connected short stories about women and relationships. Each 40-minute short tells a complete story about one or more women and the choices that they made in relationships to differing results. Despite Hamaguchi frequently working with longer running times, each succinct story feels complete and builds great emotional complexity and depth. While there are no direct connections between the three stories, they combine for a singular emotional arc in the viewer that outshines many traditional narratives from the year.

15. Pig (Dir. Michael Sarnoski)

Pig (2021) Review | Movie - Empire

The anti-John Wick, Pig starts from a similar inciting incident – just replace a killed dog with a stolen pig – but delivers a completely different type of film. While often in film violence begets more violence, Nic Cage’s Rob takes a different approach to righting the wrong committed against him. Cage’s undeniable charisma sells the story and is what makes Pig excel the way that it does. While speaking very minimally throughout the film, Cage brings a lot of heart to the former chef turned truffle hunter.

14. The Souvenir Part II (Dir. Joanna Hogg)

The Souvenir Part II movie review (2021) | Roger Ebert

While the sequel to my favorite film of 2019 does not quite live up to its predecessor, The Souvenir Part II was still one of the best films of the year. Taking place in the aftermath of the first film, Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical feature continues with many of the same themes. Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) struggles to cope with the circumstances that have become her life, but between the support of her mother (played by the actress’s real life mother Tilda Swinton) and the outlet of her passion of filmmaking she persists. The film is a testament to the power we have to recover when guided by those things and people we love.

13. Titane (Dir. Julia Ducournau)

Titane review – Agathe Rousselle is extraordinary in Palme d'Or-winning  body horror | Movies | The Guardian

The Palm d’Or winning feature from director Julia Ducournau (Raw 2016) is one of the more challenging cinematic offerings of the year, but for those willing to follow Ducournau’s vision, Titane offered a lot to enjoy. A movie highlighted by its numerous moments of dancing; it maintains a kinetic energy that drives the absurdity of the plot. Agathe Rousselle’s transformation throughout the film is captivating and despite her character’s significant flaws Rousselle manages to portray a sympathetic heroine. From sexy scenes of women on cars, to graphic violence, to touching father son moments, Titane delivers a unique and worthwhile viewing experience.

12. The Power of the Dog (Dir. Jane Campion)

The Power of the Dog' Ending Explained

Director Jane Campion’s long-awaited return to filmmaking uses the western – one of the most traditionally masculine genres – to deconstruct masculinity. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Phil a man who plays into his assigned roll of cowboy with little question. It is only when his brother George (Jesse Plemons) marries introducing Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) into his life that the well covered cracks begin to show. The Power of the Dog is a slow character study highlighted by an amazing Jonny Greenwood score and strong performances for each of the principal cast. Dunst is particularly phenomenal and should finally get the Oscar nomination she’s deserved.

11. The Card Counter (Dir. Paul Schrader)

The Card Counter,” Reviewed: Paul Schrader's Furious Vision of American  Corruption | The New Yorker

Following up the critically adored First Reformed (2018), Paul Schrader’s most recent film flew mostly under the radar. The Card Counter sees Schrader following in the footsteps of his last film with his lead characters – William Tell played by Oscar Isaac in the later film – confronting their own private oblivion. The character study is contemplative in tone as Isaac’s character travels from casino to casino making enough counting cards to get by. When his routine is changed Isaac stretches his acting chops by capturing the miniscule changes that happen to his character who is so tightly regulated.

10. Benedetta (Dir. PaulVerhoeven)

Benedetta movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

While not quite the sordid exploitation film that the marketing promised, Benedetta still delivers plenty of titillating moments while maintaining a gripping story that outshines even the alure of sex. Virginie Efira plays the titular nun who wants nothing but to serve her lord until Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia) arrives and offers a new temptation. Both women play their parts miraculously creating a necessary passion between the two while Efira balances this obvious urge with her piety. The push and pull between the religions and the secular feels genuine and creates a the driving tension for the film.

9. Last Night in Soho (Dir. Edgar Wright)

Edgar Wright Shares How the Mirror Shots in LAST NIGHT IN SOHO Were  Inspired by POLTERGEIST III — GeekTyrant

Edgar Wright’s most earnest foray into traditional horror may borrow from the fashion and culture of the 1960s, but the filmmaking owes everything to the horror masters of the 1970s; most notably the film is filled with homages to Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). Like the Argento masterpiece, Last Night in Soho very much believes that “style over substance” can be used as genuine praise. The film is bathed in a neon glow, and visual transitions between reality for Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) and her dream alter-ego Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) are seamless. The blending of worlds is a highlight of the film.

8. Lamb (Dir. Valdimar Jóhannsson)

Lamb' Review: Oh No, Not My Baby! - The New York Times

This film has been labeled by some as the most A24 film ever, and that is not necessarily a bad way to describe it. The absolute definition of a slow burn, Lamb spends its entire runtime building up to minimal payoffs. For what feels like hours the adopted lamb is hidden from the screen excepting its head. The body is always wrapped in blankets or obscured by a bassinet. Something is obviously amiss, but the film takes its time constantly building tension. Even after the lamb’s secret is exposed, director Valdimar Jóhannsson is unrelenting in his anxiety building. The film is all build and no payoff, but the technical prowess with which the build is executed makes Lamb worth this high a spot on the list.

7. Spencer (Dir. Pablo Larraín)

Spencer Trailer: Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana Shocks | IndieWire

I have said it many times before, but I will say it again: “Kristen Stewart is the best actress of her generation”. Her portrayal of Princess Diana is poignant, as she captures the agony and unrest that Diana was undergoing while contemplating divorcing Prince Charles. While Larraín’s direction is magnificent, and the costuming and production design enhance the film, Stewart’s performance is the reason to watch Spencer. Much like with Jackie (2016) and Natalie Portman, Larraín does just enough to let his lead actress convey the breadth of emotions during a trying time.

6. Bergman Island (Dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)

Is Bergman Island on Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, or Prime?

In her latest outing, director Mia Hansen-Løve delivers another superb picture featuring her strength of capturing interpersonal relationships. Like in all her previous pictures, she creates characters with an emotional depth that is front and center to the story. Bergman Island chooses to explore this complexity by utilizing the titular stunt location as well as a movie-within-a-movie trope.  Both feed into her story seamlessly, build upon the wonderful character depth. The film is subtle and warm in its depiction of love and the complexities of relationships and honest in its focus on the creative process.

5. Flee (Dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen)

Flee' Animated Doc Finds Inventive Ways to Tell Emotional True Story – The  Hollywood Reporter

This animated documentary tops my list for both categories as one of the more imaginative films of the year. While animation may be a seldom used medium for non-fiction storytelling, it is hard to imagine Flee any other way. Telling the true story of Amin, a gay man who fled Afghanistan as a boy, Flee creates some of the tensest moments of the year in cinema purely by animating Amin’s life. Amin’s hesitancy in telling his story provides the film with a lot of power. His past obviously troubled Amin and the telling it to his friend, director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, skirts the line between painful and cathartic.

4. Parallel Mothers (Dir. Pedro Almodóvar)

Parallel Mothers movie review (2021) | Roger Ebert

The new Almodóvar film leans heavily into his melodramatic roots to deliver a film that could be a season long plotline for soap opera but was also effectively emotional. Almodóvar continues to be a master of his craft as every second of the film has his fingerprints on them. Actresses Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit are wonderful as Janis and Ana two women who become entangled after giving birth on the same day. Their interplay helps to temper the absurdity of the screen play and deliver something emotionally devastating and believable.

3. Drive My Car (Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

Drive My Car, Ryusuke Hamaguchi's voyage of initiation - Festival de Cannes

The three hour, Japanese, slow burn narrative may be a hard sell to many, but the film is an example of the lasting impact that cinema can have on a person. After the lengthy prologue (the opening credits appear at the forty-minute mark), the film settles into its pattern for the remainder of the film. Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) attends practice for the play he is directing and then rides in the car contemplating life while Misaki (Tôko Miura) drives him. This may not seem like much especially considering the length of the film, but the repetitive nature of these moments allows the audience to share in Yûsuke’s reflections and develop a strong bond with each character.

2. Shiva Baby (Dir. Emma Seligman)

Shiva Baby' Review: It's Complicated - The New York Times

The first feature of director Emma Seligman spent most of the year at my number one slot and for good reason. The comedy balances being genuinely funny with being one of the tensest watches of the year. Highlighted by a disconcerting score by Ariel Marx, Shiva Baby captures to suffocating feeling that family functions can have, especially when one has a secret to keep. While the tension can flirt with uncomfortable levels at times, the absurdity of Danielle’s (Rachel Sennott) situation and a reliable joke line from her father adds just the right amount of humor and levity to the stressful circumstances.

1. Licorice Pizza (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Surprise, PT Anderson Just Dropped His New Movie Title, And There's Already  A Trailer | Cinemablend

The closest to a perfect film that 2021 had to offer, the newest work by auteur Paul Thomas Anderson is an unconventional love story between two people who really should not be in love. The episodic style of the film serves the romance between Gary (Cooper Hoffman) and Alana (Alana Haim) well. It allows it to develop gradually. In addition to being a sweet story of first love, Licorice Pizza is an extremely funny film. Most of Anderson’s films have a level of humor to them, but it is in the forefront here more than any of his other films.

A 2021 Film Journey: Day 115

Much of my movie viewing this year had been building up to tonight’s Academy Awards. I posted my personal predications and picks earlier this afternoon and then prepared myself for the film industry’s biggest night. The three-and-a-half-hour ceremony took the place of my movie watching for the evening.

The 93rd Academy Awards

How to watch 2021 Oscars: live stream Academy Awards free and from anywhere  | TechRadar

Where to begin? I guess first and foremost, I will address the winners. They were fine to good. My Octopus Teacher winning for documentary is my biggest gripe, but all in all the Oscars went to good choices if not what I would consider the best choice. Seeing Chloé Zhao become only the second woman to win best director and be the second woman helmed film to win best picture (both were previously done by Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker) was heartwarming. My personal favorite actress Carey Mulligan once again failed to win, but I cannot begrudge the academy for choosing Frances McDormand. If all I did was read the winners the next morning, I would have little to say.

The ceremony itself was a mess. The Academy’s continued decision to go without a host after the Kevin Hart controversy reached its pinnacle this year as the ceremony was completely without guidance. While the bad jokes can get tiresome after some time, surely there must be a middle ground between too many bad jokes and a ceremony that is nothing but presentations. When there was finally a reprieve with a name the tune segment three quarters of the way through the film, it was a welcome reprieve, but one that came much too late.

And then there was the giant unforced error of the final three awards. The producers not knowing the results took a huge gamble and put the acting awards after best picture. They likely did so in the assumption that Chadwick Boseman would win posthumously, and they could end the ceremony on an uplifting moment for him. When that did not happen, the result was the most anticlimactic ending in Oscar history as Anthony Hopkins was neither present nor had a proxy to accept the award for him and the ceremony went unceremoniously to closing credits. Chloé Zhao’s accomplishments winning best picture were overshadowed by the mess that followed, and Hopkins who gave arguably the greatest performance of his life will forever be unjustifiably remembered as the man who stole Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar.

Oscar Predictions and Picks 2021

I love the Oscars. For the past few years, I have made it my goal to watch every single film nominated for an Oscar, and this year I finished with weeks to spare. In time for tonight’s ceremony, here are my predictions and my personal picks for this year’s event

Visual Effects

My Prediction: Tenet
My Pick: Tenet; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

8 Incredible Filming Locations in Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet'

Visual effects is likely the category most impacted by the COVID epidemic. With many summer blockbusters being delayed until they can open in theaters, it left Tenet as the presumptive winner.


My Prediction: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
My Pick: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom movie review (2020) | Roger Ebert

I love the costumes in Emma, but while those are all pristine, what elevates Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s costuming is the slight layer of grime that covers them. They help build the world of the session musicians through their purposeful imperfections.

Makeup and Hairstyling

My Prediction: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
My Pick: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Photos: 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' - Los Angeles Times

Makeup and Hairstyling should go to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for similar reasons as to why costuming should. The craft works in storytelling rather than simply looking great.

Production Design

My Prediction: Mank
My Pick: Mank; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

David Fincher's 'Mank' Trailer Debuts

The recreation of classic Hollywood in David Fincher’s Mank is as beautiful as it is meticulous.


My Prediction: Sound of Metal
My Pick: Sound of Metal; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Sound Of Metal': the film that will change the way you listen to music

New this year is the combining of sound editing and sound mixing, and there is potentially no more obvious a choice in this year’s ceremony than the Sound of Metal for the new category. The way the film intercuts the noise from the camera’s perspective with that of the quickly deafening protagonist is the most interesting sound design of the year.

Original Song

My Prediction: Speak Now (One Night in Miami…)
My Pick: Speak Now (One Night in Miami…); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – The 11-minute rendition of Silly Games from Small Axe: Lovers Rock

And now the one category that I always feel the most uncomfortable picking. My passion is in film, not music. Regardless, predicting Leslie Odom Jr. to become an Emmy away from an EGOT seems the obvious choice. My non-nominated choice was not eligible for multiple reasons, but I needed to call out how perfect this rendition of the reggae classic is in context of the film.

Original Score

My Prediction: Soul
My Pick: Soul; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Wendy (Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin)

Soul is going to win this without much competion, so in lieu of talking about that I want to shout out the amazing score to the not as amazing Wendy. Benh Zeitlin again teamed up with Dan Romer to create the score to his follow up to Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) and the music to Wendy has just as much magic and mystery as the prior score.


My Prediction: The Trial of the Chicago 7
My Pick: The Father; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

The Trial of the Chicago 7 will likely walk away with this as its lone Oscar, but all of the editing the film does to intercut different times is done even more masterfully by The Father where the editing is used to blur time and characters to express the impact of dementia.


My Prediction: Nomadland
My Pick: Nomadland; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Gunda

Joshua James Richards sweeping photography of the various landscapes Fern calls her temporary home are breathtaking and should guarantee an Oscar for Nomadland. However, if the academy had looked beyond the traditional fare to Gunda, the experimental documentary about a mother pig, they would have found some of the best black and white cinematography in years.

Short Film, Live Action

My Prediction: The Letter Room
My Pick: The Letter Room; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Film Review: The Letter Room — Musée Magazine

It almost seems a little unfair of this category to be won by a short with big name actors (Oscar Isaac and Alia Shawkat), but The Letter Room is the obvious best of the bunch.

Short Film, Animated

My Prediction: If Anything Happens I Love You
My Pick: If Anything Happens I Love You; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Short Films in Focus: If Anything Happens I Love You | Features | Roger  Ebert

If Anything Happens I Love you is the best short film which is animated, which is what this category is really a measure of. I would still like to call out Opera for being the best-animated short film, even if it lacks the emotional connection to win.

Short Film, Documentary

My Prediction: Do Not Split
My Pick: Do Not Split; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Hysterical Girl

Do Not Split is an amazing piece of cinema verité about the Hong Kong protests which should win of the nominated films, but the shortlisted but not Nominated Hysterical Girl was easily my favorite of the year.

Documentary Feature

My Prediction: My Octopus Teacher
My Pick: Time; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Dick Johnson is Dead or Gunda

It turns out that I have a lot to say about this category. My Octopus Teacher is emotionally exploitative in the way that should win over much of the Academy warranted or not. Of the other nominated films, Time was in my opinion the best and the most important for our time. The Academy failed to nominate the two best documentaries of the year though. Dick Johnson is Dead was as entertaining in the increasingly outrageous death sequences as it was moving as Kirsten Johnson prepped for the inevitable. Gunda was on the opposite end of the spectrum but equally impressive. The experimental documentary consisting of nothing but gorgeous close up photography of a litter of pigs created untold emotion through its simplicity.

Animated Feature

My Prediction: Soul
My Pick: Wolfwalkers; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

This category becomes increasingly aggravating. Disney and Pixar create many great films, but when they release middling work for them (still very good, just not what they can do) the Academy needs to watch the other nominated films and recognize the superior film even if it is not from one of the brand name studios.

International Film

My Prediction: Another Round
My Pick: Another Round; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

How do you act drunk on screen? - BBC Culture

I have watched the last scene from Another Round dozens of times at this point as it is one of the greatest scenes of the year. While I have shown this scene preferential treatment, the entire film is a must watch and should win this with ease.

Adapted Screenplay

My Prediction: The Father
My Pick: The Father; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

The way that The Father blends time and realities to replicate the confusion of Anthony as dementia sets in is an achievement in writing more than worthy of this Oscar

Original Screenplay

My Prediction: Promising Young Woman
My Pick: Promising Young Woman; Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Promising Young Woman: Carey Mulligan film 'deeply troubling' - BBC News

Emerald Fennell’s sobering take on the rape revenge thriller imparts a sense of reality to the genre while also welcoming those who would be otherwise turned off from it.

Supporting Actor

My Prediction: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
My Pick: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Judas and the Black Messiah' New 2021 Release Date - Variety

While he is for some reason competing against LaKeith Stanfield the lead in the same movie, Kaluuya as the charismatic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton should be an easy choice for the Supporting Actor award.

Supporting Actress

My Prediction: Yuh-jung Youn (Minari)
My Pick: Yuh-jung Youn (Minari); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Minari' Star Yuh-Jung Youn Calls Brits 'Snobbish' in BAFTA Speech - Variety

The long time Korean actress’s first foray into American film put in an exquisite performance as the grandmother moving in to help watch the children in Minari.

Lead Actor

My Prediction: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
My Pick: Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – John Magaro (First Cow)

While this may have been a closer race in different circumstances, Chadwick Boseman should be a shoo in to win the award posthumously. From the completely snubbed First Cow, John Magaro as the sensitive Cookie living his baking dream in the untamed west would get my vote if nominated.

Lead Actress

My Prediction: Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
My Pick: Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman); Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always)

Most of the season, it has seemed like Carey Mulligan was going to win her first Oscar over Frances McDormand getting her third, but while I would not vote for her, Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom seems to have the momentum going into tonight’s ceremony. Of the non-nominated performances, Sidney Flanigan was so perfect in Never Rarely Sometimes Always that the film’s complete Oscar sub is frustrating.


My Prediction: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
My Pick: Chloé Zhao (Nomadland); Would I pick a non-nominated film? No

Chloé Zhao has an incredible auteurist voice which is front and center in Nomadland. She works at a deliberate pace and allows Frances McDormand to express every feeling that Fern experience. Without Zhao’s incredible control, Nomadland would not be the masterpiece that it is.


My Prediction: Nomadland
My Pick: Nomadland; Would I pick a non-nominated film? Yes – Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Everything that I said for Director holds for best picture. Nomadland is a masterpiece, and I will be happy to see best picture go to a woman director for only the second time (Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010 for The Hurt Locker). And while I had Nomadland as my favorite film of the year when I put together my list in January, Never Rarely Sometimes Always has supplanted it in my mind. It is the most emotionally moving film of the year and what I would have wanted to see win had it been nominated.

2021 Oscar Nominations

It’s Oscar nomination day! As my interest in sports have waned over the years, the Oscars have quickly supplanted that niche for me. Forget the Superbowl; my annual Sunday TV binge will be on April 25 this year. If the Oscars are my Superbowl, then today’s nomination announcement are the start of the playoffs. This post is going to be my thoughts on the nominations. My personal picks and predictions will go up after I’ve watched everything closer to the ceremony.

I promise that I won’t exclusively focus on the negative, but there were two huge snubs that I want to call out before getting too far. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman) and First Cow (Kelly Reichardt) were two of the best films of the year, and both being shut out of the nomination process is a travesty. In addition to being more than deserving of best picture and director nods, I genuinely believe that Sidney Flanigan from Never Rarely Sometimes Always and John Magaro from First Cow should have received best actress and actor nominations respectively. For as much as the Academy have gotten better about recognizing more diverse pictures, the understated personal story that are my favorites are still ignored for more commercially viable pictures.

While those too snubs in lieu of more conventional Oscar fare may have frustrated me, Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell) walking away with five nominations including picture, director, and actress gives me hope. Fennell’s take on the revenge genre is aggressively anti-commercial. Yet despite that it’s become incredibly popular and will have a huge presence at the Academy Awards this year. I’m especially happy for my namesake Carey Mulligan getting her second Oscar nomination. I just want everyone to appreciate how perfect an actor she is.

With those big items taken care of, I’m going to rapid-fire some more thoughts:

  • Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg) won’t be winning any major awards, but I’m glad to see international films continue to get recognition outside of their specific category. I wish Mads Mikkelsen would have received an acting nomination as well.
  • I finally no longer need to lookup the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, and the Academy combines them. In all seriousness, this change makes sense. It’s a rare film that would win on and not at least be deserving of the other.
  • I’m surprised by how little One Night in Miami… (Regina King) received. For a film completely built on amazing performances, it receiving no nominations in those categories was shocking.
  • Granted I’ve not seen all of the Documentary features, but Dick Johnson is Dead (Kirsten Johnson) not even receiving a nomination makes very little sense to me. It was one of the best films of the year documentary or not.
  • The Assistant (Kitty Green) was another shut out film that I would have loved to see with at minimum a best actress nod. That said this is the one I’m the least surprised by as The Assistant was from very early in the year and was not the most welcoming film.
  • Finally, I find it frustrating that Steve McQueen’s Small Axe films were ineligible for any Oscars. Lovers Rock was one of the best films of the year, and the Oscars’ strict rules invalidated what should have been some strong competitors.

The Best Films of the Decade: Part 7

I really hit a wall, and I am sorry that this series stalled out. The state of the world compounded with my depression to strip of my ability to focus on film for a few months, but it is still my passion am going to do my best to continue writing.

Part 1. Honorable Mentions 101-150 (in alphabetical order)
Part 2. 100 – 91
Part 3. 90 – 81
Part 4. 80 – 71
Part 5. 70 – 61
Part 6. 60 – 51
Part 7. 50 – 41 (below)
Part 8. 40 – 31 (coming soon)
Part 9. 30 – 21 (coming soon)
Part 10. 20 – 11 (coming soon)
Part 11. 10 – 1 (coming soon)

  1. The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer, 2016)

To this day, The Fits is the only narrative from director Anna Rose Holmer, and that is a complete shame. Her debut film uses magical realism to exemplify the uncertainty inherent in graduating from childhood to adolescence. The film takes the viewpoint of its lead character Toni (Royalty Hightower), a young tomboy who spends her time at brother’s side in training in a boxing gym. Intrigued by the group of girls in a dance troupe practicing in the same gym, she begins to discover herself. A wonderful hypnotic film highlighted by a strong debut performance; The Fits leaves me wanting more from the two women at its center.

The Fits — Review | The Reviews

  1. Shame (dir. Steve McQueen, 2011)

Shame is a movie that I can only talk about in the first person. When I first saw the film by myself, I was in a packed theater during the St. Louis International Film Festival. In those circumstances, McQueen’s precision in building tension was overwhelming and resulted in a panic attack. Months later the film hit wide release and I watched it again in a mostly empty theater and a few friends, and the melodrama and oppressive mood again weighed on me, but this time left me flabbergasted in awe. Michael Fassbender acclimates well to McQueen’s intensity demands, but as good as Fassbender is in the film, it was Carey Mulligan’s devastating performance as Sissy that left such an impression on me that I literally named myself after her. Shame is not the best film on the list, but it is the one the undoubtedly had the largest impact on my life.

SHAME Featurette: The Story - YouTube

  1. Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2013)

The best of the Baumbach writer/director Gerwig writer/star films, Frances Ha is the perfect quarter-life crisis film. The film’s black and white aesthetic hearkens back to the classic films of the French New Wave which Baumbach sought to emulate. But while the style and story beats may reflect the carefree whimsy of France in the 1960s, it is Gerwig’s performance that transforms the film into a purely American film, and I say that in the best of ways. She manages to combine the young and carefree nature of the French New Wave with the purposeless meandering of the millennial generation who graduated college to find the world was not what was promised.

Frances Ha – review | Film | The Guardian

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)

A journey of a man and his cat, except the cat is not his and the journey is nothing but a string of a series of desperate attempts to find meaning in life. Oscar Isaac gives the performance of his career so far as the titular Llewyn, a folk singer trying to continue as a solo act after his partner’s suicide. Because of the lack of sales of the new album, Llewyn couch surfs and jumps at any opportunity to continue in the craft that he loves. The film touches on the loss of passion, and the loss of purpose when it disappears. Isaac spends much of the film displaying different levels of discontent, but said discontent is all because Llewyn knows the passion he once had.

Inside Llewyn Davis - Official Trailer [HD] - YouTube

  1. Her Smell (dir. Alex Ross Perry, 2019)

Elisabeth Moss does not get the credit as a film actress she deserves. Between Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Top of the Lake, it is easy to dismiss her a TV actress, but in between those shows she has taken incredibly complex roles in multiple critically acclaimed films. Alex Ross Perry correctly identified Moss as an actress capable of headlining his two plus hour film Her Smell. Moss stars as punk singer Becky Something who is struggling to maintain her fame because of her own self-destructive behavior. The film centers exclusively on her through five scenes in her flailing career while she first loses control and then struggles to regain it. Perry bemoaned his inability to put any money behind an Oscar campaign for Moss and her inevitable snub was egregious as the success of this film is exclusively because of her.

Her Smell - Tyneside Cinema

  1. Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2015)

Fun fact, did you know that Juliette Binoche took her role in Godzilla (dir. Gareth Edwards, 2014) to prepare Clouds of Sils Maria. She did it to better understand the character of Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz) a young actress know for a young adult science fiction series who after years in camp films sets out to perform in a meaty dramatic role in the play that Binoche’s character became famous for. The film plays on themes of identity and the connection between character and actor. This theme is further enhanced by the meta casting of Kristen Stewart (the standout of the film and best actress of her generation don’t @ me) who’s career essentially mirrors Moretz’s character. Stewart and Binoche are a perfect acting pair and push each other wonderfully as co-leads.

iClouds of Sils Maria | The Current | The Criterion Collection

  1. The Wind Rises (dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 2013)

Whether or not Hayao Miyazaki ever returns to the big screen, The Wind Rises was clearly crafted as a swan song for the acclaimed director. Miyazaki’s love of flying machines its forefront in this film, even more so than his 1992 film Porco Rosso, as it tells the story of real life engineer Jirô Horikoshi who was most famous for reluctantly designing the planes that Japanese fighters used in World War II. While the story is more grounded in reality than any other Miyazaki film, his flair for the fantastical is still distinctly felt through a memorable earthquake scene and plentiful gravity defying dream sequences. What makes the film a perfect swan song is how much Horikoshi’s passion mirrors that of the acclaimed Japanese auteur; with this reading it is difficult to Miyazaki as not treating The Wind Rises as his retirement announcement.

The Wind Rises - Official Trailer - YouTube

  1. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016)

Fresh off his starring role in the highest grossing film of all time (domestic), Adam Driver left the world of lightsabers to return to his independent roots in this quiet poetic slice of life.  Jim Jarmusch channeled his inner Charlie Kaufman in directing by adding moments of absurd surrealism to the otherwise aggressively grounded character study. Driver plays the titular Paterson a bus driver and poet in the living in a city that shares his name.  Paterson’s poetry underscores the entire film, frequently stopping to allow driver to recite pomes in full.  Jarmusch uses this medium of art to reflect on his own craft both bring the creators personal fulfillment while being impermanent and fragile.

The Last Thing I See: 'Paterson' (2016) Movie Review

  1. Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

A dressmaker is an odd final role decision for an actor oft included in the lists of the greatest of all time, whose acclaim comes from playing larger than life oil tycoons and presidents, but that’s what Daniel Day Lewis declared when he announced Phantom Thread as his final film. While Reynolds Woodcocks profession may not be one that frequently results in epic stories, Day-Lewis’s precision was once again complimented by his There Will Be Blood (2007) director Paul Thomas Anderson’s grandiose vision. Yet, despite the cinema powerhouses of the two men at the center of the film, it is Vicky Krieps performance of Alma that lays at the center of what makes the beautiful period piece work. Her ability to counter Lewis’s manipulative character with her own charisma speaks volumes towards her future.

Made to measure: Daniel Day-Lewis bows out in Phantom Thread - The Irish  News

  1. Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)

2018’s Palme d’Or winner, Shoplifters is a masterful drama about family.  Reminiscent of Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers (2003), a collection of mostly unrelated vagabonds adopts a young girl they find outside, and after finding that she is being abused by her genetic family adopt her into their makeshift family. Their tragic story draws attention to the tribulations thrust upon the impoverished and contrasts the legality of their actions with their necessity.  Despite being hustlers and crooks, the love and adoration shared between the members is heartwarming, and you long for them to stay together despite the struggles.

Is blood enough?” Koreeda Hirokazu on makeshift families and Shoplifters |  Sight & Sound | BFI

The Best Films of the Decade: Part 6

Sorry that the frequency of these lists has slowed substantially, the quarantine is definitely having an affect on my ability to be productive. I still promise to get this list out, I may just need to mix some other creative ventures in between to keep me fresh.

Part 1. Honorable Mentions 101-150 (in alphabetical order)
Part 2. 100 – 91
Part 3. 90 – 81
Part 4. 80 – 71
Part 5. 70 – 61
Part 6. 60 – 51 (below)
Part 7. 50 – 41
Part 8. 40 – 31 (coming soon)
Part 9. 30 – 21 (coming soon)
Part 10. 20 – 11 (coming soon)
Part 11. 10 – 1 (coming soon)

  1. Weekend (dir. Andrew Haigh, 2011)

Andrew Haigh’s exploration of the interconnectivity of sex, intimacy, and love is the driving force behind one of the best queer films of the decade. The film begins with Russell (Tom Cullen) heading to a gay club in search of meaningless sex and he finds Glen (Chris New). While the two of them end up meaning much more to each other than they could have imagined, Weekend doesn’t rely on the romance movie cliché of love at first sight. Instead the meaning of sex slowly evolves in a more organic manner.

060 Weekend

  1. Stories We Tell (dir. Sarah Polley, 2012)

An entirely unique documentary, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell starts with a conventional premise, exploring the power of family storytelling, but while interviewing her own family, Polley stumbles onto a long-held secret. This revelation elevates what would have already been a personal exploration into a mesmerizing identity crisis. The talking head documentary type may have largely fallen out of vogue in most critic stories, but Stories We Tell proves that with a strong enough premise even old ways of telling a story can feel new.

059 Stories We Tell

  1. Sunset Song (dir. Terence Davies, 2016)

A favorite discovery of mine this decade was English director Terence Davies. All three films he directed in the decade, The Deep Blue Sea in 2012 and A Quiet Passion in 2017 being his other two, were strong contenders for the list. Sunset Song was my personal favorite of the three because I think it captures what he does best. Davies is able to capture womanhood in a way very few male writers and directors can. The film is a gorgeously shot period piece about the strength of a young woman from time where she was not allowed to possess any. Agyness Deyn’s portrayal of Chris is heartbreaking as he suffers the cruel men in her life. With no real power, all she can do is soldier on and live the best life that she is able.

058 Sunset Song

  1. The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Mallick, 2011)

Ever since his 1973 classic Badlands, Mallick’s films became increasingly ethereal, more concerned with mood than plot. After The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or this mood forward style became a dominant trend in the US art house scene resulting in many subpar copycats (including a few by Mallick himself). And while the impact The Tree of Life had on cinema may not be exclusively positive, there is no denying that it is a masterfully crafted film. Mallick’s shoot everything and find the film in the cutting room approach mixed perfectly with the decades best cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki capturing beautiful imagery for Mallick’s poetry and Alexandre Desplat’s score to mesh with.

057 The Tree of Life

  1. Certain Women (dir. Wim Wenders, 2011)

Kelly Reichardt very well may be my favorite active director, and the quarantine causing me to miss her new film First Cow was personally frustrating. While some may consider her films to be slow, the time that she gives her characters to breathe create the depth that makes them endearing.  Even in the vignette styled Certain Women, each character feels fully formed. All four actresses Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone capture women in completely different places but who still share a universality in being women.

056 Certain Women

  1. Eighth Grade (dir. Bo Burnham, 2018)

Bo Burnham’s initial entry into the cinematic realm succeeds because of his experience in the different medium of YouTube, not despite it.  Having been with YouTube since its beginning, Burnham has an innate connection to the youngest generation.  This connection allows him to portray the kids in Eighth Grade as unique individuals not just a collection of stereotypes allotted to “kids these days”.  This understanding is best exemplified in the relationship between the father and daughter pair (played by Josh Hamilton and Elsie Fisher respectively).  Elsie’s character acts irrational as most eighth graders do, but her father doesn’t bemoan her for that; instead he accepts that puberty does weird things to people and does his best to understand.

055 Eighth Grade

  1. The Farewell (dir. Lulu Wang, 2019)

Casting Awkwafina as lead in a dramatic film where a young woman struggles to say goodbye to her dying grandmother was certainly a gamble, but it proved to be one that paid off. Awkwafina proves she is more than just a comedian in Lulu Wang’s touching film, but still uses her comedic flare to impart some much-needed levity into the otherwise depressing premise. Lulu Wang grounds the emotion inherent in the premise just enough to keep it’s meaning while preventing the film from moving into the realm of melodrama.

054 The Farewell

  1. Victoria (dir. Sebastian Schipper, 2015)

Victoria is a two-hour 18-minute crime thriller shot in real time with zero cuts. And by zero cuts, I mean actually zero cuts. No hidden cuts like in 2019’s 1917 (dir. Sam Mendes), but legitimately a single uncut take. The story of the film is interesting if unremarkable, but this is an instance in which the gimmick elevates the film. Shooting in real time accomplishes two things enhances the effectiveness of the range of emotions the characters feel. The time gap between exhilaration, exuberance, and terror being so minimal compounds the rollercoaster feel of the film.

053 Victoria

  1. Things to Come (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)

Despite the Hollywood adage that there are no acting parts for women over 30, Isabelle Huppert has been able to get consistent work in the decade excelling in the scarce few roles for middle-aged women. In Things to Come, she delivers her best performance with the help of French auteur Mia Hansen-Løve. In the film she depicts Nathalie, a woman who sees her life fall apart in front of her eyes. Taxed with consecutive tragedies, she subsists through them. A mid-life crisis that’s circumstance driven instead of born of ennui, she is still able to derive new fulfillment in the freedoms thrust upon her.

052 Things to Come

  1. Uncut Gems (dir. Benny and Josh Safdie, 2019)

This movie is a lot. The Safdie Brothers have a habit of filling their films to with constant stimuli. Uncut Gems builds upon this style by enlisting the manic acting of Adam Sandler manic acting who once again proves that when in the hands of a capable director he can be an excellent actor.  The other trademark of a Safdie film is showing a seedy aspect of New York. Uncut Gems accomplishes this despite its main characters coming from wealth by making Sandler a compulsive gambler and owner of a shady diamond shop. Everything about this film just clicks in the speed and intensity of the Safdie Brothers’ direction.

051 Uncut Gems