The various themes and plotlines that this year’s Best Picture nominees brought to life were nothing short of amazing. Whether you’re in the mood for a tearjerker, a feel-good tale, or an empowering story, this list has got it all. But at the end of the day, only one film gets to take home the Best Picture accolade. The LaSallian reviews and lists down the final top five contenders for the award.
5. The Fabelmans, MJ
A semi-autobiographical take on director Steven Spielberg’s own life, The Fabelmans focuses on the story of a Jewish boy named Samuel “Sammy” Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) and his journey from being an anxiety-ridden child to blooming into a young, aspiring filmmaker. Essentially, it’s Spielberg’s love letter to his family and his craft.
With its beautiful cinematography and intense themes about home, The Fabelmans captured mundanity and evoked cozy feelings with charm, despite numerous heartbreaking scenarios. Bits of dead air were evident, but the movie kept itself interesting with effective performances. The characters Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), were realistically multifaceted. The highlight of the film, however, was LaBelle. There was a dreamer in Sammy Fabelman that LaBelle simultaneously captured alongside realistic teenage complexities, rooting itself in the very reason why Spielberg has, yet again, created another classic flick.
What are the odds: Spielberg’s name and works are beloved in Hollywood. Unfortunately, despite the cult-classic status of his films and high acclamations, Spielberg’s track record of losing Best Picture throughout the years makes it difficult to gauge if The Fabelmans stands a chance of winning—especially against such strong contenders.
4. Elvis, Angel
The breakneck speed at which Elvis’ plot develops is perhaps quite typical of its director, Baz Luhrmann, harking back to his previous projects such as The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge. However, in this film, it is its own downfall.
The events and milestones of Presley’s life moved at too quick of a pace for the audience to truly appreciate. This resulted in a confusing amalgamation of scenes that forced the watcher to piece the story together while also trying to absorb what was happening in front of them.
Intriguingly, the film is told from the perspective of Col. Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks, the sharp, conniving man who “created” Elvis (Austin Butler). While Butler was seemingly perfect for the role—fully immersed as he is with the accent he will never let go—the same could not be said for Hanks. His lilting accent was inconsistent throughout scenes and the acting veteran lacked the usual dynamic charisma expected of him.
Despite all of its flaws, Elvis possesses a certain irresistible glitz—perhaps it’s the way Butler played his role with a fierce passion or the way he moved onstage. Whatever it may be, this is another film to be shelved under biopic classics.
What are the odds: There is no denying that Elvis is a strong contender on this list for Best Picture. However, its too-quick storytelling tempo ultimately puts it on the back burner despite Butler’s best and impassioned performance.
3. Avatar: The Way of Water, Red
With the first of the series sitting at the top of the box office chart for being the highest-grossing film worldwide, it is no surprise that director James Cameron has done it again as its much-awaited sequel. Avatar: The Way of Water, follows the footsteps of its predecessor and takes the third spot on the chart right after its release.
Full of breathtaking sceneries of underwater life, the visual effects team has taken computer-generated imagery to a whole new level through this sequel, showcasing astonishing and unique ocean details that have audiences holding their breaths in awe.
Though the visuals are clearly a massive part of what made the film a success, the special effects do more than make Avatar: The Way of Water a picturesque film. It’s a technique that goes hand-in-hand with its captivating storytelling making the film almost impossible to stop thinking about—especially with the amount of agonizing questions the movie purposefully left unanswered to be tackled in the third installation of the series that had been already shot and completed. However, the decision to do so comes off as hasty even with the knowledge that a third movie would address them.
What are the odds: With its jaw-dropping visual effects and its performance on the box office charts, acquiring the title of Best Picture wouldn’t be an impossible feat for Avatar: The Way of Water. However, these achievements alone may not be enough to justify its lacking plot, which may be the film’s biggest obstacle in obtaining an Oscar.
2. Top Gun: Maverick, Andy
A high-octane romp delivered with an excessive dose of testosterone, this film has it all—from golden hour shots of attractive sweaty men playing beach volleyball to awe-inspiring innovative cinematography of fighter plane fights. As its producers point out in interviews, the film resembles the structure of a sports film where an unlikely band of talented people find themselves learning how to become a team. Their successive trials, tribulations, and eventual triumphs result in a non-stop adrenaline rush throughout the film’s runtime.
However, beyond the sheen of a well-made movie is Top Gun: Maverick’s impressionable heart. The grizzled Maverick brings Tom Cruise’s action-star schtick to new emotional heights. With a great assist from Miles Teller’s Rooster—son of the late Goose from the first film—their mentor-mentee dynamic provides heft to their scenes, vicariously carrying on Maverick and Goose’s relationship through the latter’s son.
What are the odds: As “the film that brought audiences back to theaters”, Top Gun: Maverick is the type of crowd-pleaser that the Academy typically goes for. While its legacy sequel status poses a major hurdle, its broad appeal with its exceptional filmmaking that appeals to the liberal crowd while having conservative military ideologies could help the film gather enough Academy votes to clinch the Best Picture Oscar.
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once, Lizelle
Everything that matters eventually gets sucked into a bagel. That’s the premise run by directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan as they spin a charmingly chaotic tale of the emotionally dysfunctional Wang family across every parallel universe in Everything Everywhere All at Once. The film’s pizzazzy mise-en-scene of Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) jumping between universes while fighting off the “alpha-verse” variant of their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu), Jobu Tupaki, interwoven with a haunting depiction of the fragile relationship between mother and daughter, it is easily a top favorite among audiences of all kinds.
What keeps the film so mesmerizing throughout its 140-minute run is the harmony and excellence of every seemingly random and fragmented element coming to play. The camera work, editing, and sound scoring were all dedicated to the world-building of an infinite multiverse. But most of all, it exhibited a powerhouse of acting. Yeoh, Quan, and Hsu were fierce, funny, and heartbreaking with every line and movement.
Why it should win: Everything Everywhere All at Once is quickly becoming one of the classics. It’s simply the film that makes anyone fall in love again with the timeless beauty of cinema. Coming in hot with a victorious streak this awards season, the A24 masterpiece is surely set to bring home the 95th Academy Awards’ Best Picture.
After being witness to all the brilliant inspiration that this year’s nominees exuded, it is quite evident that they had more to offer than just their glitz and glamor. These films have sparked open discussions and critical thinking within their audience and have cemented the importance of movies being a form of discourse. Truly, this year’s roster illustrated how film can go beyond just being mere entertainment for the masses.