2023 Oscar Nominees: The Best Films Nominated at the Biggest Night in Hollywood
By Abby Flancher: Brightonian Staff Writer
Now I will not lie when I say that I do not watch the Oscars every year. They usually just serve to make me angry and make me upset about how people don’t like any movie that is doing something different. However, this year didn’t make me angry at all. Sure there were a few snubs and a few strange choices of winners, but the movies that were acknowledged this year were all amazing. I am no film critic but I really like movies, so I hope that anyone else who likes movies can take something away from my list, whether that be a new movie on your watchlist or the idea that I have no idea what I am talking about. No matter what, I just hope to bring awareness to some of the best movies that this year of cinema honored at the academy awards.
Aftersun – directed by Charlotte Wells; starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio
Childhood memories are something that fade and wane with time as people grow up. Memories that, as a kid, you believe will stick with you forever eventually become blurry and rose colored as time goes by. In the film Aftersun, a woman named Sophie (Frankie Corio) reflects on the holiday she shared with her father Calum (Paul Mescal) at age eleven. The two share a loving relationship, Sophie often thinking her dad is a little bit too goofy or idealistic. She remembers the holiday away from their normal lives in bright happy moments but slowly peels her own memory back to painstakingly piece together the truth that lies within her memories. She begins to pull back the shroud of the father he remembers and the man that he really was.
This movie was undeniably snubbed at the Oscars. I know that a lot of people will say that their favorite movies were snubbed out of pure spite towards the more rewarded movies, but Aftersun is too impactful to be left in the dust like it was. The film only received one nomination throughout the entire ceremony: best actor. Pauls Mescal portrayed the mysterious father, Calum, and I haven’t seen many on screen performances that wreck me quite like he did. He portrays a heartbreaking reminder that even though you may think the world of someone, that person is still human. Just because a person is seen with a yellow glow around them as they interact with others, it doesn’t mean that a dark shroud of gray isn’t hovering inside of them. This film is filled with small moments of contrast that entice watchers to stick around to see how they eventually come together. It is a melancholy tale of memory, nostalgia, and family that deserved to be recognized more than it was.
Everything Everywhere All At Once – directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert; starring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu.
Out of every single movie nominated at the Oscars, Everything Everywhere All At Once took home the most. After being nominated for eleven awards and taking home seven, many people are now pointing to this film and saying that it is either overrated or not worth the hype.
Those people are wrong. This movie is a technical masterpiece that should not work as well as it does by any means. No other Best Picture winner is like it. It is a fun sci-fi adventure through the multiverse with jokes about having hot dogs for fingers and a superpowered, ultra-strong pinky finger that makes you undefeatable in martial arts. It is insane that this movie took home best picture and I have never been happier to see a film win.
The film follows Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh), an overworked and strict woman who is slowly losing control over her life. Her family’s laundromat is failing and her relationship with her husband (Ke Huy Quan) and daughter (Stephanie Hsu) is slowly deteriorating. However, when her husband snaps into a seemingly new personality to tell her that she is the only one who can save the multiverse from a mysterious and unbeatable force. Yet beneath all of the madness and martial arts lies the story of a family. Stephanie Hsu portrays a daughter struggling immensely to find a way to connect with her family again with a performance with more nuance than any trailer hints at. Ke Huy Quan makes a marvelous return to acting playing Waymond Wang, a man full of infectious positivity. He received the award for Best Supporting Actor and I have never been more happy while watching a speech. Well… not until the Best Lead Actress award was given. Michelle Yeoh easily gives the best performance of the year as the titular character Evelyn Wang. She is the most phenomenal actress of our time. She is the very first Asian woman to ever win this award and she deserved it more than anybody. This is one of the best movies of the year and it contains the best performance of the year from this magnificent woman.
RRR – directed by S. S. Rajamouli; starring Ram Charan and N. T. Rama Rao Jr.
Like Aftersun, the movie RRR was criminally ignored by the academy this year. This three hour epic is the story of friendship and betrayal through the years. Two men become legendary revolutionaries on their rescue mission in Delhi. Rama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) are two men that do not see eye to eye in the slightest, until they are forced to work together for a common goal. A young girl has been kidnapped from her village and now they must save her from British Colonial Rule. Bheem sees the girl, Malli, as a little sister and follows after her. Raju is a cop that works with the British and he has been sent to track Bheem down and bring him in dead or alive. However, a trail of hijinx brings them together.
If I could sit back and explain every single thing that happens in this movie I would definitely do it and enjoy every word. I adore this movie. Out of all of the ones on this list, this is my very favorite. It is an absolute joy to watch. It is full of action packed scenes that are both outrageous and incredible. When I first watched this I didn’t expect to see a man outrun a tiger or kick a motorcycle going at full speed and NOT break his toe. However, not only did I see these things, I completely believed them. The two leads are absolutely incredible throughout the span of the entire film and they make it so the watcher cares about this lengthy story of friendship. This movie was sadly only nominated for one oscar: Best Original Song. The song “Naatu Naatu” is a highlight of the film. The song is so lively and energetic and the dancing of the cast is even more so. I remember watching it for the first time and rewinding the movie because of how much I loved it. When it won the Oscar for Best Original I lost. This and a few of Everything Everywhere All At Once’s awards were my favorite parts of the ceremony. The cast also came on stage to perform the song live in front of the Oscars attendees. It was the best performance at the Oscars in years. I wish that the film could have been nominated for Best Picture or even Best International Feature Film but it sadly wasn’t. I hope that it gets the recognition it deserves and I sincerely hope more people watch this joy of a movie.
The Banshees of Inisherin – directed by Martin McDonagh; starring Colin Ferrel, Brendan Gleeson, and Barry Keoghan.
The theme of friendship was a popular one in this year’s Oscar nominees. The entirety of The Banshees of Inisherin focus on the friendship between two men and how one day, one of the men suddenly decides to stop talking to the other one and end their friendship. On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, Padraic (Colin Ferrel) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when Colm abruptly puts an end to their friendship. The man suddenly becomes cold and cut off from Padraic, leaving the man confused and reeling. Padraic tries over and over again to regain his friendship with Colm, enlisting the help of his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and Dominic (Barry Keoghan). This goes on and on until finally Colm allows his resolve to grow and makes Padraic stay away from him with a cold threat.
Going into the evening of the Oscars, I was completely confident that this would be a favorite when it came to awards. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay. However it won a total of none. While I was extremely happy with the success of other films, I could not help but be disappointed when this simple masterpiece went completely overlooked by the academy. It is a simple film but one that is utterly captivating from beginning to end. However the powerhouse of this film is its cast. Colin Ferrel delivers one of the most high quality performances of his career in this film and it is entrancing to watch. He plays a man feeling utterly abandoned and he keeps the watcher’s eyes on him the entire time. Barry Keoghan, Kerry Condon, and Brendan Gleeson all play supporting roles in the film but each of them make the world around them feel grounded. Each character feels real and makes the story of the movie ten times more enrapturing with their humanity. Without this cast, the movie could not have hoped to be as good as it was.
All Quiet on the Western Front – directed by Edward Berger; starring Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, and Aaron Hilmer.
I am scared to talk about this film. Truthfully, this was one of the most hard to watch cinematic experiences I have ever had. I ended up getting to see this movie in theaters because of a special event when the list of Best Picture nominees came out. It made me feel like I was going to throw up more than once during its two and a half hour run time. This is the story of Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), a teenager who voluntarily enlists in the German army in 1917 with his friends. They are all young, lively, and excited to join the effort that their country has been putting so much effort into. However, this spark of patriotism and desire to uphold the expectations of their country is put out as quickly as it started. This is an anti-war film that displays the horrors that these teenagers were faced with everyday. In war, there are no winners and no losers. There is no right and no wrong. On both sides there are soldiers fighting to stay alive. Friends die, enemies die, strangers die. War doesn’t spare anyone and this film drives that point home. The violence and depravity of trench warfare is not glorified or downplayed to make the viewers comfortable and that is exactly why this film is a masterpiece. It is not trying to fake anything.
While the main characters of the story are fake, the things they experience are based off of real-life recollections of the war. This story is painful to experience and I honestly do not believe I will ever sit down to watch it again. There are very few movies that are nearly impossible to rewatch because of the sheer amount of raw imagery they display. The hardest part about watching this film was realizing that the boys could all go home. They don’t actually need to be fighting. The only reason they are is because of their countries pride and unwillingness to end the war on the defensive. While of course I love films like The Quiet Girl, Close, and the other Best International Feature Film nominees, there is no doubt that this was the movie deserving the award this year. It deserved its best picture nomination as well. I simultaneously feel like I can’t recommend watching this but I also can’t recommend it enough. It is a film with a message that is important and needed in the modern world and I believe it delivers its message in a way that people will not soon find themselves forgetting. It is not for the faint of heart.