I fell behind on reviewing the Oscar nominated movies, so instead of having rather long-form opinion pieces, I'll try to present a roundup of the best picture nominees and nominees from a few other categories in a few sentences.
Best Picture Nominees:
Ford V Ferrari: Fantastic acting, practical effects, a true story that is stranger than fiction. One of the best movies of the year hands down. But not on top of the podium. Sure worth a watch in the theatres.
The Irishman: One of the best movies of the decade, and hands down the best movie of the year. Detailed review is available here.
JoJo Rabbit: Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows) is one of the most creative minds in Hollywood. A satirical take on World War 2's German culture and a very realistic take on what makes us human. I take my hat off to Taika for his brilliance.
Joker: A masterpiece that I don't want to see more than once. Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix present a nuanced take on one of the most troubled fictional characters in history. Seeing it (only once) is a must! A detailed review is available here.
Little Women: A feminist story that was revolutionary in 1860's. Luckily, we have progressed much farther than that today, and seeing three sisters fighting for the affections of one rich pretty boy is not as empowering today as it might have been two centuries before. Besides the dated story, Greta Gerwig (the director)'s decision to make time jumps back and forth only hurt the movie. Despite the general apprehension to criticize the movie for the fear of being called a misogynist, it was one of the worst movies of the last decade.
Marriage Story: Noah Baumbach's (director, screenwriter, producer) real life divorce from his ex-wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was depicted in this melodrama. One cannot comment Baumbach on his creativity (as he just retold what had happened to him), but still he told a compelling, relatable, and moving story. It sure is worth your time and emotional investment.
1917: A technical marvel of cinematography. Unless you have ancestors who fought in the great war, you may not feel a direct connection to any of the protagonists. But still, for the technical achievements, it certainly is worth a watch.
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood: A love letter to Hollywood and filmmaking. Tarantino the director is at his very best in constructing beautiful long shots and getting the best performance from his actors. Tarantino the writer, however, has written a fan fiction with inconsistencies, non organic tonal changes, and unearned subversion of expectations. Brad Pitt certainly deserves a best supporting actor Oscar! Full review is available here.
Parasite: Bong Joon Ho (the director and screen writer) criticized the western audience for their fear of reading subtitles. I, personally, am not afraid of reading, but still believe reading subtitles takes away some of the attention that you should have given to performances and other visuals that the filmmakers wanted to present. Regardless of how much attention I managed to give to Parasite visually, I found it a role model in character development. The less you know, the more you would enjoy the movie, so I will refrain from any plot summaries or synopses. What I would is say is that Bong Joon Ho plays with your emotions like no other. He makes you care, despise, care, and then despise those characters over and over again. It is also a very fresh and realistic take on the culture in developing countries where there is no middle class. It did not stick the landing in my opinion, but still, it certainly is an accomplishment in creative story-telling.
The Two Popes (Best Leading and Supporting Actor): Based on real life events, Anthony Hopkins delivers a nuanced performance that is despising yet heartwarming at the same time. Jonathan Pryce also portrays Pope Francis unlike any of Pryce's previous roles. The movie is boring whenever it does a flashback (which is almost 40% of the screen time), but when those two actors are on the screen, it's hard to think about anything else!
Bombshell (Best Leading Actress): I have been a fan of Megyn Kelly for the better half of the decade. Charlize Theron had a Herculean task of portraying her. Adam McKay (the director) also had a difficult job of presenting an event that was fresh in everyone's memory. Theron did a magnificent job at portraying an influential character in the recent pop culture. McKay had some inconsistencies though. The characters break the fourth wall in the first 10 minutes of the movie and directly talk to the audience, but then they forget the audience for the rest of the movie. Even the cinematography changes from more hand-held present-in-the-moment style to a third-person omniscient invisible observer. Still, worth a watch.
Judy (Best Leading Actress): Rene Zellweger portrays Judy Garland - a former child actor who suffers from substance abuse - masterfully. Besides the acting showcase of Zellweger, the rest of the movie is a let down.
Toy Story 4 (Best Animated Feature): Still a good animated movie, but far from Pixar's best. It did not ruin the legacy of the franchise (unlike Game of Thrones, Star Wars Rise of Skywalker, or Terminator Dark Fate), but it was certainly far from what the franchise had delivered in the past.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Music - Original Score): An underwhelming effort that left audience neither shaken nor stirred. Full review here.
Rocketman (Original Song): A fun sing-along experience. Bohemian Rhapsody was more nuanced, but still, Taron Egerton should be commended for his portrayal of Elton John.
Frozen II (Original Song): Paint by the number sequel, with some impressive visuals (water and jungle animated in hyper realistic 3D models), but the title song, "Into the Unknown" was nowhere close to what "Let It Go" did culturally.
Avengers: Endgame (Visual Effects): A marvel (pun intended) of story telling and universe building as the culmination of a 22-movie saga. Particularly, when you see how the other franchises (Star Wars, Terminator, Game of Thrones) failed in concluding their stories, you'll appreciate Avengers even more. Far from a transformative experience for the uninitiated, but still a major achievement. Full review here.
Knives Out (Original Screenplay): A classic whodunnit reminiscent of Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle's work. Great acting, smart plot twists, and good pacing. I wouldn't consider it ground-breaking by any means, but worth streaming it from the comfort of your couch at home.