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Oscars hustings: Why each film deserves to win Best Picture

The 10 films shortlisted to win the top prize at this year's Oscars
The 10 films shortlisted to win the top prize at this year's Oscars Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By David MouriquandLaiba Mubashar, Jonny Walfisz, Theo Farrant, Doloresz Katanich, Saskia O’Donoghue
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The Oscars are this weekend and the Euronews Culture team walks you through each Best Picture 2023 nominee and explains why each film deserves to win

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The Oscars are this weekend (Sunday 12 in the US – the wee hours of Monday morning for mainland Europe), and the Best Picture category is an especially diverse one this year.

While the frontrunner seems to be Everything Everywhere All At Once, there’s always scope for a potential upset or surprise win come the final award of the big night.

With this in mind, the Euronews Culture team has chosen to take each of the 10 nominees in this year’s line-up and delve into why their pick deserves to win or stands a chance of potentially nabbing the top prize.

We proceed alphabetically… 

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

Another year at the Oscars, another war film. Based on the German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, I believe All Quiet on the Western Front manages to do something unique. The scenes of brutality - where blood and dirt pool together as bullets and screams ricochet through trenches - are not significantly more horrifying than in many other recent war films. What sets the film apart, however, is how it hammers home the insignificance of its protagonist. Filmed for the first time in German, All Quiet on the Western Front sidesteps the heroic narrative of a similar film like 1917 and laudably never betrays its anti-war message by making you believe any character’s journey has any sense of grander purpose. Released the same year Putin started a senseless war in Ukraine, no film nominated could feel more pertinent to this moment. Jonny Walfisz

AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER

I am convinced that Avatar: The Way of Water deserves the Oscar. Maybe not for its narrative, but I’d rather honour the immense amount of work in the creation of this impressive experience. It's a sci-fi epic packed with effects that appear to sit at a cross-section of a visual orgy, a beautiful documentary, and an important message about environmental protection. James Cameron delivers the expected wonders due to the meticulous attention to detail in the world of the blue Na’vis. It took 14 years to hit the cinemas mainly because the director did not compromise his art and waited until the technology was developed enough to satisfy his eager perfectionism. The experience lasts a long time after you have left the cinema, fulfils your senses, and potentially makes people cry - including my husband, who I have never seen weeping during a movie before. The Way of Water has its flaws, but the point is that these minor blemishes do not dent my enjoyment of an otherwise perfect cinema experience. And box office numbers don't lie - time to give the people what they want, Academy! Doloresz Katanich

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN

While The Banshees of Isherin is certainly not my favourite of this year’s Best Picture nominees (I'm personally rooting for Tár), there’s no denying that this hilariously absurd film is a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience. The film excels in many places, from the sharp and punchy rhythm of Martin McDonagh’s script, to the striking and nuanced performances from its stellar cast of Irish talent. And so far it’s not gone unnoticed during awards season, having picked up the Best British Film award at the BAFTAs, with Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon also receiving acting awards. But for me personally (despite being a quarter Irish myself), the film fell a little flat. I felt that it lacked in plot throughout and was left dissatisfied by its bleak and depressing ending. With very strong competition from Everything Everywhere All at Once and Tàr, it looks like this Irish-made film will need more than just a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to win Best Picture at the Oscars - it’ll need a pot of luck too! **Theo Farrant
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ELVIS

I went into the screening of Elvis with some trepidation. Having been a big fan of director Baz Luhrmann’s ‘90s and noughties projects, I fully detested his 2013 vehicle The Great Gatsby, leaving the cinema suffering with something close to motion sickness. While Elvis is similarly exhausting, it is overall a better film, thanks in no small part to Austin Butler’s portrayal of the titular character. He’s already scooped Best Actor awards at both the Golden Globes and BAFTAs and still could pip Oscars favourite Brendan Fraser to the top prize. While the biopic is unlike others in its field by telling the hero’s story through another character, in this case Elvis Presley’s former manager Colonel Tom Parker, that cinematographic choice was ultimately the film’s main downfall. Tom Hanks, as Parker, makes a rare misstep with his oddly creepy performance. I challenge any viewer to forget his bizarre, unplaceable accent as I certainly can’t. At 2 hours and 39 minutes, it’s also just too long and, in the end, it’s a little too overwhelming; this will hurt its chances for Best Film. If it does, by some twist of fate, actually win, I’ll happily eat my Blue Suede ShoesSaskia O’Donoghue

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

If you think Everything Everywhere All At Once is winning Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday, I’m with you. Quite true to its name, the absurdist comedy-drama film has already been winning everything, everywhere, all at once – a record four SAG Awards, five Critics’ Choice Awards, seven Independent Spirit Awards, and the Golden Globes for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. The Oscars should be no different, where in my opinion, it has a strong chance of winning in at least 9 of the 11 categories it’s been nominated for. The film may give iconic directing duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert a chance to get even with Steven Spielberg after losing the Best Director (and Best Picture) category to him at the Golden Globes for The Fabelmans. Although personally, it wasn’t my favourite film of this year (Avatar: The Way of Water brought back childhood memories), I must commend the stellar direction and strong script which meshed together a plot which explores themes of existentialism, Asian-American identity, and familial conflict against the backdrop of comedic action-packed fight sequences across the Multiverse. I also fell in love with Michelle Yeoh’s portrayal of the emotionally closed-off Evelyn, a simple Chinese-American immigrant who runs a laundromat with her husband. The multiple universes plot device allowed the actress to give us different versions of Evelyn - from a movie star to a dominatrix to even a rock - and she excelled in all of them. It's the one to beat this year and it deserves the top gong. Laiba Mubashar

THE FABELMANS

I’ve made my feelings perfectly clear that I don’t think The Fabelmans is worthy of winning Best Film this year. Expertly crafted though it may be, Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical ode to filmmaking can’t help but fall short in the emotional department and ends up more schmaltzy than impactful. But then again, I’m in the minority on this one, and the Academy can’t get enough of films celebrating the seventh art, as it gives them the opportunity to give themselves a self-congratulatory pat on the back for being ever-so-special. All cynicism aside, there’s a solid chance Spielberg will pip The Daniels (Everything Everywhere All At Once) to the Best Director post, and while I found The Fabelmans a deflatingly unremarkable coming-of-age story, it is worth celebrating for that climax, which sees a young Spielberg meet his childhood hero, John Ford (played by David Lynch). Ten minutes of movie magic too little too late, but you can bet that just for that moment, the Academy won’t make The Fabelmans leave empty-handed on Sunday. David Mouriquand

TÁR

While the odds aren’t in its favour, Todd Field’s Tár is the cream of the nomination crop this year. It’s no hot take to say that the best film doesn’t always win Best Film (we all remember where we were when CODA and Green Book won the top gong), wouldn’t it be great if Tár could emerge victorious and join the likes of Parasite, Moonlight and No Country For Old Men as a truly worthy Best Film winner? The reality is that amongst its 6 nominations this year (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing), it’s likely to only bring home one statuette for Cate Blanchett’s towering and career-best performance as the fictional composer who becomes entangled with a contemporary conversation about cancel culture. But it deserves more. It’s an extraordinary and thorny piece of cinema that plays out like a slowburning ghost story; it dodges any audience condescension and brims with Kubrickian tension. Thrillingly, Tár dares to explore the conflation of art and artist, as well as the corrupting effects of power, outside the reductive binary stances so rife in typical modern discourse. With any luck, a timely, complex and debatable character study of its ilk should rightly take the top award this year. The snag is that it may be too challenging for the (usually) conservative Academy. David Mouriquand

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TOP GUN: MAVERICK

Top Gun: Maverick is a slightly rogue choice in the Best Picture category and I was bemused to see it is actually the bookies’ fourth favourite to scoop the top prize. The sequel to camp 1986 classic Top Gun - released a mere 36 years after its predecessor - does deserve its place in the nominations though, although it almost certainly won’t win. It’s a thrilling romp and a worthy follow up to its ‘80s prequel. Winning over critics and the public alike, the risk paid off for Tom Cruise as it now stands as his highest grossing movie from his decades-long career. Although the special effects are a little more impressive than the original, the combination of action and solid scripting really works as a tribute. If you’re still not convinced, watch the film for Scream Queens favourite Glen Powell, who is a standout and excellent all round as cavalier Lieutenant Jake "Hangman" Seresin. Also worth seeing is Tom Cruise reprising his role as the titular Maverick nearly four decades later - but, miraculously, barely looking a year older. Saskia O’Donoghue

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS

Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund has had one hell of ride with Triangle of Sadness – not only winning his second Palme d’Or in five years, but also hoovering up the European Film Awards 2022 and bagging 2 Oscar nominations for Best Film and Best Director. Is there any reason his winning streak should end now? The similarly class-conscious themed Parasite managed to win Best Film in 2020, and Östlund has steadily made a savage habit of ripping the piss out of the social elite with his films. Plus, Triangle of Sadness anchors itself within a current (and slightly heavy-handed) cinematic wave of ‘eat the rich’ wish fulfilment class warfare films and shows, which satirize and deconstruct the decadent 1% (Glass Onion, The Menu, White Lotus, Infinity Pool). It’s a hilarious missile aimed at influencer culture and the absurdity of the modern world, and while its chances of winning the top prize are slim, no other shortlisted film this year (apart from Tár) presciently speaks to the current moment quite like Triangle of Sadness. And wouldn’t it be great if the Academy decided to honour a film which features 15 solid minutes of Pythonesque projectile vomiting? David Mouriquand

WOMEN TALKING

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What makes a film great? For many of the nominees, the argument is in their audacious filmmaking capability, from aeroplane stunts to entirely animated virtual worlds. While much of filmmaking is being consumed by the blockbuster genre, maybe a truly audacious film is one that strips all of the bravado away. Women Talking is audacious filmmaking in that it is precisely summed up by its title. Sarah Polley’s film focuses on an isolated Mennonite community as they conceive a future after the men of the community have serially raped the women. Other films on this list indulge in visceral images. Polley’s direction is confidently subtle. There are no exploitative grotesque images of sexual assault or violence. Her script sings with complex discussion of faith, forgiveness, and feminism, but it never proselytises. The acting from Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and more is never short of outstanding. While other films on this list trade in explosions, Women Talking takes the time to consider the violence of our world and how to bring about a future beyond it through words and emotions. That’s great filmmaking. Jonny Walfisz

Make sure to follow Euronews Culture’s live Oscars coverage on Sunday 12 and Monday 13 March.

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