Oscar Best Picture nominees feature wide-spanning casts, plots

I watched every Oscar Best Picture Nominee so you don’t have to- here’s what’s worth seeing, reviewed in a paragraph or less.

‘Don’t Look Up’

I really expected to like this one, especially because it’s a political satire about climate change. To be honest, I am shocked that this movie made it onto the best picture list. It’s entertaining, but it’s not anything special. This film is really just about the United States, and it comes off very self-centered. A giant comet heading toward Earth is used as an analogy for climate change. How people deal with this comet is supposed to resemble how people deal with climate change: they don’t. I was really frustrated with the entire foundation of this movie, because the plot is built on a bad analogy. Climate change is nothing like a comet heading toward Earth. People aren’t completely fine and then suddenly dead. For the global North, it sure seems like that. But, this whole analogy really ignores everybody else’s experiences. In the global South, climate change is not a far-off threat. It’s already displacing millions of people. The United Nations recently recognized Climate Refugees as an official category. Like most other things, climate change is a poverty issue, and not everybody is affected equally. Don’t Look Up has funny spots, but it misses the mark. ⅖ stars.


‘The Power of the Dog’

This movie was incredibly boring. It had the pretentious vibe of many Oscar nominated films. The Power of the Dog is about two brothers, one of whom gets married to a woman the other brother deems lower class than their own family. Throughout one terrible summer in the blazing sun, Phil Burbank (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) terrorizes his brother and fiance, eventually striking up an unlikely friendship with her son.

The cinematography was beautiful, and the ending certainly threw me for a loop. I did find the conclusion disappointing, though, because it relied on so many unlikely coincidences. I can’t go into more detail without spoiling things, so that is all I will say. There were some obvious queer themes throughout the film, but it kind of just fell a bit flat. The queerness of the film seemed to take itself very seriously in a way that implied the viewer had to be incredibly astute to see it. Really, though, these presentations of sexuality felt like the director saying, “You get it, right? Don’t you get it?” 

It’s a slow movie about socially conservative white people. ⅖ stars.



CODA stands for Child Of Deaf Adults, which is the dynamic that main character Ruby deals with in this movie. She often plays interpreter for her entirely Deaf family as they try to support their fishing business in Alaska.

A lot of Deaf people have criticized CODA for treating its characters like they are completely at the mercy of their hearing daughter and misrepresenting the services available to Deaf folks. The film had elements of a savior complex that some people in the community found really discouraging, which makes sense.

That being said, I did think that this film had some positive parts to it. Deaf people played Deaf actors, and the family dynamics were really beautiful to see. Also, Emilia Jones has an incredible voice.

Give it a watch, but think critically. ⅗ stars.


‘Nightmare Alley’

This one surprised me. It was a very bottom heavy film, with lots of exposition and nothing interesting happening for the first hour and a half. After that, things got much more interesting. This film is a psychological thriller, and it really turns everything on its head in the final moments. Nightmare Alley is about a man who makes his living as a con artist. He convinces people that he is able to make contact with the deceased. The costume design was incredible, and watching the main character slowly descend into madness and destitution was disturbing but also shockingly believable. Nightmare Alley is really about the precarious nature of being a con artist, and I really understood why this captured award shows’ attention. ⅘ stars, because clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was just too darn long.


‘King Richard’

This movie dragged on for entirely too long. King Richard is a biopic about the Williams sisters, both world tennis champions. But really, it’s about their domineering (or fiercely determined) father, Richard. Richard has devised a complicated plan to raise tennis stars, which he executes with two of his daughters, Venus and Serena. However, Richard is also egotistical and selfish, constantly using his daughters’ eventual fame to talk to the press incessantly and deny his daughters’ wishes on live television. Will Smith is a revelation who beautifully portrays a complex character. The problem is really that the Williams sisters are portrayed as secondary to their own success. Even the film is named after their father, not them. On the other hand, this film shows a loving Black family that experiences a lot of joy, and the film stubbornly resists stereotypes. While I am writing this from a privileged, white perspective,  I think representation for all marginalized communities is a good thing. I see why this film would be important to the Black community, but I acknowledge that my perspective is also limited.  

King Richard has a lot of great elements, but it also has some issues. ⅘ stars.



This is easily one of my favorites of the bunch. It was so beautiful, sympathetic and insightful. Also, the costume design was gorgeous. I would’ve watched this movie just for the mom’s makeup and outfits. This film is about The Troubles, which was the conflict taking place between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is still a part of the United Kingdom today. If you don’t know any history about The Troubles and the religious disputes that came with it, you will definitely have to study up before watching this film. All the characters were so loveable and complex, and I agonized with Buddy, who is the ten year old star of the film with minimal understanding of why his neighborhood has turned into a war zone. I felt sympathy for Buddy’s parents as they debated how to raise their child safely and with a sense of his own culture. Children need to be understood, be with their family, and know where they came from. Belfast brilliantly captures the challenges that arise when these needs cannot all be met.

Watch it right now. 5/5 stars.


‘Licorice Pizza’

Two words: age gap.

For those that don’t know, Licorice Pizza is about a 25 year old woman who gets asked out by an enigmatic 15 year old boy. They don’t clearly date at any point in the film, but there is purposeful romantic tension. I found myself asking: if the genders were switched, would this film be nominated for an Oscar? All young people are vulnerable to manipulation, and the relationship between the two main characters is downright unacceptable. On an aesthetic level, this film was great. 70s Hollywood setting, amazing outfits, wacky side plots, it was all a good time. At the end of the day, though, there was no coming back from that age gap. 

2.5/5 stars (I mean, Alana Haim was in it. I can’t completely bash it.)


‘West Side Story’

West Side Story was really great. This was a remake of the original musical, which is about a Puerto Rican girl and a white boy who fall in love in New York City. This causes racial conflict and violence between the rival gangs, who have a deep and intense history of hating each other.

The costumes and set design were incredible, and all the actors and actresses were amazing dancers. The producers discussed trying to make the show more politically motivated than the original. I haven’t seen the original, but I could definitely see the social justice themes coming through with this remake. 

Also, I really wish they had included subtitles. A good portion of this film is in Spanish and there were no subtitles available. I did read that this was an intentional choice to not whitewash the film, but there were Spanish subtitles available for the English parts. This refusal to subtitle also makes it seem as though the only people watching the film are white English speakers or Spanish speakers. There are loads of other people who would have a hard time enjoying this film because they couldn’t understand a lot of it. That being said, there is something to be said for understanding people in their language, rather than expecting to be met at your own level all the time. 

Not as good as Belfast, but still enjoyable. ⅘ stars



I have put this one off for long enough. Dune is the insurmountable challenge of all the movies to watch. It’s long, and it looks mighty boring. But, it has Timothee Chalamet, which is always good news.


Don’t hate me: this film was so terrible. Getting through it was an endless chore, and I would not recommend it. I would love to give an explanation of what this film was about, but that would require me understanding it myself. Dune immediately puts the viewer in the middle of an extremely complex world with different motivations, languages, planets, and culture than the current or past world. There is little to no exposition, and I frequently had no idea what was going on.I also felt like this film got lost in the set and special effects. When you strip down the film, it feels pretty empty. The extravagant costumes, fake languages and sprawling desert landscape were shiny things to make the film look good, but when I really considered it more, this film had almost nothing plot-wise. The resolution also made no sense. So much was unexplained. 

To be fair, this was a remake of an older film, which was in itself an adaptation of a complex and very long science fiction book. Some of my confusion may be due to me not reading the book first. But, I have heard from people that the book is just as confusing as the film is.

Also, where was Zendaya? She was on all the posters for the film, but she was actually just an alien version of a manic pixie dream girl with zero lines in this film. Very confused about that.

Don’t watch it unless you are feeling like a glutton for punishment. ⅕ stars.


‘Drive My Car’

This film was the wild card. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, largely because of the three hour time stamp. Despite its length, it is very watchable, and viewing it all at once feels very doable. (Unlike Dune, which shortened my attention span to that of a flea.) 

Drive My Car explores themes of grief, love and friendship, and I loved it. It depicts the development of a beautiful platonic friendship between a man and a woman as they process their grief together. I appreciated that the friendship never turned into a relationship, because it’s rare to see that representation in a film.

The cinematography is not at all pretentious, and Japan’s beautiful mountains are on full display. We ended on a strong note. 5/5 stars. 

After spending upwards of twenty hours watching these films, I want to give my own personal Oscar to my favorites. It would have to be a tie between Drive My Car and Belfast. An honorable mention goes to West Side Story and King Richard. To me, these films were the most engaging. 

I went into this challenge trying not to judge myself for what I liked and did not like. I know that critics love every film on this list, but there is not one opinion more valid than any other one. All of my opinions on these films are obviously personal, but I am excited to share my perspective as an everyday person looking for entertainment and enjoyment.

I think writing this article will be my new award show tradition. Until next March!